In the biggest and most gripping game of the season, Bayern had another almost moment at the Santiago Bernabeu. James Rodríguez stood out as the pivot in attack, as Thomas Müller and others failed to take their chances yet again.
James Rodríguez is probably the player with the best vision for a pass I have seen in this season’s Champions’ League. The Colombian’s sleek, well-picked passing split Real Madrid’s defense apart almost every time Bayern got forward. Everytime he got the ball forward and led an attack, he proved how efficiently he could play as the team’s new king of creativity.
He had a near-miss in the 33rd minute that should have been Bayern’s second of the game, after a mix-up in Madrid’s box following a Lewy shot. His free-roam in the midfield really helped Bayern’s attacking mindset. He was the best player on the pitch by a mile, grabbing the equalizer by taking matters into his own hands in the 63rd minute.
It was so obvious, he had grown sick and tired of Bayern always coming close but misfiring at the death. He hit a shot that was saved by Navas and IMMEDIATELY followed back on it to hit it home. The goal brought Bayern a goal away from the final, and it was his first for the Reds in the Champions’ League. He was interestingly subbed off for Javi Martìnez in the 82nd minute.🤔
Kimmich is an attacking gem of a full-back. The right-back got on the end of an ever so slight mishap in the Real Madrid box and tapped home from close range, after a cross from Thomas Müller. In defense, though, Bayern were struggling because Kimmich was letting Marcelo have a comfy day on the right.
Niklas looked the calmer among the center-backs, and he did not look like he was starting his first ever Champions’ League semi-final. He crucially cut out a Mateo Kovacic through-ball that would certainly have put Cristiano Ronaldo through on goal. Again, he totally bossed Ronaldo in the 77th minute after the Portuguese took a lethal shot, something we’ve seen the world’s renowned defenders fail at time and again.
Ribéry continued his upward trajectory from the first leg, playing coherently with David Alaba and James Rodríguez to create much danger in the Madrid box. For much of the first half we was strong, skilful and determined in his play. He was marshalled well by Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez who did not allow the veteran to breeze through the box, as he did last week.
Every time Real Madrid had a chance in attack, Bayern were on the ropes. For all Hummels’ seeming composure in defence, his runs seemed too lax to deal with the opponents’ trickery. He did stop a healthy number of dangerous dribbles that really helped the team escape (a ton of) dangerous moments. As per usual, he sent his headers from set-pieces wide into orbit. His passing accuracy and movement from the back to asisst the attack yielded quite the dividend, even giving Lewandowski a clear-cut chance which he couldn’t capitalise on.
The returning Alaba started the game so brightly, whipping in crosses from the left and synchronizing with Franck Ribéry. Alas, he fatally left Karim Benzema unmarked in the box (’11), and the recently-failing Frenchman equalized with a free header. That goal was totally Alaba’s doing, and I shuddered at its reoccurrence later in the game. He recovered well after that defensive gaffe and kept pushing forward, playing as if he had not been out with injury.
Thiago was at times too slick with the flicks, but he escaped any real harm that would have come from his extravagant style of play. He tracked back very well and justified his inclusion by assisting the defense like Javi Martìnez would have. He left most of the creative work to James Rodríguez and kept his shape in midfield and defense.
Bayern fielded a number of Champions’ League semi-final newbies, such as Coco. He played a very good game that really pleased fans who had been surprised at his inclusion in the starting lineup. Tolisso had contributed to the attack largely, even with a couple of shots in the bag, one curling past the top-right corner. The Frenchman made a bad decision to pass the ball back to Sven Ulreich at the start of the second half, after he had been pressured with little help.
That led to Benzema scoring the easiest goal of his season, with our goalie making a mess of it.
Thomas Müller picked up the earliest of assists with a tidy, goal-seeking cross into the box that gave Bayern hope through Kimmich. He had a million “almost” moments that would have led to goals, had his final ball been better executed. It was a lot like the first leg, always coming close and yet still, not reaping any fruit. Poor game.
Sven Ulreich had been in fine form for the entire year, until the time Bayern needed him the most.
He committed the biggest, most embarrassing, Ancelotti-era blunder on the biggest stage, after he was at sixes and sevens from a Tolisso back pass. It shamed those of us who had backed Ulle to fans of other teams who doubted his suitability for this tie. Aside that, he saved well in the 37th minute when Ronaldo cut inside and unleashed a shot on target. He palmed it away and yelled at his defenders, a telling sign of how gaping Bayern’s defense had become. He was well-composed for a semi-final first-timer, and was mostly not at fault for Benzema’s first goal.
Lewy was strongly involved in the build-up play, especially in the first twenty minutes. He created the chance for Thomas Müller to cross in the ball for Kimmich’s early goal. Lewandowski had a close call for a penalty in the 17th minute, though it was a feeble appeal. He had a tight attempt saved by Keylor Navas, as the angle afforded the goalkeeper the chance to keep out the potential second goal. As in the first game, he did very little else throughout.
Rafinha, Rudy, Mai, Starke, Dorsch, Wagner, Martìnez