I love Philip Lahm.
The photo displayed to your left has nothing to do with the lovely blonde lady posing dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing. No, this picture is all to do with giving you an insight into the life of Philip Lahm.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Lahm, does the German captain ever put a foot wrong? Last night Lahm recorded 64 successful passes out of 67, with 18 attempted in the attacking third and 16 proving accurate. 4 out of 6 tackles were successful and Lahm created two chances to boot. That’s not a surprise for me to hear such efficiency from Lahm, as he’s ‘Mr Consistent’.
As most German teams are, Bayern Munich are methodical in their work, always striving for optimum efficiency. Last night versus Real Madrid, that quality eventually prevailed against a supremely talented, yet individualist Real Madrid side. It shouldn’t be any shock to learn that a team boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Marcelo and Angel Di Maria are individualistic.
Although so talented, said talent has to be harnessed in such a way that it’s effective and last night, an inability to harvest such collective talent proved to be Real Madrid’s downfall.
Playing at the Santiago Bernabeu for this return leg, (Bayern Munich won the first leg 2-1) Real Madrid started like a house on fire and in just the 4th minute were awarded a penalty when Di Maria struck a shot on goal from inside Bayern’s penalty area, when a fully committed David Alaba dived in front of the Argentine winger’s shot. The ball smashed against Alaba’s flailing arm and Real Madrid were awarded a penalty. To add insult to injury, Alaba found himself booked and will now miss the Champions League Final (maybe Geoff Shreeves could console him?).
Predictably, Cristiano Ronaldo converted his 25th penalty in a row to Real Madrid 1-0 ahead and level on aggregate. For me, Ronaldo should never had the chance to score from the penalty spot. Alaba had gone in feet first to block Di Maria’s shot, it was never an intentional hand ball and to yellow card a player is incredibly harsh.
Eight minutes after Ronaldo had converted his penalty, the Portuguese international stroked home his second of the evening. Unlike the penalty, Real Madrid’s build-up to this goal was powerful, unstoppable and ultimately, fateful. Bayern Munich’s midfield couldn’t steal the ball off of Real Madrid as they played it around at speed and when Ozil received possession 25 yards out, Holger Badstuber inexplicably stepped up from his position, leaving Ronaldo in acres of space. Ozil simply passed to Ronaldo who was never going to miss and from just inside Bayern’s area, rolled his shot past Manuel Neuer.
Real Madrid were now leading 2-0 and on the verge of a May 19 date with Chelsea at Bayern’s Allianz Arena. Real Madrid were also ahead on aggregate for the first time in this tie, winning 3-2. At that point, the scoreline alone would have suggested Real Madrid were cruising to a comfortable win, but the scoreline was miles away from the truth.
Going forward, Bayern Munich were finding plenty of space in Real Madrid’s defensive third. Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos all tested Iker Casillas from range and even at 1-0, Arjen Robben had managed to miss a sitter after good work from David Alaba.
Eventually, Bayern found a way back when Mario Gomez was felled in the Real Madrid penalty area when contesting a Toni Kroos cross with Pepe. Unlike the first incident, this penalty was justified in its decision, but had Pepe denied Gomez a clear goalscoring opportunity? For me, yes, if Gomez had have planted his head on the ball, he’d have scored, instead, Pepe pulled him down to deny Gomez that opportunity. For me, Pepe should have been sent off, though I am blinkered by the fact I can’t stand the dirty, cheating weazel.
Arjen Robben converted the penalty and Bayern Munich were now level on aggregate and there was nothing to seperate the two sides.
In the second half, Real Madrid seemed to tire as Bayern Munich grew stronger, Alvaro Arebloa in particular looked a mentally destroyed man every time Franck Ribery flew at him. Bayern Munich’s rhythm was going stronger and stronger as Real Madrid grew weaker. Everything Real Madrid attempted going forward was stopped in an instant, their play had become disjointed and long since lost any fluency.
No goals in the second half brought about extra-time and a very lethargic thirty minutes lead to a penalty shoot-out.
Real Madrid missed their first two penalties, Cristiano Ronaldo and then Kaka were thwarted by Manuel Neuer when he guessed correctly, diving to his right for what were identical penalties. Bayern Munich scored their opening two courtesy of David Alaba and Mario Gomez, before Toni Kroos and then Philip Lahm then missed their penalties for Bayern Munich. In between Kroos and Lahm failing to score, Xabi Alonso had converted his penalty to peg Bayern Munich back to 2-1 and next up was Sergio Ramos for Real Madrid to equalise on penalties scored.
Whatever happened to Ramos’ shot is beyond me, I think that ball is orbiting the Sun as we speak, as Ramos lashed his shot, high, wide and into the night.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, a player who bleeds Bayern’s red colours, stepped up to take the deciding penalty and present Bayern Munich the opportunity to play in a Champions League Final at their own ground. The combative midfielder was never going to miss such a penalty and Schweingsteiger converted to send Bayern Munich to a March 19 date with Chelsea in the Champions League Final.
Earlier I spoke of Real Madrid being too individualist and I would post more graphs like the one above, but WordPress is playing up and won’t let me put pictures where I want them, so I’ll explain. When attacking, Real Madrid players opted to beat their man a combined total of 37 times. In a top 7 list of players who opted to ‘take-on’ their opponent, five of those players in the list are of a white shirt. Marcelo enjoyed a high success rate of ‘take-ons’ beating his man eight out of nine times, but the success rate for the rest of his team-mates was not as successful. Kaka only beat his man 50% of the time (4/8) and Cristiano Ronaldo got less than that (3/8). Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil also recorded a 50% success rate, each succeeding in two out of four take-ons.
The other two representatives in the ‘take-on list’ top seven are Arjen Robben and Toni Kroos. Robben recorded 4/9 successful take-ons and Kroos 2/6. Placed eight and ninth are David Alaba and Franck Ribery. Alaba got 2/3 right whilst Ribery, closely marked all game by at least two players, only recorded one successful take-on out of eight.
Although there are more Bayern players on the list than Real Madrid, the attacking players of Madrid are shown to attempt a take-on much more than most Bayern players. Madrid’s highes success rate comes from left-back with Marcelo whilst Ronaldo has a very weak success rate, probably due to forcing the issue of trying to score a goal in unlikely circumstances.
This was Real Madrid’s main problem last night, with every player trying their luck when in possession, rather than making a pass, then another, then another, in order to earn a better position from which to shoot. More often than not, Madrid were guilty of being speculative rather than efficient.
Bayern Munich’s highest take-ons only play in certain areas. Schweinsteiger, Gustavo and Mario Gomez know they don’t possess individual skills of Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos and Franck Ribery, so instead work to supply the latter trio, who then aim to create opportunities through their own talents. That is the way a lot of top teams work and whereas Bayern have a trio to do that work, Real Madrid have seven or eight who are liable to do things on their own and as such, their play loses rhythm, much like it did in the second half of yesterday.
An inability to harvest their talent properly and efficiently cost Real Madrid dearly yesterday and instead of Jose Mourinho taking his side to the Allianz Arena, it will be Jupp Heynckes taking his Bayern Munich side to a Champions League Final on their own territory.