After the convincing 4-1 victory against Borussia Dortmund, FC Bayern wanted to start into the game against Real Madrid full of confidence. The attack on Dortmund’s team bus dulled the mood, however, and everyone involved had difficulty feeling just happiness ahead of the game. Increased security and changed routines ahead of the game showed how fragile life can be.
3 things we noticed
1. Adding Real to injury
Before the game, the one thing that couldn’t happen, did happen: Robert Lewandowski missed out on the game due to injury. At the same time, the injury showed that even the deepest squad can’t, and won’t, always be deep enough. At Bayern, the crucial figures are Lewandowski and Thiago: with one of them missing, everything changes.
Bayern is understaffed on the position of centre forward. For one, this is because Robert Lewandowski is always fit to play, for another, because the club struggled to find an adequate replacement after Claudio Pizarro left. Lewandowski’s broken nose from two years ago, then in the semi-final against Barcelona, was supposed to remain a one-off incident. It didn’t.
Thomas Müller replaced Lewandowski up front – in a position that just isn’t his. In the first 45 minutes, he had only 19 touches on the ball. He squandered his biggest chance to create something from those in the 39th minute, when he wasn’t fast enough in processing a Lahm pass in the penalty box. Müller tried to interpret the role with his own style, which meant he didn’t always cover the space a centre forward usually covers. Real’s centre-backs, therefore, found it much easier to react to each new situation and cover Bayern’s wing players and Vidal, who was moving up to cover the space.
In the second half, Müller was a victim of a team that collapsed around him. He managed another 17 touches on the ball, but couldn’t give any further impulses.
Ancelotti missed out on reacting in a tactically smart way to this change; Lewandowski just isn’t like Müller. That much was obvious before the game had even started. A change of system, or at least a tactical variation, would have been necessary. Without it, Müller remained hap- and helpless in Lewandowski’s role.
For vast stretches of the first half, FC Bayern controlled the midfield. While Real showed good pressing occasionally, forcing Bayern to play long balls away from their goal, but by the time Bayern scored, everything was under control. Casemiro dropped back to tighten up space between the lines, which worked well for some parts, but Bayern moved Ribéry inward a little more and managed to free themselves.
In the second half, Zidane took more risks and kept Ronaldo, Bale, and Benzema up-front to focus on offense. That way, Vidal and Thiago were outnumbered. With Bayern adding plenty of mistakes to their build-up play, both had vast areas of space to cover, which eventually led to Martínez’ sending-off. Ribéry and Robben, who stopped chasing the ball backwards, added to this unfortunate situation. While Vidal won six tackles, and Thiago won four, the rest of the team couldn’t keep the 4-4-2 stable. In the end, this led to Madrid controlling first the midfield, with Modric and Kroos, and eventually the entire game.
3. Nothing to lose, everything to gain
Early on, it seemed that Carlo Ancelotti was right about the fact that the return leg would be decisive – both teams were too much on the same level, especially working against the ball, to make any predictions possible. In the first half, the game was kept completely neutral. Bayern went into the lead with a set piece and could have created a much better situation for themselves had they scored the penalty. That didn’t happen. The equaliser and the deserved sending off for Martínez turned the game on its head. Read Madrid won in Munich and, with that, shut down most hopes for the semi-final.
The only good news about the situation is that it is completely hopeless. Bayern has nothing to lose in Madrid – but everything to gain. Bayern themselves showed against Arsenal how difficult it can be to defend a high victory, Paris even gave up an un-give-up-able lead.
Bayern goes to Madrid with a heavy burden. Whether Lewandowski and Mats Hummels will be back in time for the game will have to be seen. Even if they are, it will be a difficult, if not unsolvable, task. FC Bayern have only themselves to blame for that, however, especially with this second half.
|FC Bayern – Real Madrid 1-2 (1-0)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Martínez, Boateng, Alaba – Xabi Alonso (63. Bernat), Vidal – Robben, Thiago, Ribéry (66. Costa) – Müller (81. Coman)|
|Bench||Ulreich, Rafinha, Kimmich, Sanches|
|Real Madrid||Navas – Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo – Modric (90. Kovacic), Casemiro, Kroos – Bale (58. Asensio), Benzema, Ronaldo (83. James)|
|Bench||Casilla, Morata, Danilo, Isco|
|Goals||1-0 Vidal (25′); 1-1 Ronaldo (47′); 1-2 Ronaldo (77′)|
|Cards||Yellow: Alonso, Martínez, Vidal / Kroos, Carvajal, Yellow-Red: Martínez|
|Attendance||70.000 (sold out)|