From the outset of the match on Wednesday, Bayern Munich looked like the dominant side. As I mentioned earlier today, they controlled the game with probing attacks and until the 17th minute they were in the driver's seat. Then Real Madrid got loose down the left and within seconds had scored the first, and only goal of the match. That proved to be the defining moment in the match and from there on out Real Madrid were content to let Bayern Munich knock the ball around like a baccarat dealer pushing cards in a James Bond film. But what about that lone goal? Was it Bayern Munich at fault, or was Real Madrid just that good?
The play starts with a turnover following a failed Bayern Munich attack. The main key here in the play developing is the action of Cristiano Ronaldo. Immediately upon turnover, he's streaming out to the left side of the field where enormous space has opened up following the attack from Rafinha. While he's no danger yet, Jerome Boateng is moving out to mark him as the play develops. With Xabi Alonso in possession, and the main threat Bayern Munich rightly responds to, the main danger that Bayern Munich doesn't see coming is Karim Benzema who has just been instrumental in winning possession deep in their own half. Unmarked, it's his run across nearly the length that's so crucial to this sequence in the end.
Alonso dishes the ball out to Isco on the far side. Bayern Munich have already noted the danger he poses as Bastian Schweinsteiger steps to press the young Spaniard. Unfortunately with Rafinha still not fully recovered and Boateng very loosely to be considered marking Ronaldo, Isco has a very easy outlet to relive the pressure. Unfortunately for Bayern Munich, the inability to close down Ronaldo sooner ends up being their doom. Recognizing the defensive situation, Fabio Coentrao makes a surging run from very deep in the Real Madrid half. With Schweinsteiger on Isco, Rafinha still moving to engage in defense, and Boateng fixated on Ronaldo, his run goes virtually unimpeded.
Fast forward a few second and by this time, Ronaldo is ready to act, Rafinha has recovered. But with Jerome Boateng having been pulled out of position by the space afforded to Ronaldo, Coentrao has a straight shot for a wide open zone behind the Bayern Munich defense which he streaks for with most likely envious eyes. In this case, Rafinha should step immediately to put Ronaldo under pressure and force the play back away. He does not such thing, allowing Ronaldo to pick out a pin-point pass to Coentrao in the Bayern Munich penalty area.
Ronaldo's pass is the truly devastating part of this play. With Boateng still recovering from having to address Ronaldo's presence earlier in the play, he ends up on the backside of Coentrao, thoroughly beaten and in no way able to aid Bayern Munich's defense. This forces Dante to respond to the Portugese international's threat. That pressure does not allow Coentrao to tuck inside and attack the Bayern Munich goal, instead forcing him towards the endline. Ideally, this behavior should be enough to force a bad cross out of play, or a cross directly into the arms of Manuel Neuer. Instead Coentrao delivers an utterly devastating cross through the legs of Dante and across the face of goal.
Now the fact that Dante was forced to challenge Coentrao works against Bayern Munich. With the ever tightening angle on the shot Manuel Neuer was forced to stay glued his near post. With the cross delivered it's clear to David Alaba that there's too much space for both him and Neuer to cover. This amount of available space is further compounded by Neuer's slowness to react to the changing circumstances. David Alaba is forced into a last minute attempt to stop the ball. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to stop Madrid as Karim Benzema made what was actually a very difficult, and exquisitely executed goal, looks like child's play.