Home advantage counted for nothing as Bayern Munich dumped host, Real Madrid out of the UEFA Champions League at the Santiago Bernebeu on penalties. The gruelling semi-final started with Khedira getting an early shot on target after being fed by Di Maria who went to the by-line and pushing a cut-back.
The very dramatic and fast paced opening saw a long ball from the left across the penalty box, and Alaba handled the ball to give away a penalty but was unfairly yellow carded as he was already going down with that hand. Cristiano Ronaldo calmly converted the penalty in the 5th minute.
Ronaldo was left unattended outside the penalty area and fired a low shot past the goalkeeper in the 14th minute to take control of the matters over the visitors who came in with a 2-1 lead from Germany last week.
Bayern Munich themselves created and wasted very clear-cut opportunities with Arjen Robin and Frank Ribery being chief culprits.
Lead striker, Gomez and a 19-year-old Alaba tried from a long distance in desperate attempts and with 23 minutes played, all Bayern players looked too desperate and careless. They were not punished by the inept Madrid side that lacked a cutting edge that saw them win the El Classico 2-1 a few days ago.
Pepe, who played a blinder, brought down Gomez inside the box and Robin beat Ike Cassillas to level the aggregate 3-3 in the 26th minute. Madrid started piling up pressure and creating more chances with Benzema and Ronaldo.
It was however Marcelo who was pushing forward well on the left being complemented by Mezuit Ozil. At crucial points of the match, Gomez proved too wasteful as the Real defence was being continuously curved open in the middle.
After the half-time break, Bayern took control of the match with goalkeeper Neuer making brilliant saves including one from Benzema. Real Madrid sought in vain to stamp their authority in midfield as Ribery and Schweinsteiger probed the left wing assisted by Badstuber while Lahm contributed more to the offensive cause than the defensive collective of Bayern on the right.
Xavi Alonso provided a solid link in winning the ball and initiating attacks while the aggressive Gustavo did the same for Bayern. Gustavo rode his luck with numerous fouls committed against Ronaldo, Marcelo and Ozil. The resultant free-kicks were quite direct by Ronaldo, causing minimum threat to Neuer.
The Special One introduced Kaka for Di Maria in the 75th minute. The visitors threw caution to the wind and effectively controlled the midfield as if they were the home team, pushing Real on the back foot and causing them to rely on counter attacks.
Munich was far more accurate in passing and a little patient compared to Madrid who grew impatient. With 5 minutes regulation time remaining, Gomez lost the best opportunity of the match after being set-up by Robben, who himself had wasted a glorious chance in the first half.
Extra time started well for Madrid, with a promising corner-kick and they increased the pace of the match, taking the initiative to open the Munich defence. Pepe surged forward several times until he attracted fouls from Gustavo who finally earned himself a yellow card.
Kaka had chances to wrap it up with 8 minutes of play remaining but was too hesitant. He overdid things and lost possession at crucial times and taking too long to release the ball.
Marcelo’s performance was however outstanding with his interception, dribbling and passing. His contribution in defence and attack play was so crucial and he tirelessly toiled consistently the entire match until the penalty shoot-out.
Youthful Alaba drove a hard and low shot past Cassillas to open the shoot-out account while the revered Ronaldo missed his spot kick as Neuer dived low to save a hesitantly taken kick. Gomez slotted the second one while Kaka missed exactly the same way Ronaldo did – same shot, same spot and same save.
Cassillas saved Kroos’s attempt to give Madrid some hope as Xavi Alonso followed up with a cool conversion. Captain, Phillip Lahm had his penalty saved by Cassillas and Madrid were in it again. It did not last that long as Sergio Ramos took his to the rafters, ballooning it way over the bar.
Schweinsteiger faced Casillas to complete an unlikely rout to embarrass Jose Mourinho. The final kick rubbed salt into the La Liga campaign that saw Barcelona bow out to Chelsea 24 hours earlier and of course, setting up a potential thriller between the Blues and Bayern who will be hosts. Both finalist will play their respective FA Cup final matches before the Champions League final.
Bayern will face Borussia Dortmund while Chelsea will date Liverpool a week before their 19th May 2012 date. For neutrals, it will be a final of the underdogs, and probably the best thing to happen as the usual suspects will also the watching the finals like the rest of us, on TV.