The atmosphere at the Allianz would rival Anfield, the night previously, but what would European giants and Bayern Munich and Real Madrid serve up during this semi final. Two giant teams, the greatest stage, the play was about to begin.
The game started in a truly European manner, cagey and timid. Los Blancos sat off Bayern during the first exchanges and looked to press Sven Ulreich. However the rhythm of the game was disrupted by injuries sustained to two of Bayern’s biggest players. Arjen Robben who scored in the Champions League final near enough 5 years ago limped off and Thiago Alcantara came on, Thiago struggled to gain hold of the game, and allowed Modric to tick over in the centre of Real’s midfield. Worse was to come for Bayern as their imperious partnership of Hummels and Boateng was broken up. Boateng surged forward and looked to have hurt his hamstring and was replaced by Niklas Sule.
The raucous atmosphere seemed to spur Bayern on as they struck the first blow a long slide rule pass behind Marcelo allowed German prodigy Joshua Kimmick to thrash the ball home passed the helpless Keylor Navas. Bayern could have had a second straight after but Lewandowski failed to control the ball when played through one on one.
Real Madrid were struggling to create any meaningful chances and a goal seemed unlikely before half time, however Marcelo was enjoying more time and space on the left as the game wore on. A ball crossed in that Ronaldo flicked on looped high into the left midfield spot and no one from Bayern wanted to clear, as the ball was bouncing Marcelo hit a crisp volley that caught Ulreich by surprise. The ball cruised towards the far corner and Real had claimed their crucial away goal.
At half time the game was tactical and far more controlled than the other semi final. Both managers would have been frustrated by the tight start, as it was clear chances would surely come for Real and Bayern, Jupp Heynkces was restricted by the fact he had only one substitute left and Zidane was left to ponder about the condition of Dani Carvajal and Marco Asensio who looked to be struggling.
The second started quietly but it was clear Madrid were determined to be more aggressive. After a few forays on the counter, Marco Asensio rose to the occasion. Bayern won a corner and as it was cleared, it was a moment to forget for Rafinha who scuffed the ball across to Asensio who played it to Vasquez and with Real Madrid being two on two, Asensio received the ball back from Vazquez he delicately dinked the ball past Ulreich, and Real Madrid had their precious two away goals.
Bayern did not lie down, Franck Ribery was making life difficult for Dani Carvajal by constantly cutting inside and applying his usual wing wizardry. Bayern could not find the net, Thomas Muller seemed to have the goal at his mercy to level the scores but he bumped into Robert Lewandoski in the six yard box and the chance was gone. The strange theme continued as both teams made errors, since the Asensio goal Zidane’s team fell asleep defensively. Even Ronaldo was off the pace, the game was robbed of a sumptuous volley dispatched by Ronaldo which was judged to be handball. On the 75th minute Benzema did brilliantly to control the ball through the Bayern defence and fired an effort goal, Ulreich made a great save to keep the score at 2-1.
From then on the game petered away from both teams, with neither team displaying any real periods of quality. Players from Bayern and Real were lethargic and were going through the motions.
It took until the last ten minutes for the home team to rally and they failed to capitalise on the half chances they created. Vazquez was moved to right back to deal with Franck Ribery and it was notable that his influence on the game suffered. Madrid were content to defend, Mateo Kovacic adjusted well to the tempo and steered Madrid clear on a few occasions.
In summary this game was not a classic, but Real Madrid’s ability to conjure winning performances from nothing is something that will define them as one of the fiercest teams to face in knockout football. Zidane has to lauded for his approach, and in game management which meant Bayern now have to score three to progress, all eyes will be on the Bernabeu next Tuesday.