Mario Gomez notched a priceless last-gasp winner as Bayern Munich won 2-1 against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena.
Buoyed by grabbing the spoils at the death, Bayern were clearly the happier team. However, on reflection, this was a 'good' defeat - an acceptable defeat - for Real Madrid. As expected, Jose Mourinho and his charges looked to keep the game tight and will look to score three or four at home in the return leg next Wednesday in Madrid.
The visitors started the more composed and had an early chance from French striker Karim Benzema brilliantly tipped over by Manuel Neuer. Franck Ribery then had a penalty appeal turned down by English referee Howard Webb before the Frenchman fired Bayern ahead after seventeen minutes. From a Toni Kroos corner swung in from the left, Real Madrid failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to Ribery, who lashed the ball home low through a crowded penalty box. It could be argued that the goal should have been disallowed as Luis Gustavo was stood in front of the goalkeeper Iker Casillas in an offside position. But the goal stood and sparked wild celebrations at the Allianz Arena.
The home side looked more assured in possession after the goal. Kroos and Ribery combined well to play in Gomez but his left-footed shot was spectacularly saved by Casillas just before the break.
The game was littered with petulant blocks and kicks from players of both sides, leading to nine yellow cards, six for the Spanish side. Indeed, it was a game which always threatened to spill over and Howard Webb struggled to contain both sets of players. Mourinho prowled the coaching zone, gesticulating at every inauspicious decision. The players were a little on edge due to the occasion and this was exacerbated by some egregious decisions from Webb and his fellow officials.
Bayern went into the break with the advantage but this was short-lived as Real Madrid equalised in the 53rd minute from a typical counter-attack. After a half-cleared shot, Benzema switched the ball out left to Cristiano Ronaldo. With the ball running out of play the Portuguese winger was able to keep the ball in and cut it back to Mesut Ozil, who, with Neuer on the floor, tapped in from three yards on his return to his homeland.
It seemed Madrid were content to take the away goal and a draw back to the Spanish capital. It was the job of the home side to strive for a winning goal. Bayern's response to the equaliser was to take off the ineffective Bastian Schweinsteiger for Thomas Muller. Schweinsteiger is clearly not back to his most effective; a consequence of his long-term injury earlier in the season. This substitution instigated a change of tactics and system for Bayern: Kroos dropped back into a more defensive position and Muller went up front to partner Mario Gomez.
Bayern's strength this season has been from wide areas and after the equaliser they increased the pressure on Madrid. From a litany of crosses they created several opportunities for Gomez in the centre. Over-stretched and with Casillas bearing down on him, 'Super Mario' blazed over from close range in the 71st minute. He could and should have done better. A few minutes later, a great cross from the right-hand side fashioned another fantastic chance for Gomez. This time Gomez produced a superbly-timed run from back-post to front-post, almost parallel to the six-yard box, escaping two Madrid defenders in the process - but his header flew over the crossbar. More profligate finishing from Bayern's leading marksman.
Real Madrid didn't offer much coming forward, seemingly content with a draw and a valuable away goal: Ronaldo remained subdued and the likes of Ozil and Benzema were not as effective as in previous rounds.
Bayern have secured a slender advantage for the second leg and moved a step closer to appearing in the Champions League final in their own backyard.
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