Real Madrid went into the second-leg of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich last night with a slender lead after Karim Benzema’s goal in Madrid a week ago had given them a 1-0 first-leg advantage.
The Germans monopolised possession that night in Santiago Bernabeu and the expectation therefore was that the return in Munich could prove a close-run affair.
Bayern did enjoy more possession once again but very little else as, with just 29 per cent of the ball, a rampant Madrid inflicted on Pep Guardiola what was surely one of his worst nights in football.
It was an incredible turnaround from this time last year when, in the final stages of Jupp Heynckes’ reign, Bayern inflicted a 7-0 aggregate defeat on Barcelona as Madrid were being eliminated by Borussia Dortmund.
This season, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have done for three German sides and, having secured their ninth Champions League win 12 years ago in Glasgow, they will be hoping that their long wait for La Decima is to end next month in Lisbon. A repeat of last night’s performance could be too much for either Chelsea or Atletico Madrid, who meet in London tonight.
Much pre-match discussion had focused on the importance of Madrid’s front line of Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo coming out of the blocks quickly, enabling Los Blancos to add to their first-leg advantage without delay.
The defensive limitations of Angel Di Maria and Luka Modric were said to be of concern, not to mention the unpredictable volatility of Pepe and Sergio Ramos in the face of a lethal Bayern attack.
Ancelotti’s side did start in explosive fashion as Bayern looked once again to dominate the ball, but it was Ramos who made the pre-match predictions sound ridiculous. With just 20 minutes gone, the defender had risen twice with towering headers from set- pieces, the first from Modric’s corner and the second from a Di Maria free kick flicked on by Pepe.
Bayern’s defence was in shreds, but Madrid were still content to let them enjoy the majority of possession while repeatedly hitting the Bundesliga champions on the break. The passing accuracy of Modric in midfield, however, broke up Bayern’s fluency while Ancelotti’s defence looked invincible whenever the German side threatened.
Once again, Madrid produced a great counter-attacking display and, with only 34 minutes played, the tie was all but over. Bale’s run and exquisite pass set up Ronaldo for a record 15th Champions League goal this season – and Madrid’s record 35th- with both figures increasing still as the Portuguese grabbed a late fourth on the night to make it 5-0 in the tie. Ancelotti afterwards proclaimed it as his side’s finest display of the season, labelling his players as “perfect.”
Whoever provides their opposition in Lisbon will display a stark contrast to the scintillating football produced by Real Madrid. An all-Spanish clash with Atletico would pitch city rivals together in a European final for the first time ever and provide Ancelotti with an opportunity for revenge if, as seems likely, Diego Simeone’s side pips them to the title.
A Madrid-Chelsea final would create endless hype off the pitch around Jose Mourinho, while the game itself would set up an intriguing contrast between Mourinho’s masterful displays of ‘anti-football’ and the expansive flair with which Madrid dispatched Bayern so conclusively.
On last night’s showing, as well as on the evidence of their record-breaking Champions League season, La Decima would be a worthy accolade for Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.