Rafa Benítez Blog RSS Rafa Benítez Blog

Apr 2012
Bayern are paired with Chelsea, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

If Chelsea had beaten all the odds the day before by getting to the final in Munich on May 19, last night we witnessed a similar feat by Bayern, although maybe forecasts weren’t quite as clear after the first leg. Barcelona and Real Madrid have crashed out and the Munich and London teams will contest the title. Once again football showed what it can do and brought us all back to reality instead of trying to bet on the outcome.

Real Madrid 2 - Bayern Munich 1. (1-3 on penalties)

The second semi-final of the UEFA Champions League began with few surprises as far as the line-ups and tactics were concerned. Both teams went with their expected starting eleven and a 1-4-2-3-1 system. And they had the same plan, drop off out of possession and counter attack quickly after regaining.

Real Madrid, as they had done in the first leg, were relying on long diagonal or square balls to looking to get behind the Munich defence. And they tried to do it using Xabi Alonso, but also Pepe and even Sergio Ramos. Generally, though, it was not effective, but it showed the intentions of what the Madrid side were trying to do in this second leg.

Before getting in to the more tactical analysis, I am going to comment on something that, to me, was odd and is to do with consistency. After 3 minutes, Ozil claimed a foul against Luiz Gustavo, the referee played the advantage and the Brazilian, who thought the whistle had gone, picked the ball up. However, we then saw David Alaba, who had the ball whacked at his arm with no intention of handling it, receive a yellow card and a penalty was awarded. Just a thought and a debatable detail.

The match began with a shot from Khedira which was saved by Neuer. Then there was an attack followed by a cross by Marcelo which Di Maria struck well. The ball, as we said, hit the arm of Alaba and the referee gave a penalty and booked him. The penalty was put away by Cristiano Ronaldo for the opening goal of the game and also put Real Madrid in the driving seat, forcing Bayern Munich to score if they were to go through.

After the restart, the Madrid team pressed with some intensity. Ozil was moving intelligently in attack, looking to get behind the centre backs as they came out to press Benzema and it looked as though the team in white were going to gain control. However, the left back Alaba got forward, almost to the by-line and his cross created an excellent chance for Robben who missed as the ball bounced awkwardly making it difficult to finish.

Bayern continued to play without fear and on 11 minutes, Ribery got through as Mario Gomez shot and the rebound was almost seized on by Ribery to score, but a defender got there first.

Just a couple of minutes later, Alaba got behind the defence but his cross was poor. The same move was repeated to create another chance, as Arbeloa, worried about the French player’s threat, followed Ribery, leaving his right back zone.

Minute 13’45. Khedira lost control of the ball and the rebound went straight to Ozil who passed quickly to Ronaldo between Lahm and Boateng and the Portuguese made it 2-0. Everything looked good for Real Madrid who dropped off waiting for Bayern in their own half to try to counter attack when they regained the ball or to play long behind the defence if there was a runner.

Bayern were looking to play to Robben, a left footer on the right, and Marcelo was showing him on to his right, supported by Khedira so Robben could not come inside.

The Bavarian team continued to be a threat with a counter attack by Ribery on 19 minutes and a shot by Mario Gomez thanks to an attack by Alaba which made Pepe appear indecisive and gave the German club’s striker time to shoot. Meanwhile, Arbeloa was following Ribery as we said. A minute later, there was another shot from Luiz Gustavo, in space in the centre as the Madrid midfield supported their full backs.

As we had seen in the other semi-final, possession isn’t everything but after 25 minutes it was 39% for the home team and 61% for the visitors.

In the same minute, Ronaldo whipped in a cross and Neuer left the ball, dangerous. But in the counter attack from this move Mario Gomez opened up Toni Kroos who crossed for Pepe to give away a penalty for a foul on the Spanish-German. A yellow card for the Portuguese and the kick put away by Robben to make it 2-1. This evened up the tie.

After 29 minutes, we saw another Real Madrid characteristic. A quick free kick for Ronaldo to shoot and it was almost touched on by Pepe. A minute later, after another long switch of play, Benzema received the ball to come inside and shoot across the goal dangerously with his right foot.

More chances came and on 33 minutes Kroos found Gomez again but his shot was in to Casillas’s body. A minute later, a defender knocked the ball away from Ribery just as he was about to shoot.

Up to half time we saw a couple of long attempts from the home team, from Pepe and Sergio Ramos, a throw behind the slightly lackadaisical Madrid defence, and Ribery moving over to the right to try to gain superiority and work one-twos with Robben, Kroos or Gomez on that side, as we saw in the last dangerous shot from Robben just before the break.

Second Half

The second half began with a cross from Benzema that no-one could finish. But immediately after, that position of Ribery next to Robben created superiority on the right and Lahm crossed for Gomez to head dangerously.

Bayern were controlling the game patiently, playing with their goalkeeper if necessary, to maintain possession and not risk passes in defence.

In the 55th minute, a quick free kick by Real Madrid ended up with Benzema shooting across goal. Arbeloa got a yellow card 4 minutes later as he stopped a counter attack by Ribery. The game progressed in a similar vein, the Madrid side dropped off ready to counter and the Germans moving the ball patiently and quickly.

There were a couple of free kicks by Kroos and Ronaldo but they didn’t trouble the goals and some counter attacks also without too much threat.

Mourinho looked to bring on fresh legs with Kaka coming on in the 74th minute and Ozil moved to the right.

After 77 minutes Benzema beat Badstuber wide and his cross was blocked by Boateng.

The Munich side kept playing their game and Gomez (85th minute), turned and shot, and the Germans shouted for a penalty. A minute later, Alaba got behind the defence, combined with Robben who, with his pass, found Gomez free but he didn’t shoot first time and that allowed defenders to get back and block the chance. Arbeloa was still close to Ribery, Ozil did not come back with Alaba and Pepe arriving late cleared the danger. And so came extra time.

It started as the match had done, with Real Madrid pressing and BM unflustered. Heynckes brought on Muller for Ribery, moving Robben to the left although a bit later he moved back to the right.

Kroos and Schweinsteiger were moving the ball and Luiz Gustavo was still working hard to regain possession in midfield, although in the 101st minute he was booked for another foul, one of many, this time on Pepe. The Brazilian will miss the final, as will Badstuber who also got a yellow card to hand him a suspension.

In the second part of extra time Higuain came on for Benzema and a bit later Granero was on for Ozil, but apart from Granero getting a yellow card for diving, there was not much of note. A dangerous move by Kaka but both teams careful not to allow the other to counter attack.

Maybe worth a mention was a dangerous move by Gomez which Marcelo stopped and came out dribbling past 3 players and passing to Kaka who was offside.

Boateng went to ground with cramp and the referee decided to blow for time and the game went to penalties to decide who would go through.

Bayern go through

And here lady luck smiled on the Germans. David Alaba opened their account (1-0), an impressive performance from the young player throughout the game, Cristiano Ronaldo missed with Neuer saving before Mario Gomez put his side 2-0 in front as the German goalkeeper again stopped Kaka’s kick. Just as everything favoured the visitors, Casillas stopped Toni Kroos’s effort and Xabi Alonso closed the gap (2-1). Lahm also found Casillas hand and Real Madrid had the chance to pull level. But Sergio Ramos put the ball over the bar and Schweinsteiger made sure, sealing their ticket to the final in front of their fans at their own stadium. Madrid disappointment and euphoria and celebrations for Bayern’s fans. Congratulations.

Just another thought. Spain have no representative in the final on the 19th when all the betting was on a Real Madrid – Barcelona final. Such is football.