Which players choked on the Bernabeu stage in the Champions League semi-final second leg?
It doesn’t get more blockbuster than Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich for a place in the Champions League final. Many would have picked two of the most successful teams in modern history as their dream final. After an enthralling first leg ended 2-1 to Los Blancos, the European Champions sought to secure their third consecutive final, fourth in five years, in front of their home fans.
Bayern Munich was left kicking themselves after attempting 22 shots on goal and only leaving Spain with a 2-2 draw. A draw that put Zinedine Zidane’s men go through 4-3 on aggregate rather undeservedly. Real Madrid wasn’t at their best, but their worst was better than Bayern’s best. Several Bavarians will have to take a long hard look at themselves.
Here are three players who failed to deliver in Bayern Munich’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid.
Out of position and out of luck, Lucas Vasquez’s endured a horrendous time at right-back. Thirty-five-year-old Franck Ribery and the rampant David Alaba ran rings around him. Dani Carvajal's absence forced Zinedine Zidane to deploy a makeshift right-back. The decision nearly cost the European Champions. The Spaniard’s inept positioning and rash decision-making made him a soft target that Bayern used to create several chances from the wide areas.
How much did he suffer? Vazquez was dribbled past twice and dispossessed four times as 'Ala-bery' continually pressed him. To be fair to the Spaniard, he put in a much better cameo when moved back to a more advanced role, with the less-than-match-fit Nacho Fernandez taking over at right-back.
The last thing Jupp Heynckes must have said to the Bayern players at half-time was something like 'keep it tight, no mistakes'. One minute later, the German Champions were picking the ball out of the net due to an inexpiable decision from Sven Ulreich. In dealing with Corentin Tolisso's soft back pass, the 29-year-old slid over the ball rather than kicking it away from danger. What was he thinking? Handling the ball would have resulted in a free kick inside the 18. Perhaps he realised that at the last moment, which would explain why he let the ball roll under him. Unfortunately, Karim Benzema was easily first to the loose ball, tapping it into the empty goal. Ulreich had cost his team in their biggest game of the season. Bayern would go on to score another, levelling proceedings for the night, but Ulreich’s mistake proved one too many for the Germans.
Manuel Neuer has missed 230 days of competitive action, or 44 games, since suffering a severe metatarsal injury in September. In that time, Ulreich racked up an impressive 43 appearances and kept 12 clean sheets in the Bundesliga. Heynckes had been content to let Neuer take his time to recover. Joachim Loew was considering Ulreich for World Cup duty. That may have all changed with one horrible gaffe.
#1 Robert Lewandowski
In his final audition for his next club, Lewandowski may have placed some lingering doubts in the minds of Real Madrid higher-ups. When called upon, the Polish striker was nowhere to be seen for Bayern. His teammates created chance after chance, begging their star striker to convert just one. Lewandowski didn’t score once over the two legs, despite attempting seven shots on goal. That’s what you call a choke, especially from someone who is considered among Europe's top five at his position.
Beyond his wastefulness in front of goal, the 29-year-old was dispossessed four times, lost 50% of his aerial duels and was the culprit behind seven misplaced passes (WhoScored). On the same night Karim Benzema scored a crucial brace, Lewandowski showed he didn’t have the title-winning mentality.