Gomez delivers Bayern victory


SOCCER: Bayern Munich 2 Real Madrid 1:BAYERN MUNICH and Real Madrid were very nearly inseparable until Mario Gomes delivered this 2-1 victory for the Bundesliga side with a goal in the 90th minute. The decider in this Champions League semi-final first-leg tie came as the striker knocked in the low cross that came after Philipp Lahm’s fine run on the right.

The referee, Howard Webb, had a great task of his own – to complete a fractious occasion without fishing for a red card.

This was a game between two of European football’s grandees but it had rawness and contention that reminded everyone of that enduring rivalry between these clubs.

Bayern scored the opener after 17 minutes. It was anything but refined and thereby added to the frantic tone to which these highly-regarded sides contributed. Sergio Ramos failed to clear a Toni Kroos corner properly and the ball came to Franck Ribery, allowing him to finish from close range.

There was fractiousness as well as touches of style in the first half. Bayern may have been denied a penalty when Ramos appeared to tug Ribery’s shirt after a quarter of an hour.

Bayern, who have seen their bid for the Bundesliga title come to an end, now have the prospect of appearing in the Champions League final on this ground.

Jose Mourinho is adept at understanding the immediate demands of his employers. Having won the European Cup for Porto in 2004, he delivered that same prize to Internazionale, whose wait for its return came to an end in 2010 after a delay of 45 years. The losers on that occasion were Bayern. It must have been an oversight that the trophy was never in English custody while Mourinho was the manager at Chelsea.

One suspects it is a flaw in his CV that he will feel driven to correct with a Premier League club one day. Mourinho is seldom doubted, given the range of his abilities. Real, for instance, are addicted to the idea of grandeur and his side, leading Barcelona by four points in La Liga, have run up 107 goals in 33 games, with a further 32 goals deployed in their Champions League campaign so far.

The potential difficulties for Mourinho here were obvious and they added to the unease at Real, who face Barcelona at Camp Nou at the weekend.

Real’s usual spate of goals was not witnessed in the first half with Bayern. The conviction shown by Jupp Heynkes’ line-up was at a peak level then. Bayern are not so prominent as Real and do not have the sense of entitlement to the Champions League trophy that most likely lurks in the hearts of Mourinho’s club, but they have landed the prize on four occasions, most recently in 2001, when they beat Valencia in the final at San Siro.

Such a heritage seemed irrelevant while the players so often failed to compose themselves. The encounter could be treated as a derby fixture since this pair rub shoulders in the history and lore of the sport. The players may also have listened to advice in the dressing room since there was soon a more thoughtful tone.

The home crowd, luckily, did not fall into a meditative mood. When a hush descended upon them it was caused by an equaliser for Real. It was unkempt. Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema set up Cristianlo Ronaldo and after a save from Manuel Neuer, Ronaldo flicked an inviting cross by Benzemathe back for Mesut Ozil to score from close range in the 53rd minute .

It was part of the appeal that this was no encounter between calm and collected sides. The accomplishment was, without doubt, on view, but so too was the humanity of men striving to live up to an occasion that resonated with them.

The managers of these sides, for all their eminence, did not seem to be dictating events. This evening was not quite a treat for aesthetes but, all the same, the talent had not gone into hiding. The return, which is to be played at the Bernabeu next Wednesday, with so much at stake may raise these competitors to an even greater level.

Guardian Service

BAYERN MUNICH:Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba, Gustavo, Schweinsteiger (Muller 61), Robben, Kroos, Ribery, Gomez. Subs not used: Butt, Olic, Rafinha, Pranjic, Contento, Tymoschuk. Booked: Badstuber, Robben, Lahm.

REAL MADRID: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Alonso, Khedira, Di Maria (Granero 79), Ozil (Marcelo 69), Ronaldo, Benzema (Higuain 84). Subs not used: Adan, Kaka, Albiol, Varane. Booked: Fabio Coentrao, Alonso, Di Maria, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Higuain.

Referee: Howard Webb (England).