In today's Champions League 2014 first leg semifinals, Spanish Football's La Liga hosts Real Madrid defeated German Football's Bundesliga visitors Bayern Munich 1-0, on the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Madrid, playing a 4-4-2, which has a clearly not-match-ready Cristiano Ronaldo, and benching the still-recovering-from-the-flu Gareth Bale, were outplayed with the visitors the complete first half. Bayern maintained 72% of possession, beating Real to divided balls and pressing them on the half of the pitch.
But Madrid seemed as much as the task of stopping Bayern and also the middle was so well defended by Isco, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, and also the Real defense, the wings seemed the only option for the Munich team. Ironically, Arjen Robben, perhaps their very best offensive weapon, found himself double-teamed each and every time he became Bayern's wide offensive outlet. Time after time the Madrid defense stopped Bayern--sometimes cold, other tines with last gasp lunges or blocks, but never requiring an actual save from goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Thus went the initial 18 minutes.
Then came part two of Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti's strategy. The counter, a Madrid specialty since Jose Mourinho's days, what food was in full gear and with the 19th minute Fabio Coentrao found Ronaldo at regarding the midfield line. The striker, not able to do his usual sprints received, held and then delivered a great lead pass to his Portuguese teammate around the left wing. Coentrao's cross found Karim Benzema open on the far post for that easy let go of. The resulting score line, Real 1, Bayern 0, was truly contrary to the run of play.
But then the goal inspired Real and with the 25:46 mark another counter saw Ronaldo the recipient of a bouncing cross from Benzema, just regarding the penalty spot, and also the Portuguese star miss-hit it in the crossbar whenever a simple downward touch would've ensured the second score.
At the 40:29 minute mark di Maria was the recipient of the final offer another nice counter but he sent the ball skyward from very close range and with only Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to beat.
It was clear by half-time that Ancelotti had played all his pieces well while Bayern coach, Pep Guardiola, had assumed his superior forces would simply read more arrive and carry the morning. Real's formation must have been a surprise as was Ronaldo's go out onto the pitch.
As the 2nd half began what each coach could do to out-fox another seemed the question to respond to, the players had already shown they can follow each leader's directions to your tee.
The first chess move was Ancelotti's because he substituted Gareth Bale for Ronaldo to wide applause. Then Guardiola countered getting offensive players for midfielders and taking Frank Ribbery out. The gamble, adding numerous attacking players rescued Bayern from an impending Real possession get back. And it also provide Bayern with many different more scoring opportunities.
At the 83rd minute Bayern's golden chance came. Mario Goetze was open inside box, only to the right of goal and about two yards outside the goalie's box, and took a place blank shot at goal going to left. But the best keeper inside world, the one who always reacts so quick even when not contacted all game long, made the save and kept the score line intact for the Real Madrid win.
It might have been too little for Madrid. Bayern is unquestionably worth two goals in the home. But Ancelotti is depending on both of his stars being healthy and ready longer play in the other leg in Munich. It should be a sport worthy of a championship final instead of a semifinal.