A brave, poised and gutsy performance by Bayern München in the Spanish capital Wednesday was rewarded as the Bavarians booked their place in the UEFA Champions League final against surprising Chelsea, who knocked Barcelona out in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. It took 120 minutes plus penalties for Bayern to gain the decision in a match where they often had the upper hand in everything but the scoreline.
But the Bavarians’ veteran midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger, took Bayern Munich to the final when he converted his penalty kick after misses by Ronaldo, Kaka, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm. Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made two saves on penalties following 120 minutes of action, as did his counterpart Iker Casillas, but Schweinsteiger stepped up and drove his penalty shot past a Casillas diving left to face Chelsea in the first Champions League final ever played at their Allianz Arena home.
Bayern entered the semifinal second leg with a 2-1 lead, but Real Madrid quickly leveled the aggregate score as almost immediately as Cristiano Ronaldo converted a 4th minute penalty kick following an unfortunate handball call on München teenaged left back, David Alaba. CR7 sent Neuer the wrong way for his ninth goal in Champions League competition this year.
By the 14th minute of the match, Real Madrid looked like they were in the driver’s seat as Ronaldo scored again. German international Mesut Özil found Ronaldo wide open and the famed striker calmly slipped his shot into the net to give Real Madrid a 2-0 lead with a 3-2 aggregate advantage over the visitors.
But Jupp Heynckes, who coached Real Madrid to the Champions League title in 1997-1998, has had a great influence on this year’s edition of a Bayern München club that last year suffered from internal dissension and often displayed a degree of mental fragility. But the Bavarians showed nothing of those traits in Madrid, as they continually probed and pushed Los Merengues‘ defenders, with veterans Robben, Ribéry and Gomez constantly in attack with the entire eleven in support. München got the away goal they needed so badly in the 27th minute, as the hard-working Gomez drew a penalty from Pepe as he moved on goal. Robben, who missed a vital penalty kick against eventual Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, took the penalty and converted. Bayern München were alive again, tied in aggregate 3-3 with their own away goal.
But despite the threat of Gomez, who had eight shots in the match, along with Robben, who had six, the game went another 90 minutes without a goal and the match went to penalties. Ronaldo, who after scoring his two early goals was pretty well neutralized for the next 100 minutes, had his penalty saved by Neuer after young Alaba converted the opening penalty. Former Player of the Year Kaka missed Real Madrid’s second penalty kick after Super Mario Gomez had made his, giving München a 2-0 lead. But as Neuer had been a hero, Iker Casillas stepped up to save attempts from Toni Kroos and Philip Lahm to even the competition. But then back Sergio Ramos skied his shot over the crossbar and up stepped Captain Schweinsteiger with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders and the Special One on his knees along the Madrid sideline.
Schweinsteiger, who missed much of this season due to injury and only recently returned to action, stepped up and blasted his shot with confidence to edge out Real Madrid and put Bayern München in the final !!!! The club will now have the chance to win the championship in their own home stadium on May 19.
The advance to the final was truly a team effort. Not only did veterans Neuer, Gomez, Ribéry, Lahm and Robben play well, but the younger players like Kroos, Alaba, Badstuber displayed poise and confidence in such a huge game away from home. It was truly a memorable performance for a club with so many memorable wins in their history.
Congratulations to Jupp Heynckes and his squad for gaining the 2011-2012 Champions League final in such exciting style.
A detailed tactical recap of the Real Madrid-Bayern München match by Cris Nyari will be appearing shortly on the Fanatic.