Three things we noticed: Real Madrid – FC Bayern München 2:2 (1:1)

Another magical night at the Bernabéu becomes a tragic one. FC Bayern were narrowly defeated by Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The analysis of an impressive football match. Author: Felix • Translator: Marc

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The Bavarians had left nothing to chance before the game in Madrid: The hotel was changed compared to last year, the injured Robben and Boateng were flown in and everything was oriented towards this one big game. That includes the line-up.

Goal and defence were not subject to surprises: Sven Ulreich appeared in Madrid for the first time, unlike his colleagues Kimmich, Süle, Hummels and Alaba, who returned to the place where he might have done his best in 2012 in his 300th Bayern match.

In midfield, however, Jupp Heynckes surprised. Javi Martínez stayed on the bench at the beginning and was replaced by Corentin Tolisso. Thiago, James, Ribéry and Müller as well as Lewandowski started in attack.

There were also surprises for Real. Vazquez joined Ramos, Varane and Marcelo for the injured Carvajal. Interestingly, Zidane also gave up his best six and brought Kovacic for Casemiro alongside Modric and Kroos. The offensive was formed by Asensio, Ronaldo and Benzema.

Let’s get into the game that couldn’t have started better. The first minutes belonged completely to Munich, who immediately capitalized. Müller crossed from the right, Ramos could not clear in the penalty area and Kimmich got dusty – the 1:0 after not even four minutes!

The goal was a relatively good reflection of the Munich team’s plan: Ribéry started the situation from the left with a good change of sides, Tolisso moved forward and caused confusion in the Madrid penalty area and Kimmich was in the opposing five-metre-room like a striker. Risky, but successful to this point.

Up to now, because the Munich team let the initial momentum subside relatively quickly and Real had more possession of the ball. And because Real Madrid is ice-cold, they took their first chance: Marcelo won against Kimmich in the 11th minute, flanked on the long post, where Benzema could head in freely, because Alaba gave him too much space.

The conceding goal marked the starting point for one of the most furious semi-finals in the history of the Champions League. Both teams played with their sights completely open – and Bayern had the better opportunities. Lewandowski and Müller were several times a danger in the opponent’s penalty area.

But Real also remained a real danger. Süle and Hummels had as many one-on-one duels as Ramos and Varane on the other side. Especially the first 25 minutes of the match revealed what happens when two teams without defensive sixes face off.

It became particularly dangerous – because of the lack of defensive protection provided by Martínez – for the Munich team whenever Real was able to play around the pressing of the Bavarians and found rooms. The double chance for Marcelo in the 27th/28th minute is the best example of this: After losing the ball in the offensive third, the Reds got no pressure on the opponent and about 10 seconds later Ulreich had to save.

But just as the 50:50 game seemed to tip over towards Madrid, Müller and James had huge opportunities to take the lead again, but both missed by a narrow margin. It was a nerve-wracking game with uninterrupted ups and downs, but also with mistakes and the resulting opportunities on both sides.

They followed in the last minutes of the first half. The otherwise solid referee Cakir refused a clear penalty kick after a Kimmich cross – a penalty kick just before the break would have turned the game upside down once again. So it remained at 1:1 in an incredibly fast and incredibly fascinating first half.

The second half lasted 26 seconds until the Munich team had to score two goals again to progress. Ulreich completely misjudged Corentin Tolisso’s risky but playable return pass and handed the empty goal over to Karim Benzema. Without a doubt a catastrophic mistake by the goalkeeper, who could even have taken the ball in his hand – yellow and an indirect free-kick would have been the better alternative.

For the first time in a long time, the Bavarians seemed a little consternated – for exactly three minutes. Then the game from the first half started again: Big chance Real, Chance Bayern, giant chance Ronaldo and another not given penalty kick for the Reds. It was despairing how much went against FC Bayern in the first quarter of the second half.

From a purely tactical point of view, the Munich team had to keep going and did a lot of things right. Thiago shifted the game almost perfectly, Tolisso made himself available again and again in the half spaces and Müller repeatedly created superior numbers in the penalty area. Even Hummels and James, after 45 minutes the weakest of the strong Munich team, found their strong form again.

In the 62nd minute the ball finally – FINALLY – found its way into the goal of Keylor Navas. Süle flanked James from the right, where James first tried and then scored the following shot. A forced but incredibly deserved goal.

James celebrates the equaliser to the 2:2 final score
(Foto: David Ramos/Getty Images)

But anyone who had now expected even wilder Bayern was mistaken. The Münchner played comparatively quietly and waited for their opportunities. They came: After an Alaba cross Tolisso almost scored, but Navas parried splendidly. The Frenchman was joined shortly afterwards by Sandro Wagner and was indirectly involved in the next one hundred per cent by James because he tied in the Ramos attack. The Bavarians were closer to the 3-2 draw than Madrid, but were not rewarded in the fourth semi-final period either.

The last ten minutes went as expected: Real used every opportunity to take time off the clock, while the Bavarians had easily lost the thread and found it difficult to develop attacks from midfield after the replacement of James. On the other hand: the time of controlled moves was over anyway.

From now on high balls flew into the penalty area in a series, the Munich team tried everything to get the chances somehow. Hummels had a header, Navas prevented it and Müller narrowly missed in the last second. Cakir whistled the game after six minutes of injury time, a final mockery at the fact that Real Madrid had stalled in a way that undermined any sympathy for the Spaniards’ good performance as well.

After 180 minutes of thrilling football, endless chances, a multitude of mistakes and a great mentality on the part of the Reds, FC Bayern once again failed shortly before the final. Does Real Madrid deserve this victory? If you take off the fan glasses: Yes. Bayern had everything Madrid had – but not the brutal deception needed to win the Champions League. An attempt is made to analyze an emotional game objectively.

Three things we noticed:

1. Heynckes coaches nearly perfectly

There is a man to whom one must bow deeply if one is sticking to the Reds – and even if one does not. Jupp Heynckes is at the top of this analysis because he was the decisive factor that brought FC Bayern close to the Champions League final in Kiev this season.

Jupp Heynckes once again put everything into the balance in his last Champions League game
(Foto: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

In the return leg against Real, the 72-year-old relied on a tactic that few would have expected, but that made complete sense. Corentin Tolisso, James Rodriguez and Thiago were at the heart of a Bayern side with an outstanding attitude. The triangle managed to dominate perhaps the best midfield in world football in the last three years. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were forced to put their own ball possession football completely in the back – perhaps the highest honor you can get in a game against Real.

It was impressive to see FC Bayern returning to the virtues that had shaped the Guardiola period from 2013 to 2016. The opponent may have the better individual players, but the Munich collective can replace any loss. Arjen Robben, Kingsley Coman, Arturo Vidal, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer – the list of those who could have decided this close game is long.

This is perhaps the most important lesson from the semi-final, especially compared to last season’s elimination. Under Ancelotti, Bayern failed in such a way that many good teams have failed at Real – because they measured themselves against the individual players. Heynckes was wise enough to give up and showed that FC Bayern are still a team that can compete with the best.

Not because the best players play in Munich, but because the tactics are superior. This alone sheds a special light on the elimination this season – and puts many things into perspective. Chapeu, Jupp.

2. Did individual errors really decide?

There is hardly anything more difficult than writing about the mistake of a player who has decided a game – and yet one cannot avoid addressing Sven Ulreich. On the one hand, you have to criticize him for the 46th minute move. Certainly, Tolisso’s pass was anything but wise, but Ulreich had the options to resolve the situation. From the goalkeeper’s point of view it was a big mistake, but it did not take the drive out of the Bayern game, although it played into Real’s hands.

Secondly, and this is almost a more important point, Ulreich’s faux pas must be addressed in order to pay him respect and take him out of the line of fire. The impressive flood of condescending comments, especially in the social media, is the best reason for a small defense.

Ulreich surprised more than any other player in the Bayern squad in this Champions League season. He played a crucial part in getting the biggest game of his career. He made the biggest mistake of his career in the biggest game of his career. And he kept his form after that and finished a head-to-head recovery against Ronaldo, among others.

It is clear that the two mistakes, Rafinha’s pass from the first leg and Ulreich’s blemish must be included in the calculation. They have made progress much more difficult, but at the same time it is difficult to pinpoint their failure. Read more on point three.

3. No luck for FC Bayern

It remains the same: FC Bayern is working on an impressive series of unfortunate, narrow and in the majority rather undeserved eliminations from the Champions League. It is a vague and completely unclear list of reasons that will again prevent this year’s great success.

On the one hand, it’s bad luck to miss players like Arjen Robben again. “These players could be called “difference players,” including Kingsley Coman and Manuel Neuer. They were missing in Madrid and could have been that decisive spark.

The next factor is the lack of luck. The unfortunate goals were scored in the 44th and 46th minutes – it is to their credit that the Bavarians were so unimpressed. However, whenever the game had finally been able to tip in the direction of the Munich team, some foot or the great Keylor Navas prevented it. A 50:50 game never turned into a 60:40 game for Bayern.

What can one do with this information or how can one force this luck again? On the one hand, by patiently following the path the team has taken since their defeat in Paris in the autumn of 2017: playful development, team spirit, a clear goal orientation and the awareness that a lack of luck in the game (such as Real Madrid) remains the only unpredictable factor in the formula for success.

It is then a question of time and patience until the luck that the Münchner have enjoyed, for example, through the 2009/10 season or in parts also through the fantastic year 2013, will return. It is to be hoped that the team with their new coach will again give themselves the chance next season to get this close to a big final.

Real Madrid – FC Bayern 2:2 (1:1)
Real Madrid Navas – Vazquez, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo – Kovacic (62. Casemiro), Modric, Kroos, Asensio (88. Nacho) – Benzema (72. Bale), Ronaldo
BenchCasilla, Ceballos, Hernández, Mayoral
FC Bayern Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – James (83. Martinez), Thiago, Tolisso (75. Wagner) – Ribéry, Müller – Lewandowski
Bench Starke, Bernat, Mai, Dorsch, Rudy
Goals 0:1 Kimmich (3.), 1:1 Benzema (11.), 2:1 Benzema (46.), 2:2 James (63.)
Yellow Cards Varane, Vasquez, Modric, Casemiro / –
Referees Cüneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Attendance81.000 (sold out)

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