In the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final, a solitary strike from Karim Benzema was enough to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich.
The French striker poked home Fabio Coentrao’s cross in the first half for the only goal of the game to inflict only a second defeat in the competition for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Bayern, as usual, had a greater percentage of possession in the game but failed to create any meaningful chances except for a shot by Mario Gotze, while Madrid could have won more comfortably had Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria kept their composure in front of the goal in the first half. Despite a speedy and very fast-paced opening, chances remain scarce for Real Madrid, with neither Ronaldo nor his teammates able to test Manuel Neuer.
Bayern also were unable to forge openings, until Arjen Robben flashed an effort wide of Iker Casillas’ right-hand post early in the first half. Toni Kroos’ shot was further blocked by Pepe before they countered, allowing Ronaldo to find Fabio Coentrao down the left with a brilliant pass, which was converted into a beautiful cross to Benzema, to make it 1-0 on the scoreline. The cross evaded Dante, Jerome Boateng and Neuer.
Ronaldo received a glorious opportunity to double the advantage, blasting Benzema’s pass over the crossbar, as Bayern were made to struggle to regain their early rhythm. Angel Di Maria fired over from a tight angle on the right as the game continued in the latter stages just after David Alaba and Frank Ribery went close to put in the equalizer but the attempts were dealt with ease.
Bayern looked surprisingly toothless for a side that have already claimed their Bundesliga title in record time this season and have remained the favorites for punters to win the Champions League. Ronaldo twice tested the visiting goalkeeper Neuer, making a decent display even while not being 100% fit for the match due to a thigh injury earlier this month.
Bayern’s invincible form has deserted them of late, and even when Madrid’s first-team defender was withdrawn after a late injury, Bayern did not look convincing.
In a nervy finish, Gotze came on from the bench, and was denied by a smart Casillas stop before Bayern appealed for a penalty following a challenge by Xabi Alonso on Thomus Muller, which was waved away by referee Howard Webb.
Pep Guardiola’s team lacked ideas to break down the Madrid defense, which will make them face an uphill task if they are to become the first side to successfully defend their Champions League trophy.