Advantage Bayern Munich. Super Mario Gomez strikes late to secure another memorable victory for the Bavarians. Real Madrid extends their poor form in German soil having won only once in 23 matches. Further, Bayern has extended their home wins against Los Blancos to nine games in 10 outings, having drawn the other one.
However, Madrid can take solace from the fact that they have got the most important away goal, and in this format, it can be vital as Jose Mourinho’s men will start as favourite at the Santiago Bernabeu. Here are my five observations from the match.
Real Madrid suffered intense pressure from the home side in the first half due to their disorganized set up in formation. They started with four front men – Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil and Di Maria – and two anchor midfielders in the form of Alonso and Khedira. After the first 10 minutes, when Bayern started to impose more pressure, it was evident that Jose missed another extra body in the centre of the park. Ozil and Di Maria tracked back at times to cover that gap however, they didn’t do enough.
Granero was introduced late on, and his presence gave some stability in the middle. Madrid’s free flowing counter attacking style was halted as the supply line from the middle was blocked. However, they got the goal via their trademark counter attacking move. Ronaldo and Benzema involved in a quick movement helping Ozil, the German International to grab his name on the score sheet on his return to homeland.
Poor defending from set pieces
The Whites had the best defensive record in this present campaign so far having conceded only six goals. But tonight, they not only looked vulnerable but the much reliable centre back partnership of Ramos and Pepe handled set pieces very poorly.
For the first goal, Ramos couldn’t clear the ball properly from a corner and Franck Ribery took full advantage of it by guiding the ball through the legs of Pepe leaving diving Casillas no chance of making a save.
The second goal came from a low cross which neither of Madrid centre backs covered well. Lahm’s low delivery was brilliantly tapped in by Mario Gomez who could have added more goals to his name had he not missed early sitters.
Contrasting impacts of Wingers
Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben constantly kept the Madrid defence in high alert as they created spaces more easily than their counterparts. Both the wingers drifted in from their respective positions and instead of trying to have a crack on goal, they relied more on opening the gaps.
However due to lack of bodies in the middle Ronaldo and Ozil/Di Maria were left isolated at times. Ronaldo especially was left with futile attempts through free kicks and long range efforts in the first half.
Super Mario Gomez
Special credit should be given to the Bayern striker who scored 13 goals this season in Europe from open play. Only Lionel Messi has scored one goal more than him, but four of his goals have come from spot kicks.
After conceding a soft goal, Bayern kept on pilling pressures. The introduction of Muller added extra pace to their attacks. The important thing about Gomez was he could constantly throw his body in the right place and created panic at the Madrid defence.
He missed two gilded chances from the box but his position play was encouraging. That prompted wingers and wing backs to provide more support and finally the persistence paid off. He could have earned a penalty too midway in the second half. Overall, his late goal made the difference here and if Bayern goes on to win the tie then Super Mario’s effort will forever be etched in the memory of all football fans.
Advantage Bayern or Advantage Madrid?
Well both the teams should be pleased with the results, especially Bayern. They have the one-goal advantage and can visit Spain with a positive frame of mind thinking they can score again and cause the upset.
However, we all know the significance of scoring an away goal in this competition. Jose has been in this stage before, and he knows that one goal will be enough to seal the tie. Madrid players are highly capable of scoring goals, especially at their own backyard and therefore the second leg can get very exciting if they find an early goal.
Jose however also suffered defeat from this sort of position before. His Chelsea side couldn’t capitalize in the second leg in 2007 despite taking the lead at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool. He will hope that history doesn’t repeat again…
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @Saikat_SAnchor