Real Madrid continue to torment Bayern Munich with 2-1 victory at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League semi-final first leg. This was only Bayern’s 3rd home loss in the last four years, all to Real Madrid.
James Rodriguez’s performance
When the starting line-ups were announced and James was included, it was obvious that the spotlight would be on him. The 2014 World Cup standout clearly has something to prove against Real Madrid, as he is currently on loan from the Spanish giants to Bayern (although it would be a shock if the move doesn’t become permanent soon). James did his part and was on one the better players on the field for Bayern. It was his assist that sprung right back Joshua Kimmich in on the keeper for the only goal of the night for the home side. James is considered more of an offensive player yet he chipped in on defense too and provided good energy to the midfield throughout the match.
Madrid’s first half defending
Madrid defended extremely well in the first half and pushed Bayern very deep into their own half. Madrid’s midfielders got in front of Javi Martinez and Thiago, forcing Bayern to find a different way to play the ball out of the back. Unfortunately, Bayern couldn’t find a way. Their movements and decision making were too slow and indecisive, and when they had the courage to play passes forward, they were often too inaccurate. Bayern’s passing in general was extremely lazy and unfocused, leading to a number of unnecessary turnovers.
Although Bayern improved in the second half, it was a lazy pass that led to Real’s second, and ultimately game winning goal, as Rafinha misplayed a ball directly to the feet of Marco Asensio, who broke forward and received the ball back from Lucas Vasquez before coolly finishing past Sven Ulreich.
Marcelo and Keylor Navas redeem themselves
The first half did not start out well for Real Madrid’s Brazilian left-back Marcelo and their Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Marcelo was clearly caught upfield on Bayern’s quick-strike, counterattack goal. Bayern punished the full-back by blazing behind him into the space that he vacated, the end result being a right-footed blast by Kimmich that beat Navas to the near post. Navas should have done better as he was clearly leaning the wrong way on the shot, anticipating a cross. It should have been a simple save but the blunder cost Real Madrid.
However, both players were able to make amends and were solid contributors to Real Madrid’s victory. Marcelo didn’t even have to wait until halftime before blasting a low shot into the corner of the net and Navas made several fine saves, mostly in the second half, including one from point blank range on a nice effort by Franck Ribery.
Bayern were poor in front of net, and Madrid were not
It really is as simple as that, today. Real had three real chances, and on two of them, the ball landed in the back of the net. Marcelo’s shot is one where you just tip your cap. Sure, Martinez could’ve, and should’ve done better with the initial ball in, but the shot could just as easily have sailed 20 yards over the net.
The second goal was, as mentioned earlier, set up beautifully by Rafinha. After Kimmich headed a Bayern corner back to the left-back, Rafinha just played a terrible ball to Vasquez to start a 2 on 1 counter, with Kimmich as the lone defender. Ulreich has to do better on Asensio’s shot. His shot came neither low, nor very high, basically the perfect height for a goalkeeper to save. Ulreich probably moved off his line just a tad late, and it costs him dearly.
On the other side, Bayern just were just too poor in the final third for what seems like the 5th year in a row in this competition. Ribery, for all of the great things he did today, must do better to at least get a shot on goal early in the first half after Thiago finds him wide open on the edge of the box with only the keeper to beat. Similarly, a beautiful free-kick delivery was headed directly at Keylor Navas by Robert Lewandowski, who also squandered another huge chance late in the game when his chip from 8 yards out went five feet wide of the net. If you want to win the Champions League, those are the ones you have to make.
While it won’t alleviate the disappointment from today’s victory, it’s safe to say Bayern were the better team today. They dominated play in the second half, and created much better chances than Real did.
xG map for Bayern Munich - Real Madrid.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 25, 2018
Instead of asking, "do we want the threepeat" instead we should ask, "what does the threepeat want of us?" pic.twitter.com/D5ZWR1h4C2
If their chance creation next Tuesday is anything like it was today, Bayern certainly still have a chance of advancing to the final. Juventus showed that Madrid are very beatable at home. Bayern just have to find a way to actually put some of their chances into the back of the net.