Champions League Semifinal Results: Real Madrid Turn Counter-Attacking Into an Art to Grab First Leg Advantage Over Bayern Munich
By Deepak Vikraman | April 24, 2014 2:04 PM EST
It was almost like a Barcelona, of a couple of years ago, vs Real Madrid game, with the manager in the away side's dugout at the Bernabeu also a familiar face, managing currently the most dominant side in Europe.
Bayern Munich, with bags and bags of possession, failed to make any real dent in Real Madrid's far from reliable backline, while the home side were swift as gazelles on the counter-attack, putting Bayern to the sword on quite a few occasions, with their only reward coming via a goal from Karim Benzema on 19 minutes.
The 1-0 win at the Bernabeu for Real in the Champions League semifinal first leg puts the Spanish giants in the driver's seat heading into the second leg at the Allianz Arena next week, and there is little doubt the tactics used by the team in white will be similar to the ones employed on Wednesday night - stay compact at the back, let Bayern have the ball, and make full use of the team's potent speed and quality on the counter-attack.
"I'm happy with everything, because the match was difficult," Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said. "We played well, suffering sometimes and playing well in attack. Overall, I'm happy with my team.
"The second leg is very difficult; we have a small advantage but we have to play with the same confidence and desire as we showed. Nobody knows what can happen in Munich."
Bayern were utterly dominant in terms of possession, especially in the first half, but it was Real who could have easily gone into halftime two, three goals to the good.
The first and only goal of the game came via a swift break, with Ronaldo feeding a perfect ball to left-back Fabio Coentrao, who had made a lung-bursting run to make himself available for the pass. Coentrao, after getting goalside Jerome Boateng, then provided an inch-perfect ball to Benzema, bypassing two Bayern defenders, with the French striker having the simple job of tapping into an empty net.
While Bayern continued to have the majority of the possession, they rarely looked threatening, with Arjen Robben, so effective this season in finding that something special past stubborn defences, and Franck Ribery unable to create anything of note.
Real, who had Gareth Bale on the bench as the winger recovered from flu, could, and should, have gone 2-0 up with Ronaldo, of all people, having the Champions League season of his life, missing an absolute sitter -- by his high standards of course -- skying a low cross from 12 yards.
The Portuguese superstar, who only just passed a fitness test, had earlier also missed a presentable headed chance, with Angel Di Maria also wasting a nice opportunity after the ball fell perfectly to him at the far post off a cross from the left.
Bayern came close enough via two substitutes Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze, who forced a smart save from Iker Casillas, with the Real goalkeeper otherwise enjoying a rather uneventful evening.
"I'm proud of my team," said Bayern manager Pep Guardiola, who has enjoyed a good record against Real as Barcelona boss. "They showed a lot of strength against one of the best teams in the world. I think that we can still crank up a gear or two in the return leg.
"We wanted to have a lot of possession and have a quick transition from defence to attack. We controlled the game, but Madrid were waiting to counterattack and they have the players to take advantage of this. They are very physical and they are the best team in the world on the counterattack.
"Congratulations to Madrid for the win but there is another game in Munich, 90 more minutes, and we'll see how it goes."
One goal for Real in the second leg, and Bayern will be forced to find at least three in answer; so the German team's defence will have to be a lot more assured than they were on Wednesday if they are to become the first team in the Champions League era to defend their title.
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