The semi-final stages of the UEFA Champions League are typically tight, tense affairs. Especially the first-leg of the ties, where neither team wants to give an inch; after coming so far, it’s understandable that the modus operandi for managers at this stage is “must not lose” opposed to “must win.”
So as we geared up for the two first-legs of the respective semi-finals this week, I had an inkling that goals may come at something of a premium, and that proved to be the case in some very even ties.
In the first game, Chelsea got out of the Vicente Calderon with a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid. Jose Mourinho fielded an extremely defensive side, and Diego Simeone’s La Liga leaders didn’t have the guile or the patience to penetrate the wall of black shirts. The result was a dour game that certainly won’t burn brightly in the vault of Champions League classics.
The second semi-final was a far more enterprising affair, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid taking on Bayern Munich. Los Blancos surrendered possession to the holders, drawing their opponents onto them before springing forward on the break. Ultimately, that’s how Real managed to nick the solitary goal, with Karim Benzema finishing off a fine counter-attack.
Both ties must produce a winner next week as the teams do battle again, so here we take a look at what we’ve learnt about each team ahead those vital second-leg, semi-final ties:
Atletico Show First Signs Of Champions League Naivety
Before a backdrop of raucous supporters at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, Atletico Madrid were unable to breach the assembled ranks of the Chelsea defenders.
They played with the fight, aggression and purpose that has come to sum up their wonderful campaign so far, but they also showcased a smattering of naivety over the 90 minutes. Naivety that is to be expected when playing in this stage of the competition for the first time in many, many years.
Simeone’s side were afforded the ball by their opponents, and roared on by the home crowd, tried to attack Mourinho’s men with relentless, direct intent. But by doing so, they played straight into Chelsea’s hands.
Atletico didn’t showcase the ingenuity or the patience of a seasoned Champions League veteran. They shot wildly from distance, they crossed aimlessly into the box from deep positions and their frustration got the better of them, as Mourinho’s men did their best to take the sting out of the game.
They still have a chance in this tie, but it’ll take a performance rife with maturity and ruthlessness if they are to progress to the final.
Chelsea Have An European Aura Under Mourinho
From a very early stage in this game, you just felt as though Chelsea looked impenetrable. They had a robust, disciplined back four, energy in spades out wide and an authoritative defensive shield in the middle of the pitch.
It made for a turgid affair, but I’m sure the Chelsea supporters who traveled to Madrid weren’t complaining, as the stalemate at the Calderon makes them big favorites to progress in the second-leg.