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, using a clearly not-match-ready Cristiano Ronaldo, and benching the still-recovering-from-the-flu Gareth Bale, were outplayed through the visitors your entire first half. Bayern maintained 72% of possession, beating Real to divided balls and pressing them on the half of the pitch.
But Madrid seemed around the task of stopping Bayern and the middle was well defended by Isco, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, and the Real defense, how the wings seemed the only option for the Munich team. Ironically, Arjen Robben, perhaps their finest offensive weapon, found himself double-teamed whenever 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 a genuine 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, is at full gear and at the 19th minute Fabio Coentrao found Ronaldo at about the midfield line. The striker, incapable of do his usual sprints received, held and after that delivered an ideal lead pass to his Portuguese teammate about the left wing. Coentrao's cross found Karim Benzema open with the far post for that easy store. The resulting score line, Real 1, Bayern 0, was truly up against the run of play.
But then the goal inspired Real and at the 25:46 mark another counter saw Ronaldo the person receiving a bouncing cross from Benzema, just regarding the penalty spot, and the Portuguese star miss-hit it within the crossbar each time a simple downward touch would've ensured the second score.
At the 40:29 minute mark di Maria was the person receiving the final give another nice counter but he sent the ball skyward from very close range sufficient reason for 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 appear and carry the afternoon. Real's formation must have been a surprise as was Ronaldo's walk out of onto the pitch.
As the other half began what each coach could do to out-fox another seemed the question to resolve, the gamers had already shown they are able to follow each leader's directions to a tee.
The first chess move was Ancelotti's as 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, just to the right of goal and about two yards away website from goalie's box, and took a place blank shot at goal going to left. But the best keeper inside the world, the one that always reacts so quick even when not contacted all game long, made the save and kept the score line intact to the Real Madrid win.
It could have been too little for Madrid. Bayern is certainly worth two goals at home. But Ancelotti is relying upon both of his stars being healthy and ready for long play in the other leg in Munich. It should be a sport worthy of a championship final instead of a semifinal.