Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before. Real Madrid advances in the Champions League somehow someway. On Tuesday night in Madrid at the Berenbau that’s exactly what happened. Despite being outplayed massively over the two legs Real Madrid used more of that juju they have been using like a get out of jail free card in Monopoly to advance to the Champions League Final with a 2-2 draw which sends them through on aggregate 4-3.
This will be their 3rd straight final and the 4th time in 5 years that Real Madrid will be playing in the biggest game in club football. They will face the winner of Roma/Liverpool as Livepool goes into the second leg with a 5-2 lead on aggregate.
1. Missed chances, mistakes, and some poor luck
There is no doubt that every player, fan, or anyone associated the club will be wondering for a long time how the hell this happened again.
There was no doubt that they better team over the two legs. This point isn’t even debatable after this but this is Real Madrid in the Champions League and they somehow someway find a way to win.
Look at the 4 goals they scored over the two legs. 2 of them were just horrible mistakes by Bayern Munich, the types of mistakes that if you make at this stage of the competition against the best of opponents you don’t live to tell about.
The first was the second goal and game winner from the first leg where Javi Martinez got caught in possession which led to the Asesnsio winner and today it was also the second goal and the goal that put them through which was another gargantuan mistake by Bayern Munich.
This time it was goalie Sven Ulreich who was the goat and will be the goat and not the type of goat you want to be the kind of goat you never want to be.
Corentin Tolisso played a simple back pass to Ulreich who had a momentary lack of brain usage and first decided to try to dive on the ball which right before he did, he realized that it wasn’t allowed but then fanned on the clearance attempt and Karim Benzema gladly took the ball and the empty net to score the easiest biggest goal of his life you will ever see.
But even with this they still had chances. Keylor Navas had to come up with a few ridiculous saves, they had a Raphael Varane block of what looked like a sure goal, and numerous misses by the likes of James Rodriguez, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Muller which at the end of the day cost them.
For the day Bayern outshot Real 22-9, they had 60% possession, had 19 shots inside the box, hit the woodwork once, and had 10 shots on target which forced Navas to make 8 saves. Many of them of the difficult variety .
Over the two legs the numbers are just crazy to think that Madrid is the team that is advancing to the final.
Over the two legs Bayern had a 39-16 shot advantage, 33-10 shot advantage from inside the box, had a 15-7 shots on target advantage, had a 97-37 touches in opposition’s box advantage, but the only number they lost on is in reality the only number that matters is goals which we know was 4-3 Real Madrid.
I talked about this after the first leg, that it really cost them not having Kingsley Coman for the first leg because Ribery was finding himself with space in dangerous spots all day but wasn’t able to do much with it and if they had Coman things would have been different. Well actually I said that they didn’t have Coman or David Alaba so Munich had to play Ribery and Rafinha.
In the second leg they had Alaba back but still didn’t have Coman and this became a very interesting part of the pitch to watch.
Due to not having Dani Carvajal and Nacho avaliable but seemingly not ready to go as he was also nursing an injury that Zididine Zidane went with winger Lucas Vazquez at right back.
We knew with the deficit that Munich would most likely be on the front foot all day, which they were so this meant that Alaba and Joshua Kimmich on the other side would be pushed way up the pitch.
Alaba and Ribery we’re able to target Vazquez 2v1 which then forced Luka Modric to drop deeper to help support Vazquez this was quite the task for Vazquez, it would be quite the task for any right back but even more so for a right back who is a winger in a game where he would be stuck defending for most of the day.
Bayern Munich had a lot of success in this area but it still comes down to Ribery for me. In the first leg he wasn’t good enough and today he wasn’t good enough. Munich’s was the better team in the first leg but they were much better today and were a much greater threat on the attack.
Ribery is an all timer in this sport, if this was like American sports and there was a hall of fame Ribery would be a first ballot hall of famer but at 35 years old he doesn’t have it anymore, not consistently and not at this level.
Sure he’ll have a big game from time to time but he can’t consistently bring it anymore. Kingsley Coman is an immense player and a player I would much rather have out there in a game of this magnitude but unfortunately for Munich he wasn’t available and Ribery just didn’t offer enough quality over the two legs, if they had we would be talking about Bayern Munich playing in the final, but it just wasn’t Ribery though.
The other was a player that you do expect great things from. Lewandowski is one of best strikers on the planet at this stage. He has scored 38 goals this season in all competitions, he’s scored 5 in the Champions League in 11 games. But he’s hasn’t scored in his last 5 games in this competition. Which is an eternity for a goal machine like him.
They needed more from him over the two legs if they had no doubt they would be advancing but for a player that people call world class he was poor in both legs.
He had 4 shots in the first leg, including missing two big chances, he had 3 shots today. Look players have tough games sometimes it’s just part of the deal but to see Lewandowski be this anonymous in both legs is very disappointing for a player of his caliber. You want to see players like him rise to the occasion in games like this but he didn’t. It’s not like he wasn’t in position to succeed where you can blame his manager or teammates, no it was simple. He wasn’t good enough which was very disappointing to see from such a big player.
I doubt it would actually matter but will Madrid look somewhere else after seeing him over the two legs. Obviously they have been rumored to be interested in him to likely replace Benzema and Bale, but knowing he is 29 years old you have to wonder if people will wonder if he’s worth the ridiculous price tag that it will cost to get him away from Munich.
He’s a ridiculous player and this shouldn’t ruin any of the great things he’s done but it was very shocking to see him perform so poorly over the two legs.
I talked about the lineup of Munich a little bit due to Ribery and Alaba. But it looked to me like Munich played a 4-1-4-1 in this.
They didn’t have Arjen Robben, the afformentioned Coman, Arturo Vidal, or Jerome Boateng. Nicholas Sule filled in well for Boateng but like I said earlier they missed Coman more than anyone. Even more than Vidal.
I thought the 4-1-4-1 worked well. But to me it looked like they were more in a 4-3-3. They played Alcantara deep and had James Rodriguez play in front of him as a pair being links between Alcantara spraying the ball from deep and the front 3.
We talked earlier how Alaba linked up with Ribery down the right. I wish they would have gotten the same down the left with Kimmich and Muller down the left, but Kimmich didn’t get forward as much as Alaba did, other than he was way up to score the first goal, but maybe it was by design, but for their sake it would have been nice to force Toni Kross deep to help out with Marcelo like they got with Modric helping out Vazquez .
Muller played more central with Lewandowski than Ribery did. Ribery was much deeper.
What they did was a bit unbalanced they really wanted to attack from the right. Maybe because of Vazquez or maybe it was to use the strength of Alaba.
It did work as they were very dangerous on crosses all day. They were giving Madrid fits all day, it was again an area that Lewandowski and even Muller needed to be better and find a goal.
On the other side with Madrid, if they had a plan I’m not exactly sure what it was.
They were obviously looking for counter attack more than likely getting Marcelo and Vazquez up the pitch and for Marco Asensio to drive play.
This is generally how they play, it worked for their first goal when Marcelo sent a lovely cross to Benzema for the first goal.
But for the most part it didn’t work. Ronaldo was quiet all day, he’s always quiet for long stretches pretty much every game he plays at this stage of his career but he usually finds those 5 or 6 occasions where he gets on the ball in time and space and scares the bejezzus out of you if you’re the opposition, but not today he was quiet and really had minimal impact on the game.
But the biggest thing for me as to why they struggled to get going is that Isco was out with an injury and he’s much better than Asensio is at driving play. He’s really the key to what they day, he’s the guy on the ball and as he should be he’s the best player on this team, but also by the way Munich played especially with how Alaba was so far advanced it force Modric to drop deeper which took him out of the game which hurt Madrid advancing the ball through midfield as Modric is also a magician on the ball.
I was also very surprised that Kovacic was playing to start the game over Casimero. Casimero is a warrior and Zidane had to know they would be defending for large parts of this and not having Casimero to protect the back 4 put then at a disadvantage. I don’t think there are many if any better at that task than Casimero is.
5. Benzema and Navas
The two heroes for Madrid had to be that much maligned duo. Benzema has been heavily criticized even booed by the home fans on a few occasions this season due to his poor finishing.
Goal scoring has never been his most important value to this team, it’s always been his hold up play, that would allowed Ronaldo, Isco, Asensio, Bale, and whoever else is attacking for them. It’s a thankless job that he’s never received the proper due for but it also shows people don’t fully understand the game sometimes.
But it had to be super gratifying for him to bag the brace today and be the goal scoring hero after all the shit he has taken over recent years.
Same goes for Navas who they have been trying to replace with Manchester United goalie David De Gea for years now.
No doubt Navas has been shaky at times but if you go back and look at the majority of Madrid’s big wins over the past few seasons you will see a big save or two or five from Navas in those games and this one was no different.
If not for his big saves they would not be going to the final against. It’s that simple.
He has the ability to come up big when it matters the most, it’s a trait this entire team has. Yes, they drive me crazy with all the luck they get in these games when they win without playing well but one reason they keep winning when they don’t perform well is because of the clutch performances that they get up and down this roster.
6. Final thoughts
No doubt Madrid was a bit lucky to advance here just like they were against Juve, but to get through PSG, Juve, and Bayern Munich is just incredible and means they have to be doing something right.
It’s been a wild and difficult journey for them and if they do 3-peat even if they did get some luck you can’t say it wasn’t earned. As all those teams can attest to if you’re going to knock these guys out you can’t hope for a break, they get all the breaks you have to take advantage of your opportunities.
This one is going to hurt for a long time for Munich. But they to a man will probably say they blew this in the first leg.
They played great in the second leg but losing 2-1 at home made this task very difficult, they knew this already after last season.
I’m sure it will take weeks for them to come to grips with this. They played great against this team again but it still wasn’t enough.
But they can look themselves in the mirror and only blame themselves. You can’t give the goals away they did and you can’t miss all the chances they missed.
If you’re going to take a shot at the king you best not miss. Omar from the wire is a perfect analogy for this Madrid team.