One Way Traffic
I feel sorry for Bayern Munich. They dominated the two-legged affair with Real Madrid yet managed to get ousted by the indomitable Los Blancos.
The first leg at the Allianz Stadium was virtually one way traffic as Bayern peppered the Real penalty box with cross after cross yet the home side ended up losing 2-1 to the opportunistic Spaniards. The loss of Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng plus the long term injuries to arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Manuel Neuer and Arturo Vidal were hammer blows, but the Germans should still have came away with something at home.
The second leg was captivating. A goal each within the first 15 minutes and a remarkably open football match created a fantastic spectacle for the neutral. Unfortunately for Bayern, they couldn’t find the elusive third goal despite their domination and will not have a chance to replicate their 2013 Champions League triumph in 2018. As for Real, it's on to their third consecutive final and a chance to win their 13th title!
What makes Real Madrid so resilient despite being outplayed on numerous occasions?
The stalwarts of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at the heart of their backline defensively compensate for the ever-attacking Marcelo and relatively weak right-back. Ramoss' experience is evident as he understands how to win fouls and slow the game down at the exact right moments. They key cog in the squad is Casemiro who is the best holding midfielder they’ve had since Claude Makelele of the Galacticos. Tony Kroos and Luca Modric do an amazing job of keeping possession and dictating the pace of the game without being overly fantastic. Finally, when you have players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, you're always going to be a counter-attacking threat. Their sheer ruthlessness is something to be admired as they seem to score with every chance given or earned.
What I admired most about their result yesterday was Ronaldo's leadership. Over the two ties, he didn’t score yet his work ethic was second to none. He’s 33 years of age yet was defending corners and then barrelling up the pitch to be part of the attack. Some may think he’s arrogant; I think the opposite. This is a man possessed by success and that desire rubs off on his teammates. Observing how bad one of the greatest players ever wants to win is contagious and they've all bought in. They want success so bad that it hurts.
The pain is worth it.