Marco Asensio came off the bench to score the winner as Real Madrid claimed a 2-1 first-leg lead over Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Here are three things we learned from the first leg at the Allianz Arena:
That Marcelo shows up in the right spot at the right time to score crucial goals is an oddity given he often seems to completely disappear from a defensive perspective.
The gaping hole at left-back has been Real’s biggest vulnerability for a long time with the Brazilian’s tendency to be caught out high up the pitch being brutally exposed in this season’s Champions League by Tottenham, Juventus and now Bayern Munich.
Three times Juve scored down Real’s left-side in their second-leg tie and there are undoubtedly positional issues in those situations with no real clear plan to remedy the deficiency.
In Munich, Marcelo was farcically out of position – virtually off the pitch – as Bayern broke forward with James Rodriguez carving them open before Joshua Kimmich sliced home the opener.
A lazy track back when dragged out of position has tailed his career and there doesn’t appear to be a discernible plan to plug the hole with neither Casemiro or Sergio Ramos shifting left to cover.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah should be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Real in Kiev and yet Marcelo still managed to provide a timely reminder of his quality.
How he generated so much power on the half volley, with little backlift for the equaliser, is mystifying but unfortunately for Madrid so is his defending at times.
REAL’S COUNTER STRIKE
Zidane is harangued in the Spanish media for his tactical limitations and the Frenchman would likely agree with the notion that he’s a far cry from the tactical talent of a Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp.
But the Los Blancos boss knows the Champions League and he knows his team. After all, he’s won this competition back-to-back and is on course for an absurd third final appearance in a row.
While the tie is far from over – Real’s defensive frailties from set-pieces and crosses will rear their head in Madrid – he has guided them to a superb foundation with a perfect away day.
Zidane set his side up to deny the Germans any space in the final third with Real bolted into their defensive shape before springing into life on the counter.
They sat deep to negate Bayern’s own threatening counter-attack and utitlised a safe but sensible gameplan to keep the host’s scoring low.
Were it not for another Keylor Navas error – make no mistake he was at fault for blocking the near post from Kimmich’s strike – it would have been even better.
Marco Asensio’s introduction at half-time for Isco gave the visitors a much wider option on the left, when Rafinha’s suicidal pass was gobbled up by the young Spaniard, and as he sped away after cushioning the ball to Lucas Vazquez, there was only going to be one result.
JAMES HAS A LICENSE TO THRILL
Bayern now face the gargantuan task of dimming the shimmering Whites on their grand Bernabeu stage and with their record against Real now six defeats in their last six it’s a gloomy outlook.
With concerning injuries to Arjen Robben (substituted after eight minutes) and Jerome Boateng (brought off with a groin complaint in the first-half) the picture darkens, however, boss Jupp Heynckes can take solace in the performance of James Rodriguez.
The Bavarians were thrown off balance by Robben’s early injury, their 4-1-4-1 shape containing three centre-midfielders with Thiago’s introduction also forcing Thomas Muller uncomfortably out wide.
But their Colombian playmaker was superb throughout. The perfectly angled and weighted pass for Kimmich’s goal was a delight but he married his dynamism (a game high four key passes and 90 percent pass success rate from 71 passes made) with tenacity (four tackles was joint most for Bayern with eight duels won).
He was their tempo master, quarterbacking their offensive output and a repeat performance in his old home will give Munich plenty of hope.
Real Madrid managed to come back from a goal down to win 2-1 against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie at the Allianz Arena.
Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a swift counter-attack before Marcelo equalised for the visitors just before half-time.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a quiet outing but second half substitute Marco Asensio put Madrid ahead in the 57th minute, a goal that proved to be the winner.
Here’s how the Madrid players performed.
Keylor Navas 6 – Could’ve done better for the opener but stood up well to a couple of good efforts later on.
Dani Carvajal 7 – Good display before going off injured. His header across the edge of the box set up the equaliser.
Sergio Ramos 7 – One of his more assured performances at the back with one heroic block and a few handy clearances.
Rafael Varane 6 – Didn’t put a foot wrong all game and quietly went about his business.
Marcelo 7 – Left acres of space in behind him, particularly for the opener. Equalised with a stunning strike.
Isco 4 – Had one tame effort at goal. Failed to affect the game and was replaced at half-time.
Toni Kroos 6 – Played a great throughball early on but found it difficult to split Bayern’s defence thereafter.
Casemiro 6 – Was beaten all ends up by Ribery on one occasion. Did his job otherwise without excelling..
Luka Modric 6 – Not his most commanding display. Struggled to dominate in midfield but was usually accurate when on the ball.
Lucas Vazquez 6 – Struggled for the most part but set up Asensio for the winner on the break.
Cristiano Ronaldo 5 – Had a stunning finish ruled out correctly for hand ball. Uncharacteristically anonymous otherwise.
Marco Asensio 8 – Replaced Isco at half-time and was a breath of fresh air. Took his goal expertly.
Karim Benzema 6 – Came on for Carvajal in the 67th minute and had one shot on target.
Mateo Kovacic N/A – Replaced Casemiro in the closing stages and didn’t have time to make an impact.
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10:00pm – No Bale or Benzema
Zinedine Zidane left out both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema from Real Madrid’s starting line-up for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich.
The holders started with Isco and Lucas Vazquez either side of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having already left Benzema on the bench for the quarter-final second leg against Juventus, Real coach Zidane dropped Bale as well.
Captain Sergio Ramos returned to Real’s starting line-up after missing the dramatic return game with Juve through suspension.
Real Madrid (4-3-3):
Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos (capt), Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos; Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas Vazquez
4:44pm – Real and Bayern are even-stevens
It doesn’t get any closer than the history between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in European competition.
The first leg of the Champions League semi-final will be the 25th time the clubs have met, with both having 11 wins, while two games were drawn. Real have the slight edge in scoring with 37 goals to Bayern’s 36.
2:42pm – Heynckes asks who will stop Lewandowski?
Heynckes believes Real will have their hands just as full trying to slow down Robert Lewandowski as Bayern will with Ronaldo.
“Cristiano has had an incredible career, but we have Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 38 goals, so the question should be asked who will stop him?” asked Heynckes.
1:27pm – Bale refuses to rule out Bayern switch
Gareth Bale has not ruled out a move to Bayern Munich in the summer, but insists his only concern is to do well for Real Madrid.
Bale’s future at the Bernabeu has been the subject of speculation for several months with a return to the Premier League a possibility.
The 28-year-old, who joined Real Madrid from Tottenham in September 2013 for a then world record transfer fee of £85million, said he was flattered to be linked with the Bundesliga champions.
“You can never rule out anything in football,” Bale told the German newspaper Bild.
“Currently, I play football at Real Madrid and I enjoy that.“Bayern have a fantastic squad and already in the past they have always been one of the most successful clubs in Europe.
“It’s an honour for everyone to be linked with this club.
“But as of now I am a Real Madrid player.”
12:56pm – Bale under the microscope ahead of Champions League semi-finals
Four years after being a vital cog in Real Madrid’s attack in a resounding win at Allianz Arena, Gareth Bale will return to Munich in an unsettled role ahead of the Bayern Munich clash in the Champions League semi-finals.
Bale may want to stay at Madrid, but his relationship with Zinedine Zidane could put his future with the club at risk.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how Bale is utilised as Real chase a third consecutive European crown.
11:10am – Benzema has backing of Real Madrid club president
As rumours swirl linking Karim Benzema with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, the French forward could be staying put thanks to the support of Real Madrid club president Florentino Perez, according to Marca.
Benzema may not be in the midst of his most productive season, having scored nine goals in all competitions, but it helps to have friends in high places.
Contributions in Madrid’s Champions League tie with Bayern Munich wouldn’t hurt Benzema’s cause to stay at the Bernabeu either.