Apr 25, 2012, 5:59 PM EDT
Man of the Match: Manuel Neuer was huge in the shootout, saving both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká’s attempts. With Sergio Ramos’s pivotal kick going over the bar, the Bayern `keeper saved two of three chances he faced. While Luiz Gustavo possibly deserves this recognition for reeking havoc in midfield, Neuer was the difference.
Packaged for takeaway:
- As much as you might hate penalty kicks, neither of these teams seemed capable of avoiding them. After a raucous first half, neither kept their verve in the second. They disappointed throughout the final 75 minutes, without only the tension of seeing a potential semifinal-deciding goal keeping the world from bursting out in collective exasperation.
- In extra time, Real Madrid certainly tried to press the issue, but having Kaká on, Mesüt Özil off really hurt them. Perhaps Özil was gassed, but even when he and Kaká were on together, he had been marginalized in Real’s attack.
- In extra time, the move really ended up hurting. After going the whole game without being able to maintain meaningful possession, Real finally got some control of the match. When they did, their best playmaker was gone, and his replacement was too slow with his decisions.
- That control was a huge turnaround from a second half when Madrid were completely frustrated by Luiz Gustavo and Bayern Munich. It’s a shame the Bayern midfielder took a petty yellow late (a booking that will have him miss the final), because he was a principle reason why Real’s attackers were left frustratingly underserved throughout the match.
- And who would have thought we’d be saying that after 15 minutes. A penalty conversion from Cristiano Ronaldo and then a complete defensive breakdown to gift him a second had this match minutes from a landslide. Credit to Bayern for collecting themselves and getting back into the match.
- They got back in through Pepe’s penalty. Where there are no advised penalties, this one was particularly ill-advised. He and Sergio Ramos had Mario Gomez marked on Arjen Robben’s cross, yet Pepe still took the Bayern attacker down. If he just pulls up, what are the odds Gomez converts that cross? If he takes Gomez down? The odds are pretty good it’s both noticed (with the officially calling a tight penalty on Bayern earlier) and converted.
- Already people were talking about how Ronaldo and Messi both missed penalties. Small note: Ronaldo also converted a penalty today. While it might not fit a nice, neat narrative that can romantically encapsulate the two Spanish teams’ frustrations, it might be a bit more even-handed to note that Neuer did a job on those two stops.
- Iker Casillas’s heroics are unfortunately going the be forgotten. With his team down 2-0 after two rounds of kicks, he could have mentally packed it in. That’s not Casillas, though, and with successive saves, he put Real back on serve ahead of their fourth kick …
- Which was one of the worst attempts I’ve ever seen. Dimitar Berbatov had a horrible try two years ago in the Community Shield, and Yakubu rolled a tumbleweed in Blackburn’s latest match against Liverpool. But at least those were on frame. Ramos’s was Baggio-esque, if only skied higher.
- And, of course, Bastian Schweinsteiger, taking the next kick, was the exact opposite. He got the ball off the ground, but it in the middle where Casillas’s trailing feet couldn’t nick it, and sent Bayern through the to final. The contrast between that and Ramos’s attempt is all you need to know about this game.
- Mourinho, his players and Madridistas are going to be crushed, but the team only has itself to blame. While Bayern were good enough, they were there to be had, particularly playing at the Bernabeu. From the quarter-hour mark on, Real Madrid presented no new ideas in attack. Whatever changes Mourinho might have made in approach didn’t end up being reflected on the field. The attackers were left frustrated, the midfield left to kept pinging balls at Bayern defenders, and Real left to wait for their shootout loss. At some point, with all the talent you have at your disposal, you have to change things up. You just have to.
- Bayern, however, managed the away leg masterfully, particularly considering they were down on aggregate within 15 minutes. They dominated possession if not chances, and kept the home team from being able to dictate the game’s pace and tempo. Instead of letting this match degrade into Real counters against their craft (which defined the first 25-30 minutes), Bayern maturely slowed things down and played a match they could control.
- Now, FCB get what they’ve wanted all year: the Champions League final at home, where they’ll be favored over Chelsea. Unfortunately, they’ll have to win it without Holdger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo, but given the players Chelsea will be missing, Bayern will still be expected to claim their fifth European Cup.
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