FC Bayern took a huge step towards the UEFA Champions League final today, beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of the semifinal. Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez had the Bayern goals, the latter coming off a feed from Philipp Lahm after a sharp dribble move to get around the corner. With Real picking up an away goal, this tie is still very much up in the air. But Bayern has to feel good about (1) taking a lead into the second leg, and (2) pretty much outplaying Real for the entire final 30 minutes (in my opinion). Unless something major changes between now and next week, I think we have the horses to pick up a win.
The difference between this match and our typical Bundesliga game was immediate from the start - there was plenty of pace and a real fight for every loose ball in the early going. Despite some early Bayern possession, Real got the first good chance, Manual Neuer with a nice save to poke Benzema's shot over. Bayern took the lead from a corner in the 17th minute. Ribery was in a perfect spot to latch onto a rebound, and put it past Casillas. Not sure if it bounced of Real's Pepe on the way in, but I think it was just a dipping shot from Franck.
Both sides traded chances for a bit, but it was Real equalizing in the second half from a really strange play. After a rebound, Benzema sent the ball across the face of the goal to Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neuer sort of dove/fell to the near side. But Ronaldo managed to poke it back towards the middle, and Oezil was waiting to kick it into the goal (he really didn't even have to kick it - just let it ricochet off his body into the net).
But that just set the stage for Bayern's late goal. With Real Madrid clearly playing for a draw, Bayern controlled the majority of the possession in the last few minutes, and had a few good chances on the net, especially Gomez's header that Casillas managed to catch. But the breakthrough came with less then 5 minutes to go, as Philipp Lahm dusted Coentrao with a stop-and-go move and sent the ball across the box. Gomez was waiting to tap it home, and Bayern left with a well-deserved 2-1 win.
Some take-away thoughts:
- I don't think Mourinho did Madrid any favors by taking off Oezil and playing for the draw. It would be one thing if there were less than 10 minutes to go, but with a half an hour left, you can't do that against a club like Bayern.
- Marcelo clearly should have seen a red for his club-foot slash on Mueller in the closing minutes. But he got away with a yellow. Anyway, I don't think he's that good, so it wouldn't be a big advantage to keep him out of the next leg.
- Man of the Match: Ribery and Gomez both got on the scoreboard, Gustavo and Alaba were both dangerous and tough all night, but I'd give it to Lahm for that excellent move at the end. Good thing we didn't buy Coentrao, I guess.
Some video highlights - this one has all 3 goals:
Mourinho's post match interview: Some additional footage of the last goal - a new angle, plus celebration: Back with more later. Anything could happen, this match is still wide open, but I think we have to feel pretty good about where we are. Thanks for reading.