Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich: Bayern through on penalties

April 25, 2012

The starting line-ups

Bayern Munich will face Chelsea in the final, after overcoming Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Jose Mourinho made one change from the first leg – at left-back, where Fabio Coentrao was left out after a difficult game in Munich, and Marcelo came in.

Jupp Heynckes kept the same team from the first leg, in roughly the same formation.

This game started brilliantly, but became increasingly cautious and then needed penalties to settle it. It was a very odd game with no overall pattern, so rather than the usual match overview, here’s ten disparate points:

1. Lack of shape

The start of this game was bizarrely open, with neither side retreating into a good defensive shape and none of the midfielders looking to put their foot on the ball and slow the tempo. Therefore, the game was like a basketball match, flowing from end to end with no breaks between attacks. The main culprits were the wingers – Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo were told to watch the opposition full-backs rather than get back and help their full-backs deal with the Bayern wingers, (though Mesut Ozil eventually drifted back onto Luiz Gustavo to help out in the centre). Similarly, Arjen Robben stayed high up the pitch, and for Ronaldo’s second goal – the only goal of the night from open play – he was on the other flank, leaving Philipp Lahm 1 v 2 against Ronaldo and Marcelo – Lahm made a wrong move out to Marcelo and left Ronaldo free.

2. Half-time changes

No substitutions, but a complete change in mentality. At 2-1, and with the game evenly-balanced, both coaches probably said the same thing to their players at half time: defend deeper, get more men behind the ball, and exploit the weaknesses of the opposition on the break. Unfortunately, since both sides did this at the same time, we were left with a lifeless, slow game. Three goals in the opening 45 minutes were followed by none in the final 75, when there was little creativity on show, primarily because the attacking players were getting less space – as a result of their opposite numbers helping out more at the back. This applied in particular on the wings, where these players became increasingly disciplined but having little energy to break.

3. Kroos control

Like in the first game, Toni Kroos was the key player here. He interpreted his ‘free’ role very nicely, moving back into the midfield to make a 3 v 2 when Ozil was still high up, and helped bypass the two Real holding players. Then, he moved forward and provided balls from between the lines and out wide, from where he created more chances than any other player. His final pass wasn’t always accurate, but the simple intelligence of his positioning – both providing numerical supremacy in the centre and a creative spark in the final third – meant he was very useful to Bayern, and it was again the correct decision from Heynckes to start him rather than Thomas Muller.

4. Gomez deep

Mario Gomez’s link-up play was good – he dropped deep away from Sergio Ramos and Pepe, contributing to build-up play and encouraging Robben and Franck Ribery to make runs past him, towards goal. Ramos and Pepe generally stayed in position and let him drop deep unattended. However, it was Gomez’s traditional job, as a poacher, that he didn’t do so well – he missed the best chance of the game at 2-1.

5. Di Maria v Alaba

The most obvious ball-playing tactic was from Real Madrid, who kept Di Maria wide, told Xabi Alonso to launch the ball out to him, and the Argentina isolated David Alaba 1 v1. The left-back had enjoyed a good game in the first leg, but did look nervous here. The early penalty came from this approach (although the pass out to Di Maria  was from Marcelo, and Alaba can hardly be blamed for conceding the penalty).

6. Dribbles

Bayern conceded possession too cheaply when their wide players dribbled forward with the ball, which was particularly surprising as they often managed to isolate their opponents in 1 v 1 situations.

7. No natural wingers

Part of the problem with the wide players was their perennial desire to come inside into the centre of the pitch, where the holding players could provide cover. This was a problem for both sides – Robben and Ribery came into the middle, Ronaldo stayed up and cut onto his right foot, while Di Maria drifted infield to see more of the ball. Aside from a very brief spell from Robben on the left – from where he created that chance for Gomez – there was no-one stretching the play. Mourinho’s decision to use central players from the bench (Esteban Granero, Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain) rather than speedy winger Jose Callejon was a big surprise.

8. Status Quo

On that note, neither coach really made any significant tactical changes. Everything was roughly like-for-like. Consequently, after things were calmed down at half-time, the game never really progressed tactically.

9. Fouls

Bayern committed over twice as many fouls as Real Madrid, despite enjoying 55% of possession. Luiz Gustavo managed to commit nine fouls before he was shown a yellow card – the majority of fouls were in non-threatening positions, often tactical, and helped to break up Real’s rhythm – d although it did allow Ronaldo a couple of free-kick opportunities.

10. Coin toss?

Bayern went first in the penalty shoot-out. As outlined in the book Soccernomics, the side taking the first penalty wins 60% of shoot-outs.

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