Real Madrid 2 – 1 Bayern München – Bayern reach final after penalties – A Tactical Analysis

After a dramatic and relentless 120 minutes, Bayern München beat Real Madrid on penalties to reach their second Champions League final in three years, this time held at their own stadium.  This has been a goal for the club ever since the Allianz Arena was picked to host the final and now await Chelsea on May 19th. The second leg delivered one of the most exciting semi finals in recent Champions League memory.  Two early goals from Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead before Robben’s penalty tied it on aggregate. The rest of the match was a tireless and hard fought affair with chances on both ends before tired legs brought them to penalties where Bayern maintained their perfect record from the spot in European competition to prevail 3-1.  Bayern were the better side over two legs, creating more chances and showing more composure when needed. Madrid, visibly fatigued from the Clasico at the weekend, didn’t have enough in the tank to overcome a confident Bayern side hell bent on reaching the final.

Lineups and Formations

Both Mourinho and Heynckes fielded the same sides that took the field in the first leg, the only change being Marcelo instead of Coentrao following his poor showing in the first game.  Madrid came off a tiring 90 minutes against Barcelona but Mourinho trusted the same team to get the job done against Bayern and had momentum on their side following their big domestic win.  The selection of Marcelo also made sense from a tactical perspective, the Brazilian being more attack minded and energetic, and was perhaps meant to push Robben into a more defensive position thereby eliminating Bayern’s threat on the right.  Rather than sitting back as Mourinho’s teams often do, the change showed clear attacking intent.

Heynckes’ team were the better side last week but Bayern knew it would be more difficult at the Bernabeu where Madrid had not lost all season.  Schweinsteiger said before the match that if Bayern can survive the first 20 minutes without conceding they would be in a good position to advance.  Football rarely pans out that way though and whatever plans Bayern had were turned on its head fairly quickly.

Open game and chances galore

Needing a goal to go ahead on aggregate Madrid came out all guns blazing and Khedira had the game’s first chance after Di Maria got by Alaba on the right and set the German international up but his shot was aimed straight at Neuer.   Marcelo’s inclusion was certainly questionable considering his volatile temper and defensive disregard but he justified his start with some great runs early on and his cross in the 6th minute led to Madrid’s first goal after Di Maria received the ball and his volley hit Alaba’s hand. Referee Kassai gave the penalty and Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead.  It was Ronaldo’s 25th consecutive converted penalty for the club.

Rather than being taken back by the goal and intimidated by the Bernabeu’s great atmosphere Bayern showed great composure, settled into the game and started creating several chances of their own.  Alaba nearly made up for his handball with a darting run down the left, beating three Madrid players, before laying the ball off to an open Robben in the middle, the Dutchman let down by his first touch sent the ball over the goal.  Surprisingly Madrid did not learn from their first leg and could not keep a grip on Bayern wide players and that combined with Madrid’s movement in Bayern’s half made it a very open game.  Bayern had another good chance on 12 minutes but Gomez’s shot from outside the box was parried away and Khedira cleared the ball before Ribery was able to pounce on the rebound.

In contrast to Bayern, who are one of the more positionally disciplined sides in Europe, Madrid’s players were a bit more mobile.  Alonso went out to the right quite often to combine with Di Maria while Özil typically shuttled between the two flanks along with Benzema.  In the first match this frenzied fluidity hurt Madrid but with a nervous Bayern backline and a cautious Gustavo it paved the way for end to end action.  A lapse in concentration from Lahm on 14 minutes kept Ronaldo onside after a through ball from Özil, which Ronaldo slipped past Neuer to double Madrid’s lead.  The aggregate was now in Madrid’s favor despite Bayern seemingly being in control.  But because Madrid were in the driver’s seat it led to some complacency of their own.

Bayern had the the majority of possession in the first half (58%) and 12 attempts on goal.  Kroos again was the key player for them, he completed 97% of his passes, 4 of which were key in creating goal scoring opportunities.  One of those key passes was his cross to Gomez in the 26th minute which led to Bayern’s goal.  Pepe carelessly handled Gomez and the referee pointed to the spot again.  Robben, having missed a big chance earlier, took his penalty well to level the aggregate score.  Following that goal, Real Madrid were more careless in possession, misplacing 17% of their passes (compared to 10% for Bayern) and created only one meaningful chance in the 31st minute after Benzema curled a ball over the goal.  Bayern gave away quite a few fouls but Madrid never took advantage of any of them and it was the visitors who had the best chance before the break.  Robben played in Gomez in the 36th minute but the striker couldn’t steer the ball on goal.  The tempo and energy was so high in the first half that it could not possibly be sustained in the second.

Tired Legs yields muted performances

Benzema and Gomez had two early chances after the restart but fatigue started to set in around the hour mark and Madrid were more comfortable playing like they did in the first leg where they sat back for most of the game and looked to counter when the opportunities presented themselves.  This made for a more subdued second half with fewer chances, more fouls and poor build up from both teams.  No changes were made at the break.  Given the results of the first half, Mourinho presumably sought to stabilize his fragile backline and catch a surprisingly offensive Bayern on the break.  Heynckes had similar ideas and did not want to concede further from unnecessary mistakes at the back.  The focus on retention increased for both sides.  Mourinho brought on Kaka for Di Maria while even Gomez was found defending in front of his own box.  Suffice to say, the game was no longer as open as it was in the first half.

The few chances that were created came through counter attacks.  A long ball to Ronaldo in the 70th minute was cleverly laid off to Benzema who was waiting on the edge of the box but his shot was aimed too high.  Bayern’s best chance came four minutes from time after Ribery and Robben broke on the left and set up Gomez but the striker took a touch too many and allowed Ramos to clear it.  Both sides were looking to their marquee players to make the difference.  Robben, Ribery and Ronaldo were the most dangerous players and with their pace often the only ones driving forward but energy levels were clearly depleting, inevitably setting up extra time.

Having rested most of their starters over the weekend Bayern could have perhaps done better in the second half.  Fortunately for Madrid, Bayern’s decision making in the final third was often lacking.  They still created the bulk of the chances but also missed some clear opportunities to decide the match in regular time, whether it was missing the final pass, a poor run into the box or a lack of support.  Bayern had 20 shots to Madrid’s 13 but only six of each went on target so while Bayern did have the ball more they failed to make it count against a visibly tiring Madrid.

Extra time and penalties

An already subdued match became even more so in extra time as the game descended into a flurry of fouls and lackadaisical spells of possession on both ends.  Gustavo and Badstuber were both booked following fouls of frustration while Madrid used their last reserves of energy to try and win it but neither Kaka, or Granero (who had come on for Özil) made much of the chances they were given.  And so it went to penalties.  Bayern have never lost on penalties in UEFA Competitions, their last shootout coming in the 2001 final.  Madrid meanwhile have not gone to penalties since 1987 against Juventus and it was a scenario Mourinho probably wanted to avoid.

Bayern won the coin toss and Alaba calmly converted the first penalty.  Madrid got off to a horror start and Ronaldo and Kaka both had their penalties saved by Neuer.  Gomez gave Bayern a 2-0 lead with his converted penalty but Lahm and Kroos could not seal it early and missed had theirs saved by Casillas.   Alonso gave Madrid a lifeline by scoring his before Ramos pulled a Baggio and sent his spot kick into the stands.  Schweinsteiger then converted hte last kick of the game to send Bayern, ironically enough, to München.

Final Verdict

Bayern are the first team since Roma in 1984 to have reached the final held at their own stadium.  Roma lost that final but if Bayern win they will join Real Madrid in 1957 and Inter Milan in 1965 to win on their home ground.  In the end the outcome was fully deserved as Bayern were the more intrepid side over two legs and more composed during penalties while Mourinho arguably got his tactics wrong in the first leg and failed to take advantage in the second.  After the match he admitted that his side lacked potency and that both teams were afraid to make mistakes, also saying that it was difficult following the energy consuming Clasico over the weekend.  The ultimate irony may be that Barcelona may have been indirectly responsible for Real Madrid’s Champions League elimination.  Heynckes admitted that his side were disorganized in defense but addressed that at the break and followed through as they had practiced all week.  As he said, a glass of wine is indeed in order.

Exuberance aside, Bayern will be without some key players though.  The absence of Alaba, who has done a phenomenal job on the left, will likely mean Lahm fills in and Rafinha is given the start on the right.  For Badstuber, Tymoshchuk could well partner Boateng and Müller starts for Gustavo, pushing Kroos back alongside Schweinsteiger.  Lahm’s move to the right has gone a long way in balancing Bayern’s play so another shift could upset the chemistry of the team.   Either way, Bayern have achieved their goal of reaching the final and regardless of the outcome on May 19th, they have proven this season that they are up there with the very best in Europe.

The following two tabs change content below.

Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.