Real Madrid are on their way to a third successive Champions League final after overcoming Bayern Munich in the semi-final at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night.
Two goals from Karim Benzema were enough to see the reigning champions into the final in Kiev on May 27 despite Bayern’s best efforts.
FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five things we learned from the match.
A tale of two keepers
When it comes down to the crunch, it doesn’t matter how well you play. What matters is whether key players perform well. The difference on Tuesday was between the posts. Keylor Navas had a stormer, saving practically everything that Bayern threw at him while Sven Ulreich had a nightmare, handing Real Madrid and Karim Benzema a second goal they barely deserved.
It is hard to work out what was running through Ulreich’s mind as he made a spectacular mess of Corentin Tolisso’s backpass, but one thing is for sure. He will find it hard to live this down.
Navas has come in for a lot of criticism this season, but he answered his critics perfectly with a man-of-the-match display as Madrid made Bayern pay for their mistakes. Will it be enough to keep the 31-year old between the posts next season?
Ulreich distraught and alone pic.twitter.com/28yaVTH7CL
— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) May 1, 2018
One crucial moment in last night’s tie that has been largely overlooked in the aftermath of Madrid’s win occurred just before half-time when Marcelo jumped and blocked Joshua Kimmich’s cross with his hand. While it may not have been intentional it was still a clear handball, and it was in the penalty area. Even Marcelo himself afterwards admitted that he thought it was handball.
— [AyitiToma]™ (@tisaba_) May 1, 2018
Those arguing otherwise should cast their minds back to last week and a similar incident involving Liverpool’s James Milner during the 5-2 win over Roma. Milner got in the way of a shot and a penalty was given. Roma scored. Marcelo got in the way of a cross. No penalty.
Is there a difference? At the moment these type of decisions really are a lottery and that just isn’t good enough. Especially if you happen to be a Bayern Munich fan. Could VAR across the board be the solution?
Lewandowski not the answer
While there’s no doubt that Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in Europe (39 goals so far this season would seem to back that claim) the Polish striker has seemed out of sorts in the two games against Madrid. He famously scored four goals against the Spaniards for Borussia Dortmund back in 2013, but missed a number of chances again on Tuesday as Bayern crashed out at the semi-final stage for the fourth time in five seasons. There are rumours that Madrid are interested in signing Lewandowski in the summer, although Bayern officials have said that their prolific goal getter is going nowhere. But at around £100 million for a 30-year old player and on the strength of these two games, surely Madrid would be better off looking elsewhere?
A polarising figure if ever there was one, Karim Benzema is loved and hated in equal measure around the Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane loves him, but large numbers of Madrid fans certainly do not. There were audible boos around the stadium Tuesday when it was announced that Benzema would start for the first time in four Champions League games, but the boos soon turned to cheers when he headed home the equaliser just 11 minutes in. He went on to give the kind of swashbuckling performance that is his trademark, also grabbing the crucial second goal. While he may not be Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid fans should really learn to appreciate a player that has scored 55 Champions League goals, a tally that makes him the fifth highest scorer in the history of the competition.
5 – Top 5 all-time goal scorers in the Champions League:
Cristiano Ronaldo 120
Lionel Messi 100
Raúl González 71
Ruud Van Nistelrooy 56
KARIM BENZEMA 54
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 1, 2018
Real Madrid are in their third consecutive final, but do they deserve it? Fans would say that the defending champions were ruthlessly efficient, but they would be hard pressed to argue that Madrid were the best team over two legs in the semi-final. In fact, Bayern Munich had 22 shots compared to Madrid’s nine over the two legs. At the Bernabeu on Tuesday, Madrid had just 40 percent possession and played like the away team, threatening on the counter attack as the German’s dominated. Their two goals came from just three shots on target, while Bayern had 10. And let’s not forget the quarterfinals, where they needed a 97th-minute penalty to get past a resurgent Juventus.
Can their good fortune continue in Kiev?