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Four observations on Bayern Munich’s 2-2 tie against Real Madrid, knocking them out of the Champions League

Mistakes and poor finishing defined this tie for Bayern, as Bayern made one mistake too many against an efficient Madrid side.

Real Madrid v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Bayern played it direct

Bayern did well to play the ball more directly up the field after gaining possession. It allowed them to filter the ball out to the wings well, where David Alaba and Franck Ribery combined a number of times to get Bayern into dangerous positions near Madrid’s box. Unfortunately, Alaba’s crossing lacked in accuracy, and his deliveries turned out to be nothing more often than not.

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 01: Keylor Navas of Real Madrid punches the ball clear under pressure from Mats Hummels of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Real Madrid and Bayern Muenchen at the Bernabeu on May 1, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

The team as a whole was good and aggressive in their tackling, and Mats Hummels alone won 6 aerial duals and had 3 tackles, along with a number of threatening dribbling moves in which he made his way past Madrid’s first and second lines of defense. It caused Madrid problems every time, and Hummels’ eye for a pass, along with solid ability on the ball allows him to put pressure on teams in ways other players couldn’t.

Transition the other way

Where Bayern found themselves getting into the most trouble defensively was in transition after losing the ball. Madrid got forward into dangerous areas quite easily at times simply because Bayern had too many men going forward, leaving pockets of space Madrid could play through on their way to Bayern’s goal.

With the inclusion of Correntin Tolisso in the starting line-up instead of Javi Martinez, this problem shouldn’t come as a surprise, as they miss the defensive positioning and stability a player like Martinez provides. A midfield three consisting of James Rodriguez, Thiago Alcantara, and Tolisso is more offensively oriented than one that swaps Martinez in for Tolisso. It was a calculated risk.

Real Madrid v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg
No handball today.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

And it did help offensively: Tolisso’s runs and movement often allowed the team to move forward quickly after gaining possession. He played a solid game and had an assist on the goal by Joshua Kimmich.

Bayern did well and had the opportunities to score and take the tie at the end. The end product on some of the chances leave something to be desired, though. Crosses and set pieces continue to be an area Bayern struggle in, and crosses seem to either sail too far or dip too soon far too often. It’s an area Bayern could look to improve in when Niko Kovac takes over this summer.

Bayern didn’t do themselves any favors

Bayern lost this tie more than Real won it. Take out the two errors by Rafinha and Sven Ulreich, and Bayern likely take the tie. Any time you gift an opponent a goal, they’ll obviously take it. They’re mistakes you can ill afford in such important games. Bayern can be proud of the way they presented themselves in Madrid, and a two-two draw is nothing to scoff at, but to go out as the better team two years in a row hurts. What Bayern is missing is that little extra bit of luck to get them over the finish line. Bayern may have been the better team over the two legs, but Real made no egregious mistakes, and in the end those fine details decided the game.

Finishing again dooms Bayern

Bayern’s inability to finish clear-cut chances—and a world-class effort by Keylor Navas today—goes a long way to explaining why, despite looking like the better team in both legs, they now find themselves knocked out of the competition that seemed to be theirs to win. At first glance, Bayern’s xG chart from the second leg suggests that the teams were roughly even:

But one of those major chances for Real Madrid was none other than Tolisso’s errant pass and goalkeeping blunder by Ulreich that allowed Karim Benzema to score a brace after a long scoring drought. Take away that goal, and Bayern’s dominance is much more obvious. If you combine the chances that Bayern took and missed in both games, the 3-4 aggregate outcome against them is even more incredible:

But that’s how it goes.

Offensive struggles in front of goal have haunted Bayern for years now in the Champions League (see below), and it was apparent that the team lacked fire power off the bench. The additions of Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka go along way to ensuring that Bayern have a deeper squad more offensively oriented players that can help you get a goal late when Bayern’s injury bug hits in late April/early May. But we’ll have to wait until next year.

Salt in the wound.

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