Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at the Allianz Arena in a Champions League semi-final first leg surprisingly lacking in quality.
Joshua Kimmich put the hosts in front with an angled finish midway through the first half, but Marcelo pulled Madrid level just before half-time, with substitute Marco Asensio capitalising on a Rafinha error to score the winning goal after the break.
Here, we look at why it was encouraging viewing for Liverpool, how it was a quiet night for Cristiano Ronaldo, and why Bayern Munich might struggle to turn the tie around…
Both sides beatable
There was no shortage of star quality on show at the Allianz Arena, but a Champions League semi-final which had all the makings of a classic turned out to be a disappointingly disjointed affair. Liverpool, irresistible in their 5-2 dismantling of Roma on Tuesday night, are entitled to feel optimistic about their chances of going all the way in the competition.
The tone was set in the opening minute, when Dani Carvajal gifted possession to Robert Lewandowski in Real Madrid’s box, only for the Bayern striker to over-hit his cross towards the unmarked Thomas Muller. Jerome Boateng then clumsily fouled Isco as Madrid carried the ball upfield. Not even a minute had gone, but the lack of composure on both sides was already clear.
Routine passes went astray throughout the first half, and Liverpool will have noted how easily Bayern cut through Madrid for the opening goal. The hosts played it out from the back unopposed, working the ball to James Rodriguez, who slid a simple pass forward for the onrushing Kimmich to bury his shot at Keylor Navas’ near post.
It was a clinically-taken goal from Bayern but their finishing let them down after that. Franck Ribery had a glorious chance to double their lead when he went through on goal soon after the opener, only to overrun the ball straight into the arms of the advancing Navas.
Marcelo’s equaliser was a rare moment of quality but Real Madrid’s second goal came from another defensive error. This time, Rafinha was the culprit, passing the ball straight to Asensio, who played a one-two with Lucas Vazquez before dispatching his finish beyond Sven Ulreich.
It would be wrong to suggest Real Madrid shut the game down after that. In fact, Bayern had chances to find a leveller. They somehow failed to convert from a goalmouth scramble in the 67th minute, then, two minutes from time, substitute Corentin Tolisso easily opened up Madrid’s defence only for Lewandowski to shoot tamely wide. Mohamed Salah and Co might not be so wasteful.
Quiet night for Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 151st Champions League appearance will go down as one of his quietest. The 33-year-old became the first player in the competition’s history to score in 10 consecutive games with his match-winning penalty against Juventus in the second leg of their quarter-final earlier this month, but there were no heroics at the Allianz Arena.
Ronaldo was a peripheral figure in the first half. His first involvement of note was to be denied a free-kick by referee Björn Kuipers after going down following a challenge by Boateng, and he only threatened the hosts’ goal on one occasion, getting in behind the Bayern’s defence in the 20th minute only to see his cut-back intercepted by a red shirt.
It was the same story in the second half. Ronaldo had averaged more than six shots per game in this season’s Champions League coming into the game, but he only had two over the course of the 90 minutes at the Allianz Arena, the first of which sailed comically out for a throw-in two minutes after the break.
Ronaldo did have the ball in the net in the 71st minute, firing home after bringing down a long pass, but his elation was short-lived as the referee penalised him for using his arm. It was the right call and it summed up the Portuguese’s night.
Bayern down to bare bones
Bayern Munich came into the game with a number of injury problems. Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman were all out with long-term issues, and they were joined on the sidelines by David Alaba, who picked up a thigh injury in their recent win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Their starting line-up was considerably weakened by the injuries, and their problems deepened over the course of the game. Arjen Robben was the first to go, trudging down the tunnel after just eight minutes in what could be his final Champions League appearance to be replaced by Thiago Alcantara.
Boateng joined Robben in the treatment room before the first half was out. The German received lengthy treatment before having to be helped down the tunnel and replaced by Niklas Sule.
Bayern now face the prospect of going to the Bernabeu not only one goal down but without six players who would normally be included in their starting line-up. It could prove an impossible task.
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