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Real Madrid 1 Bayern 0

All to play for after narrow defeat

The Champions League semi-final between Bayern and Real Madrid remains poised on a knife-edge after the Spaniards edged home by the only goal of the game in Wednesday’s first leg. Holders Munich were frustrated for long spells as the Spanish giants opted to shut up shop but the home side’s deadly effectiveness on the break ultimately earned them a precious lead.

The 80,354 capacity crowd at the magnificent Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in the Spanish capital saw Munich dominate the first-half possession but fail to create clear-cut chances, as Real defended in depth and launched sporadic but dangerous forays, Karim Benzema finishing off a trademark counter-attack to hand the home side a 19th-minute lead. Carlo Ancelotti’s team showed much more adventure as the game opened up in the second period, but FCB launched a late onslaught and sub Mario Götze came within an ace of levelling. It was not to be and Pep Guardiola’s men now have a deficit to overturn in next week’s second leg.

The Bavarians are back in action on Saturday afternoon at home to Werder Bremen, before the decisive return against the Spanish giants at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Mandzu up front, Lahm in midfield

Guardiola made a number of key tactical changes to the team that returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga away to Braunschweig at the weekend. Mario Mandzukic replaced Thomas Müller, with Rafinha and David Alaba returning at full-back and Philipp Lahm moving forward into midfield. Perhaps most encouragingly of all, Manuel Neuer was fit enough to resume duty in goal in place of capable but inexperienced deputy Lukas Raeder.

The FCB bench was a blend of star quality and youth, with the likes of Müller, Claudio Pizarro and Götze seated alongside Raeder and Mitch Weiser.

It meant the Champions League holders lined up with Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante and Alaba in the back four, captain Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in twin holding roles, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben out wide, and Toni Kroos in the playmaking position behind central striker Mandzukic.

Real boss Ancelotti was unable to start with Gareth Bale after the Welshman’s recent illness, but World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo returned from injury in a formidable front line also featuring Benzema and Angel di Maria, with Xabi Alonso, Isco and Luka Modric strung across the midfield.

Caught on the break

After veteran English referee Howard Webb whistled the match underway the visitors instantly seized the initiative against the hesitant and defensive home team. By the time Robben loosed off the first shot and Schweinsteiger headed into Real keeper Iker Casillas’ arms on 14 minutes, Bayern were leading the corner count 4-0 and had 80 percent of the possession.

Centre-back Pepe blocked a Kroos piledriver as FCB circled with menace, but the 19th-minute opener came at the other end after a typical fast break: Portugal international Fabio Coentrao hared down the left onto Ronaldo’s pass and squared, the ball eluding both Dante and Alaba to leave Benzema with the simplest of far-post tap-ins.

Guardiola’s men were suddenly living dangerously, and although Neuer made routine saves from a Ronaldo header and a Di Maria shot, there was a let-off for the Reds on 26 minutes from another pacy counter-attack when Modric and Benzema combined to set up Ronaldo only for the unmarked Portugal superstar to balloon over the bar from 12 yards.

The Bundesliga champions hit the groove again for a spell and laid siege to the Real goal, but apart from half-chances for Ribery and Robben and a string of corners, there was no way through against the home team’s packed defence. Lahm hit the side-netting with a cross-cum-shot, but there was another huge chance for Real after 41 minutes when Di Maria blazed over from close range after Isco’s cross picked out the unmarked Argentine at the back stick. Boateng blocked Ronaldo’s drive at the expense of a corner as the half drew to a close.

Götze denied by Casillas

The first chance after the restart fell to Ronaldo but Neuer palmed aside the Madrid star’s angled shot. The Spaniards had the bit between their teeth and the FCB defence had to look sharp for a spell, but Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Rafinha soon had the ball back in the danger zone. Schweinsteiger just failed to connect with Ribery’s centre from a clever corner routine, Kroos whistled a shot over the bar, Alonso beat Dante to a six-yard header, and Robben broke clear but could only toe-poke weakly at Casillas.

Guardiola sent on Javi Martinez for Rafinha after 66 minutes with Lahm reverting to full-back, but Neuer was next in action with another save from Ronaldo. The play switched to the other end and FCB enjoyed a decent spell of pressure, before Götze and Müller replaced the subdued Ribery and Schweinsteiger for the last 20 minutes, with Bale taking over from Ronaldo.

The subs soon made an impact as Götze teed up Müller to flash a shot past the post, but Dante had to clear a sharp Bale pass, and Casillas saved brilliantly in the 84th minute to palm aside Götze’s close-range effort. Müller might have had a penalty in stoppage time when he was bundled over by Alonso in the box, but Webb waved play on and Real held on for the win.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley