Bayern Munich were eliminated from the Champions League after a pulsating 2-2 second-leg draw against Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The Bavarians went awfully close to overturning a 2-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena last week, falling just short against los Blancos for the second straight season.
Joshua Kimmich put the visitors into an early lead, but two goals from Karim Benzema gave Madrid a 2-1 lead before James Rodriguez’ equaliser. Bayern threw everything at the Spanish side in the closing stages, but Keylor Navas and his defence stood tall to advance to their third straight final.
When Bayern Munich were eliminated by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals last season, there was much talk about being on the wrong end of contentious calls. That narrative was reignited when they were paired against Real for the second straight season.
This time however, there are no excuses. Bayern enjoyed 60% possession and had 39 shots to 16 over both legs, with 15 shots on target compared with Real’s seven. If we use the expected goals metric, the Bavarians won the battle 4.9 to 2.8, but Real won where it matters with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
It’s a narrative that runs through almost any game of football, and it goes without saying that you simply must take your chances when they arise. Bayern spurned countless chances in the first leg, particularly to Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski, who has failed to score in his last five Champions League games.
In Madrid there were ample opportunities to consolidate their dominance, James fired over from a yard out in the first half with the score at 1-1. With Lucas Vázquez replacing Dani Carvajal at right-back, there was an obvious avenue for Bayern to exploit but they failed to do so.
Luka Modric tried his best to assist Vázquez in defence, but despite Ribery and David Alaba repeatedly breaching Real’s right side, Bayern failed to capitalise. It was ironic that both of Bayern’s goals came down the opposite wing, especially after Vázquez and Modric were booked within minutes of each other with ample time remaining.
Bayern were largely in control in the first leg and won a corner in the second half with the score tied at 1-1. The ball was cleared to Rafinha on the halfway line, but under no pressure his misplaced pass was pounced on my Marco Asensio, who played a quick 1-2 with Vázquez before firing past Sven Ulreich.
Bayern were in a strong position in the second leg with the game tied 1-1 at half-time, but 20 seconds into second half they were punished once again. Clorentin Tolisso’s back-pass to Ulreich caught the keeper sleeping and in two minds, his howler gifting Benzema the easiest goal of his career as Real made it 2-1.
Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos were strong defensively with key interceptions and blocks, but it was Keylor Navas that was the star of the show in Madrid. The Costa Rican shot stopper stepped up in the second half and produced a wonderful save from Alaba’s deflected strike.
Navas then saved a close range attempt from Tolisso, defused a Thomas Müller header, punched away Thiago’s free kick and made a vital interception after Mats Hummels’s cross took a deflection. It was a colossal performance that went a long way to putting Zidane’s side on the cusp of three straight Champions League titles.
What a game!
European football has been fabulous this season, none better than the match in Madrid and the tie as a whole. The knockout rounds in Europe have often been conservative and defensive affairs with teams afraid of opening up, but we appear to be witnessing a shift towards attacking football which is a joy to watch.
Some teams just don’t have the mentality to sit back and defend, instead opting to outscore and demoralise their opponents. With all due respect to Roma, a Champions League final in Kiev between Real Madrid and Liverpool is a mouth-watering prospect, and will most certainly be a prime example of the beautiful game.
By Matthew Marshall.