FC Bayern München have a better team than Real Madrid this season, but without composure, they risk throwing away another Champions League semi-final.
The better team but…
Self-inflicted wounds best describe what happened during this match. Die Bayern created the best chances and controlled the tempo of the game, but they lacked killer instinct in the final third of the pitch.
Keylor Navas made a few saves, but Franck Ribéry had a poor touch when he was ready to go one-on-one. Robert Lewandowski had a golden opportunity but his header was too easy for the Real keeper to save. Late in the match, he failed to convert a Corentin Tolisso pass. Thomas Müller missed a couple of clear-cut chances. There is nothing more frustrating in football than dominating but lacking the willpower or accuracy to finish the job.
Real Madrid were nervous in defense and Dani Carvajal was perhaps the weakest link in their back four. FCB had surprisingly good control of the ball in their best phases, making plays as if they were playing against, say, FC Augsburg. They should have put the game away.
A side as experienced and as talented as Real Madrid needs only a chance or two to get back into a game and take the lead in the circumstances. Now they go back to Madrid with a lead.
FC Hospital is back
To win the Champions League, you need Lady Luck’s help. Teams such as Real Madrid can count on it, but Bayern did not on Wednesday night. Leg injuries have struck hard, taking Arjen Robben and Jérôme Boateng out of the game in the first half.
While the current scoreline is manageable in normal circumstances, going to the Bernabeu for a second leg is anything but normal. It will be an uphill battle to win the tie with a long list of missing starters that inclues Kingsley Coman, Jérôme Boateng, David Alaba, Arjen Robben and Arturo Vidal.
Although Jupp Heynckes is a genius of a coach, there is so much he can do if team fitness becomes the squad’s most glaring problem.
Don’t blame Rafinha
Yes, Rafinha made a poor pass in the midfield that led to the second Real goal, giving them a 2:1 lead. However, do not blame the outcome of the game on the small Brazilian. As discussed above, several teammates should have put balls in the back of the net by finishing their chances. That is not his fault.
It also is easy to take aim at a guy who has been more consistent than Juan Bernat in the whole season. Were your name Jupp Heynckes ahead of this match, you had to select him at left-back. Period.
Slightly improved defending
The Reds’ defense was anything but perfect, but they played with a more conservative setup than before. Javi Martínez played deep, Thiago and Ribéry pressed well without the ball. Joshua Kimmich did a great job to shield the defense when Isco threatened from the left flank, making a key block under pressure.
Then, Cristiano Ronaldo was contained by Jérôme Boateng, only to see his replacement Niklas Süle take over and do the same.
I call that modest progress but there is room for improvement.
FC Bayern have enough quality in the squad to win this tie, but they have to “get it together” to even deserve being worthy of a final. Missing chances betrays lack of confidence and they need to get it back. Urgently.