Bayern Munich 1 Real Madrid 2
This was Real Madrid serving notice that their grip on this trophy is not ready to be loosened quite yet. Bayern Munich have been untouchable in this arena in recent times but, with their number reduced, their 16-match winning run in the Champions League at the Allianz Arena was curtailed abruptly by the Spanish club – with the identity of the match-winner all too familiar. Carlo Ancelotti once counted Cristiano Ronaldo an ally. He must now feel like his tormentor.
The Portuguese had actually come into this contest having failed to score for 197 days in the competition. He ended it celebrating a brace and a century of goals in Europe, with the "olés" ringing out from those Madrid fans up in the gods. Their only frustration was a linesman's flag which denied Sergio Ramos a third in stoppage time at the end. Regardless, it is Real who hold sway in this tie ahead of the return in Spain next week.
Old acquaintances had been renewed before kick-off, Xabi Alonso moving down the line of visiting players in the tunnel to greet former team-mates while Ancelotti enveloped his assistant from his time at the Bernabéu, Zinedine Zidane, in a bear hug.
Given the tension that has gripped Germany since the events of Tuesday evening in Dortmund, that spirit of solidarity was welcome even if the football never strayed from the spiky.
The quality on show was jaw-dropping at times, two teams capable of the very best the game can offer tearing into each other with gusto. The subtle prompting of Bayern’s former Barcelona player Thiago Alcantara was a thing of beauty. His side led at the interval yet, for all Real’s own menace whenever they glided forward, they still retired frustrated that their lead remained slender.
Arturo Vidal had provided that advantage, wrestling himself free of Nacho's attentions at Thiago's corner midway through the period to plant a header emphatically through Keylor Navas's attempt to block. The power in the header defied belief, rendering Real's relief that Gareth Bale had choked Franck Ribéry's volley moments earlier rather meaningless.
Yet the Chilean, who would thump a second free header over the bar, was culpable of fluffing his lines from the penalty spot in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Ribéry had earned the rather fortunate award, working space on the edge of the box before seeing his shot blocked by Dani Carvajal. The ball struck his left shoulder with a hint of upper arm with Real livid, yet Vidal's composure as he prepared to take the kick was disrupted by Marcelo's chattering in his ear. His shot flew high over the bar and the Spanish breathed again.
The miss would soon feel pivotal. The visitors had enjoyed their own opportunities, most notably when Toni Kroos, a former Bayern player, had benefited from time to measure a centre from the right. Karim Benzema rose majestically to meet the cross, heading down into the turf, only for the returning Manuel Neuer to summon a stunning save to turn the ball on to the crossbar and away. The goalkeeper had undergone minor surgery on a foot injury last month and had been absent for four weeks, and would subsequently do just as well to deny Ronaldo, spitting a shot viciously from distance. But the Portuguese would not be denied for long.
Bayern were still easing their way back into fray after the break when Casemiro spread the play to Carvajal on the right, with the full back’s centre volleyed in smartly by Ronaldo, drifting in-field, in the centre. The plunder was his first in 11 hours of Champions League football, stretching back to a group game against Borussia Dortmund in September, with Vidal pained yet further by the restoration of parity. It took Neuer’s smart reactions to deny Bale a second, but the urgency was suddenly all Spanish. Panicked by Ronaldo’s sudden injection of purpose, Javi Martínez lunged twice into the forward within three minutes around the hour and was dismissed.
The momentum switched with the flash of red, Bayern's evening transformed into a desperate rearguard action with Neuer, denying Benzema and Marco Asensio, increasingly overworked. His instinctive right-handed parry from Ronaldo took the breath away, though perhaps it was too much to expect him to maintain his brilliance. Asensio, a livewire substitute, duly delivered a sumptuous cross from the left which the Portuguese, bursting ahead of Jérôme Boateng, converted through the goalkeeper from close-range and Real, their swagger restored, had their win.