Real in pole position after Asensio scores winner at Bayern


Munich (Germany) (AFP) – Real Madrid moved a step closer to a third straight Champions League title after substitute Marco Asensio hit the winner in a 2-1 semi-final, first-leg victory at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old came off the bench to finish a counter-attack and complete the holders’ comeback win, giving Real the advantage for the return game in Madrid next Tuesday.

“We knew what to expect, we did well and put in a good performance,” said Real captain Sergio Ramos.

“There is still the return to come, but we’ll be very focused and we defended well, that was the main thing.”

Bayern took the lead at the sold-out Allianz Arena through Joshua Kimmich, but Marcelo equalised just before the break and Asensio put Real ahead.

“In the middle of the first half, we were playing well, but we lacked the killer instinct,” said Bayern skipper Thomas Mueller.

“Everything is still possible, but we did ourselves no favours today.”

Despite Bayern dominating possession and creating twice as many chances as Real, Madrid claimed a sixth straight win, dating back to 2012, over the Bavarians in the Champions League knockout stage.

“We didn’t put our chances away, while Real took their two chances,” said Kimmich.

“We were naive in front of goal, they are favourites now to go through, but we will give it our all in the return.”

Real coach Zinedine Zidane pulled a surprise before kick-off by leaving both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema out of the starting line-up.

Isco, who was replaced by Asensio at half-time, and Lucas Vazquez played either side of Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a subdued night up front in Munich.

The Portuguese failed to add to his tally of 15 Champions League goals this season, being denied a second-half strike by an offside flag, which would have made it 3-1.

James Rodriguez, who is on a two-year loan deal from Real, shone in Bayern’s midfield and found plenty of cracks in the Madrid defence.

– Bayern hit by injuries –

However, this just was not Bayern’s night.

Both Mueller and Robert Lewandowski went agonisingly close with a string of chances.

The hosts suffered a blow with barely five minutes gone when Arjen Robben limped off to be replaced by Thiago Alcantara.

Bayern changed their system with right-back Joshua Kimmich moving up to plug the space on the right wing, which sparked the opening goal.

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