The Champions League quarter final stage produced a clash of titans as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid faced off on Wednesday evening. As soon as the two footballing giants drew each other, football fans all around the world had the date circled on their calendars. Carlo Ancelotti and Manuel Neuer against Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, the master against the apprentice and the world’s best goalkeeper against the world’s best attacker. A game oozing with class, depth and desire for the cup set up a wonderful match at the Allianz Arena that ended with a 2-1 win for Real Madrid.
The first major chance of the game fell to the visitors just around the 15-minute mark. Daniel Carvajal played a wonderful ball in to Karim Benzema. The big Frenchman was able to leap up and get his header goalwards but Manuel Neuer was equal to the effort. The elite German stopper got just enough of his fingertips to the ball, keeping his team level.
Just ten minutes later, Bayern were able to break the deadlock. Frank Ribery won a corner for his team after his sizzling volley was fortunately blocked by Marcelo. The corner from Thiago met an unmarked Arturo Vidal who had a free run at the ball. The Chilean smashed his header into the roof of the net as Keylor Navas was left stranded. It was a defensive breakdown for Real Madrid, with many fingers pointed at replacement centre-back Nacho.
In the 40th minute, it was Arturo Vidal causing havoc once more. He started the attack by winning the ball back well and after Arjen Robben worked his way brilliantly down the line, his right footed cross found a leaping Vidal, who threw himself at the ball sending it just over the bar. At the other end Ronaldo had his first chance of the match as he found himself in just enough space outside the area to strike the ball and his low, driving effort was met by Manuel Neuer.
Three minutes later Frank Ribery wiggled around the area and after a series of fakes his shot was blocked off the chest of Daniel Carvajal. After appeals from the fans and players the referee took his time to award a penalty to Bayern Munich. A controversial call but Bayern Munich did not seem to care one bit.
Fittingly, the man of the half Arturo Vidal, stepped up to the spot looking to double his team’s lead just before the break. Instead, the Chilean blasted the spot kick over the bar and shocked the entire stadium.
It almost seemed fair that Arturo Vidal missed the undeserved penalty but when playing the reigning champions, all chances, especially penalties, must be taken. Going in at half-time Real Madrid were lucky to not have gone 2-0 down and had to turn things around in the second half and improve their counter attack.
It didn’t take them long, just one minute after the second half kick-off, Real Madrid found themselves level. Daniel Carvajal whipped in another great ball, played shin level and aimed directly at Ronaldo, the 3-time Ballon D’Or winner showed his class as he was able to side foot the finish, at a very awkward height, beyond the outstretched hands of Manuel Neuer.
The tide had turned, in the 55th minute, Luca Modric drilled the ball in to Gareth Bale and the Welshman’s point blank header was saved well by Neuer as the German stopper was able to get his fingertips to yet another shot, it was Bale’s last contribution to proceedings as just two minutes later he was replaced by Marco Asensio.
Ronaldo continued to torment the home side and in the 60th minute Javi Martinez picked up two yellow card in just three minutes. Both cards came from late tackles on Cristiano Ronaldo in the middle of the park and both came as Real broke on the counter attack. Already under pressure Bayern now had thirty minutes to deal with one of the most dangerous teams in the world. Ancelotti rang the changes, Xabi Alonso came off for Bernat and Ribery was replaced by Douglas Costa as he tried to make up for the lost man by bringing in more athleticism to tame the attacks.
Madrid kept coming however and had a flurry of chances. In the 72nd minute Carvajal played in Benzema and his quick toe-poke was saved by Manuel Neuer. Two minutes later Benzema passed to Ronaldo just inside the box only to be denied by Neuer once again. The keeper pulled off another outstanding save as he exhibited cat like reflexes to bat away the powerful effort leaving Cristiano in anguish.
In the 76th minute Madrid finally took the lead through, who else, Cristiano Ronaldo. This time the cross came from Marcelo and Ronaldo found himself goal-side of Bernat and his one touch finish went right through the legs of the keeper, barely squeezing over the line. It was one Manuel Neuer would love to have back, and one for Ronaldo to cherish as he became the first player to hit the 100 European goals mark.
As the game drew to a finish, Bayern had a few scares. In the 91st minute Sergio Ramos found the back of the net from a header coming off of a free kick but the goal was ruled out as the linesman correctly flagged down Ramos whose run had come from an offside position. Once again in the 93rd minute, Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have a point blank header and his hat trick in hand, however he lost his footing and saw his chance go a begging.
After a thunderous start Bayern were knocked onto their heels and if it wasn’t for Manuel Neuer’s 10 saves, many of them being brilliant ones, the damage could have been much worse. Real Madrid still find themselves in the driver’s seat with two away goals heading back home for the second leg of the tie next week. Carlo Ancelotti will need his team to attack away from home, setting up the BBC counter attack, which will provide another incredible match of football as both of these teams know the tie can still go either way.
Written by Mohammed Najarali, you can follow Mohammed on Twitter @MJ_NAJ
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