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 from the visitors your entire first half. Bayern maintained 72% of possession, beating Real to divided balls and pressing them on their own half of the pitch.
But Madrid seemed up to the task of stopping Bayern along with the middle was so well defended by Isco, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, along with the Real defense, that the wings seemed the only option for your Munich team. Ironically, Arjen Robben, perhaps their 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 a real save from goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Thus went the very first 18 minutes.
Then came part 2 of Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti's strategy. The counter, a Madrid specialty since Jose Mourinho's days, is at full gear and on 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 at the far post for the easy put away. The resulting score line, Real 1, Bayern 0, was truly from the run of play.
But then this goal inspired Real and at the 25:46 mark another counter saw Ronaldo the recipient of 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 have ensured the 2nd score.
At the 40:29 minute mark di Maria was the person receiving the final offer another nice counter but he sent the ball skyward from very close range and with only Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to conquer.
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 arrive and carry the day. Real's formation must have been a surprise as was Ronaldo's walk out of onto the pitch.
As the next half began what each coach could do in order to out-fox the opposite seemed the question to reply to, the players had already shown they can follow each leader's directions to your 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 restore. And it also provide Bayern with many different more scoring opportunities.
At the 83rd minute Bayern's golden chance came. Mario Goetze was open in the box, simply to the right of goal contributing to two yards outside of the here goalie's box, and took an area blank shot at goal going right to left. But the best keeper in the world, the one who always reacts so fast even when not asked all game long, made the save and kept the score line intact for your Real Madrid win.
It was too little for Madrid. Bayern is certainly worth two goals at home. But Ancelotti is counting on both of his stars being healthy and ready for longer play in the 2nd leg in Munich. It should be a casino game worthy of a championship final rather than a semifinal.