Real Madrid defeated European champions Bayern Munich 1-0 at the Bernabeu last night in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
In the majority of games that Los Blancos play they dominate the opposition, but not this one.
In fact, Bayern had 72 per cent of possession at the Bernabeu and looked in control for much of the contest.
The European champions tend to dominate against all their opponents, even a team regarded as one of the most highly-rated teams in European football.
Despite Bayern controlling possession it was Real Madrid that had the better chances and in the first half could have been three goals up, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria both missing golden opportunities in front of goal.
Real have the perfect players to hit teams on the counter-attack and that is just what the Spanish giants did to the Bavarians to good effect, on the rare occasions that the Spaniards had the ball.
There is little point in having possession if you do nothing with it. It is like having a super car in your garage and never driving it, it may look pretty, but it is not going anywhere. Bayern were just that super car last night.
Bayern boss Pep Guardiola had major success with Barcelona through playing a now famous brand of possession football. The Catalan boss has already won the Bundesliga in record time with Bayern using this system, but some believe he has taken Bayern backwards.
However, last night it was just a case of the German champions not creating enough chances. Sunday’s game between Everton and Manchester United was another example of a team having lots of possession, but their opponents being more incisive and winning the game.
Despite Bayern claiming the German Bundesliga in record time, some fans and even the Bayern hierarchy have been critical of the team’s style of play this season. Even Bayern’s honorary president Franz Beckenbauer has publicly criticised the team’s style of play, which must be quite annoying for former-Barca Guardiola.
Guardiola’s possession based philosophy has been adopted and used as a template by many up-and-coming bosses. His philosophy and style of play is used by many as a template. One game does not make the philosophy a failure.
There are a number of young bosses in the Premier League who are advocates of possession football. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is one of those bosses. The Reds look set to claim the league title for the first time in 24 years.
The Northern Irishman has had the same philosophy at every club. He brought success to Swansea and now his philosophy is bringing success to Anfield on an even bigger scale. Rodgers team play quick incisive football, but can also play on the counter-attack.
Across Stanley Park at Everton, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has also instilled his style of possession football into his team. The result has been Everton challenging for a Champions League spot and gaining their record ever Premier League points total.
What Rodgers and Martinez have in common is that they are willing to adapt their philosophy to win games. Guardiola is a fantastic boss, but if there is one criticism that could be aimed at the Catalan, it is that he does not have a Plan B.
Meanwhile Rodgers and Martinez are proving that possession football can work in the Premier League, even if sometimes a team has to adapt their style to be successful.
Possession football, just like any other style of football, can be combated and there is no perfect football philosophy. Possession football may not be perfect, but it has brought a lot of team’s success in recent seasons in both domestic and European competitions.
Real Madrid still have to visit the Allianz Arena for the second leg and I can see Bayern progressing to the final if they can keep the Spaniards out. Bayern have still been successful this season and for much of the season have been incisive in front of goal.
Die Bayern have turned on the style when it has mattered this season and I would be very surprised if the Bavarians did not do it again in the second leg.
I am sure if you asked Liverpool fans if possession-based football is the way forward they would give you a resounding yes, so maybe the demise of possession football has been greatly exaggerated. Bayern could still end up as European champions this season, with Bayern now odds of 9/4 to claim Europe’s elite competition. Will Bayern fans still be questioning their style of play then?
Is possession football still the way forward?
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