Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich: Die Roten fall as sloppy hosts reach final
Bayern Munich leave the Santiago Bernabeu cursing their luck against Real Madrid just as they did in the first leg at the Allianz Arena. Die Roten were far the better team on the night. They moved the ball quicker, created more dangerous chances, but ultimately failed in the most important task. They could not outscore their hosts. Real was not at their best but somehow the Champions League experts found a way to leap the Bavarian hurdle once again.
Joshua Kimmich profited from a mix-up in the Madrid defence to fire home the opener just three minutes into the contest. Hope soared but the celebration was short-lived. Seven minutes later, the Santiago Bernabeu was in raptures when Karim Benzema headed home Marcelo’s cross at the far post.
The Frenchman's first wasn't a difference maker, however. Bayern could still force extra time with one more goal. Benzema removed much of the pressure that goal would apply by completing his brace before it came. He profited from a defensive error between Corentin Tolisso and his goalkeeper to give Los Blancos the lead. His young countryman sent a slow pass back into the box. Ulreich raced out to meet it, somehow wrongfooted himself, and watched helplessly as the ball rolled underneath him towards the far post. Benzema was quickest to reach it and poke it into the back of the net.
While his teammates struggled, James Rodriguez took the opportunity to show Zinedine Zidane why he should’ve been given more chances with the defending Champions. The Colombian bossed the game and was rewarded with a 63rd-minute equalizer. If Robert Lewandowski had been able to find the target, he might have added an assist or two to his marker.
In the 84th minute, Jupp Heynckes subbed James off. Javier Martinez joined Sandro Ramirez on the pitch as the septuagenarian manager tried to change tactics in the dying minutes, sending balls into the box and trying to beat Real in the air. Mats Hummels sent a free header wide and the tie was done.
Credit must be given to Real's defence. They stood firm against their relentless opponents.
Keylor Navas conceded two, but still deserves accolades for not letting in the third. His eight saves on the night were a personal-best in the Champions League.
Sergio Ramos stood tall. He was his usual combative self, imposing his will on Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller.
Raphael Varane had Madridsta hearts in mouths when he miscued a clearance barely wide of his goal for a Bayern corner. Otherwise, the Frenchman was as ferocious as his senior partner.
Make-shift right-back Lucas Vasquez took a beating from Frank Ribery but found a way to stop the Frenchman from scoring or making a goal. Bayern just continued to fluff their offensive lines.
Madrid was not their usual composed, free-flowing selves at the Bernabeu. They struggled to get the ball out their half and gave it away too easily when they won it. Bayern Munich should have flooded the goal. If the football gods exist, they had their money on the Merengues. The Bavarians seemed cursed to fail.
From the luck they enjoyed at the back, Real could have left the match with a criminal scoreline. If Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t blasted a shot high over with the goal begging and substitute Gareth Bale hadn’t pushed the ball too far ahead when put clean through, the match might have ended 4-2 for the home side.
It's a funny old game
Over the two legs, Madrid wasn’t the better team but it’s Los Blancos going to Kyiv. It boils down to what might have been if Bayern had taken their chances. Die Roten had 10 shots on target. Only two beat Navas. Real put two of their three shots on target beyond Ulreich. Well, one, if we're honest. Benzema's second was already well beyond the keeper when the Frenchman caught up to it.
Zinedine Zidane still doesn’t know what it feels like to be knocked out of the Champions League as a manager. The Frenchman has reached all three finals since he became Madrid’s boss. His team rode their luck against Bayern. If they do the same in Ukraine, the former Juventus midfielder will make history.