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article imageReal Madrid's pace and set-piece dominance sink Bayern Munich

By Tyrrell Meertins     Apr 29, 2014 in Sports
Both stylistically and tactically, Real Madrid’s emphatic victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena was identical to their first leg triumph over the Bavarians.
Put simply, Bayern’s persistence on dominating possession was no match for Madrid’s ruthless counter-attacks and defensive solidity.
Carlo Ancelotti provided an additional threat on the break by introducing Gareth Bale on the right flank. This ensured that Madrid posed a larger threat on the break, specifically with Bayern having to score twice. Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, fielded Thomas Muller as his most advanced midfielder, pushing Phillip Lahm to right back to offer a different element of attack in the final third.
Although, Muller’s movement between the lines guided the Bavarian’s into key areas in the final third, Guardiola’s men failed to test Iker Casillas. Still, there was a significant difference in terms of mentality regarding Madrid’s start to the match, and Angel Di Maria’s surge into the left channel in the opening minute to meet a well weighed Cristiano Ronaldo pass was a warning sign.
"The first leg [against Bayern] we were not so happy with the start of the game," Ancelotti said. "We began the game very timidly, tomorrow to start like that would be very dangerous. So we will try and do something different at the start.”
Bayern struggled to create chances in the final third due to Madrid’s solid shape without the ball. Occasionally Bale and Di Maria were auxiliary fullbacks, while Fabio Coentrao and Dani Carvajal nullified Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery in wide areas. Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric were once again exceptional, maintaining tactical discipline out of possession, while their reliable passing –– albeit Bayern’s press –– ignited Madrid counter-attacks and ensured Madrid retained possession.
Madrid’s intent to exploit Bayern’s high-line nearly proved successful as a simple ball over the top saw Manuel Neuer’s poor clearance fall to Bale, but the Welshman scuffed his shot over the net. Then, Cristiano Ronaldo’s clever back-heeled pass to Di Maria saw the Argentine spay a great ball to Karim Benzema, but his poor touch fell into Dante’s path who cleared his lines, thus awarding Madrid a corner.
Oddly, apart from Madrid’s third goal Ancelotti’s men exploited the set-piece frailties Bayern endured throughout the season. An unmarked Sergio Ramos converted two headers –– from a Modric corner kick and a Di Maria free-kick –– past Neuer to hand Madrid a two goal lead.
Bayern was now desperate, and Ribery and David Alaba received opportunities to narrow the lead, but Madrid’s formidable defence led by Pepe and Ramos prevented the home side from testing Casillas. With Bayern pushing forward with numbers, Madrid received more space to exploit, and their third goal signified their ruthlessness on the break. Di Maria ignited the attack, ultimately ending with Bale driving through the heart of Bayern’s defence before squaring the ball for Ronaldo to tap in.
“I think the first half was fantastic, we did really well defensively and offensively, with the ball and without the ball. It was the perfect game, I think, first half,” Ancelotti said.
"We tried to do a little bit more of what we did in the first game against Bayern Munich, to put more pressure in front and play quickly. Everything was good."
Bayern were a balanced outfit in the second half, continuing to sustain possession in their third, and mixing a few balls into the channels for Muller –– who played as the no.9 with Javi Martinez replacing Mario Mandzukic –– but Bayern still encountered identical issues in the final third; penetration and guile was non-existent.
"The disappointment is huge. We did not play well tactically, we played an open game way too early,” Lahm said.
"While we controlled the first leg, we gave them an end-to-end game today, that's not our way of playing, they like it though."
Once again, Madrid was exceptional without the ball as a unit –– a trait they developed under Jose Mourinho –– and Ancelotti’s pragmatism was pivotal, opposed to Guardiola’s reluctance to stray away from his tiki-taka philosophy.
The key to Ancelotti’s success in various leagues is his adaptability, and here his reactive approach eclipsed Guardiola’s attempt to guide Bayern to a second consecutive treble.
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