Holders Real Madrid get the road work done in Munich
Goals from Marcelo and Asensio hand Real the advantage
Marco Asensio celebrates with Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez after scoring Real Madrid’s second goal during the Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
“The Champions League releases special powers in Real Madrid,” Toni Kroos had warned and there may be no power greater than the ability to survive, to always emerge, bruised perhaps but never beaten. Under pressure for so long, they left the Allianz Arena a step closer to a third consecutive Champions League final. As they left, exhausted, Bayern Munich’s players struggled to grasp what had happened, defeated by their great rivals for a sixth successive game.
What had happened was this: goals from Marcelo and Marco Asensio overturned Joshua Kimmich’s opener to give Real Madrid a 2-1 away victory. Mistakes defined this game as much as talent did, and Bayern made more of them. They started the night attacking and they ended it attacking too, but Madrid are a club who consider this competition their own, aware that there is always a chance. And there always is.
Bayern’s first chance came after only 25 seconds, when the ball sat up for Robert Lewandowski. What came next was hit too hard to be a pass and too horizontal to be a shot. The tone, though, appeared to be set.
It didn’t last, and nor did Arjen Robben. Forced off after just eight minutes, his departure did not just mean a change of personnel, but a change of shape. There was more misfortune for Bayern when Jérôme Boateng had to make way, too. And yet Bayern enjoyed much of the ball in those opening minutes and by then they had taken the lead.
James Rodríguez’s ball sent Joshua Kimmich racing away up the right, and into the area. Lewandowski ran with him, Madrid’s centre backs after him and their goalkeeper perhaps preoccupied with him because as Kimmich slowed slightly, Keylor Navas seemed to edge towards the centre. Instead of crossing, Kimmich hit the ball hard from a tight angle sending it flying past Navas in at the near post. Bayern had the lead and very nearly doubled it immediately, a swift robbery sending Lewandowski dashing clean through straight from the kick-off, only for Raphäel Varane to step across him.
Franck Ribéry should have doubled it soon after, when Thiago Alcántara gave him the ball, alone inside the area only for his second touch to be astonishingly bad, barely able to believe it as the ball slipped away from him. And yet, despite the lead, there was still a sense that Bayern were not entirely comfortable here. That said, nor were Madrid in what was a game of surprising imprecision for two such talented teams. When Madrid had the ball, they created little, although Cristiano Ronaldo headed one wide.
Mats Hummels’s touch was almost as bad as Ribéry’s had been a few minutes before, as he nearly gifted a chance to Luka Modric and then booted a simple pass straight out of play. Then he thumped a free-kick all the way through to Navas, born it seemed of a lack of ideas about what to do with it. Soon after, he was involved again, volleying over from seven yards.
Despite the imprecision, chances came and the greater nerves were those of Madrid. Kimmich and Ribéry made a chance for Thomas Müller, running in, to hit on the bounce, only for Sergio Ramos to block a shot that was goalbound. Then, five minutes from a half-time whistle they were willing the referee to blow, Madrid scored. Ramos’s diagonal ball across was headed back by Dani Carvajal and Ronaldo leapt, seeking an overhead kick. He made no contact but he did put off Javi Martínez, who backed away, letting the ball bounce, and Marcelo struck a superb shot into the corner from 20 yards. How things change.
When the clock reached 45 minutes the sensations were different, although they could have shifted again. Bayern had three chances in additional time at the end of the first half. Rodríguez’s free-kick, curled long into the area, found Lewandowski leaping seven yards out, but while he kept the header down he could not guide it towards either corner, the ball going straight at Navas.
Next, Ribéry ran beyond Carvajal, clipping his cross to the far post. With Müller running in, Marcelo intercepted to head away. From the corner, Lewandowski was there again. His header just evaded Müller on he post. As he fell, the Pole complained that he had been held.
The score was good now for Madrid but the performance was still a cause for concern and Zinedine Zidane replaced Isco with Marco Asensio. Ten minutes later, he had given them the lead, scoring a hugely significant goal. It came from a corner – for Bayern. Lewandowski nodded the ball down inside the six-yard box, but no one was there and it was cleared. The ball came out to Rafinha on the halfway line whose dreadful pass was intercepted by Asensio, who slotted it into Lucas Vázquez, two against one now, running into an enourmous space, Sven Ulreich at their mercy. Vázquez gave it back and Asensio finished superbly.
Bayern could barely believe it. Ribéry, relentlessly running at Carvajal until the full back was forced to withdraw injured, led Bayern’s bid to turn this round. In the absence of Robben, it was up to him.
Twice he drew saves from Navas, before Müller and Lewandowski got in each other’s way as the ball dropped a metre from the line. Ronaldo had the ball in the net but it was ruled out because he had controlled with an arm.
Still Bayern searched, but there was no way through, Madrid waiting, resisting, every ball into the box sent sailing out again. With three minutes to go, Lewandowski was free in the area, the ball slipped through to him, but he clipped his shot wide. The flag was up, anyway. So, too, was time. – Guardian service