Real Madrid hang on to reach a third successive Champions League Final
Real Madrid overcame their semi-final opponents with a 4-3 aggregate victory over German champions Bayern Munich. The Bernabeu was treated to an open match which saw the visitors take the game to Real and carve out the night’s best chances. Bayern played their part, but ultimately were masters of their own downfall with some pretty awful finishing over two legs. Real have been criticized for not being at their best and riding their luck in a match where they performed way below what we’ve come to expect.
“You have to suffer in football. You can’t reach a final without suffering and it’s even better like this. Well, maybe not for the heart. But it is.”
Words from Real Manager Zinedine Zidane after the match show just how tense this was for his team. With six minutes added on, and Bayern pummeling the deep siting Madrid back line, you could almost taste the nerves in the air. Ultimately though they made it and proved once again that they are masters of this cup competition.
Most of us, no matter how old, have some memory of a Real Madrid super team. For my generation it was The Galacticos of the early late nineties and early noughties. They blew teams away with panache and a dynamic style, with a cast of superstars running through their ranks. Their name has become synonymous with the best players in the world and still is. Not many teams could leave Bale on the bench, regardless of the speculation around his future. Regardless of form or opposition, somehow we all expect a feast of football whenever we sit down to watch a Real Madrid game.
Last night though, their talented team of stellar names where accused of not turning it on and even being unworthy finalists. It is certainly true that over two legs, they rode the luck. A highlights reel of misses from Bayern must be haunting their players today as they come to terms with another semi-final defeat. Furthermore, they can feel aggrieved to have not been given a penalty for in the first half, after the ball blatantly struck Marcelo’s hand on the left flank inside the area. Sven Ulreich had a night to forget as well. The second choice ‘keeper made a real hash of back pass, first trying to pick it up, before allowing it to roll under him and through to Benzema for the easiest tap in you’ll see in a game of this calibre.
The hosts only managed three shots on target all night, although Ronaldo did sky effort you’d expect him to score nine times out of ten. Bayern peppered their host’s goal and drew two brilliant saves from the acrobatic Keylor Navas, they also drew seven blocks from the home side’s desperate defenders. A final score of 2-2 is certainly nothing to be ashamed of for any side at this ground, but Bayern will know they’d done enough to win two games here on the night.
Madrid though, ground out the win. Yes they were far from what we’ve come to expect; Ronaldo was muted and Bale was restricted to less than thirty minutes. At one point Modric was dropping so deep he was almost playing fullback, this just shows how much the Champions of Europe were made to work for their result.
Ultimately they kept their heads and over two legs scored four times from considerably fewer chances. Some have also pointed to their 97th minute penalty against Juventus at home in the quarter-finals. Lucky there were, but you cannot discount their first leg performance and three nil win in Turin, a game which saw Juve’s fans applauding the antics and brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo. You can call it luck, but when you’ve only lost four Champions League games in three years, and successfully defended the title, you could also call it knowhow.
Kiev for Real
Liverpool or A.S Roma then, will face the perennial champions later this month. Both sides will be encouraged by Real’s lack of optimum performances so far this season. They are fifteen points adrift of Barcelona in La Liga and their defence hasn’t looked entirely convincing in this tournament.
Some caution though should be applied. For Liverpool or Roma fans, reaching the final would a momentous achievement and an event highly charged with emotion and historical longing. For Madrid though, they have become almost mechanical in this sphere. Their fan’s simply demand the trophy and their players are ruthless winners. Time and time again, Ronaldo, Bale, Ramos, Benzema and Marcelo have been key cogs in winning machines. They will control a highly charged evening and will take some stopping. Whoever gets through to face them, will no doubt have every chance on the night, but must be at their brilliant best to succeed. It’s been one fantastic Champions League season, whoever wins it, will be worthy champions indeed.