Champions League Review: Taking Down the Spanish Giants!
This year’s Champions League final will be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. It is an extraordinary stadium seeing that it is new as it was built just prior to the 2006 World Cup. It is also a very vibrant atmosphere as seen in the first semi-final leg. The Allianz Arena is home to Germany’s most prestigious club, Bayern Munich, who are currently in the running for a place in the Champions League final. In case you were not able to see these fixtures, provided here are the reviews of the semi-final first leg matches between Bayern Munich v Real Madrid and Chelsea v Barcelona.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid (Aggregate 2-1)
In front of their home fans, the Germans always come out hard and provide stiff competition for their opponents. This match was no exception indeed. However, it is never an easy game when playing 9-time Champions League winners, Real Madrid.
The fans made it easy enough for Bayern to settle in quickly. However, Los Blancos were well prepared and have the experience not to be intimidated in such high-profile matches. The visitors came close to taking the lead with their first chance of the game going to German born Mesut Ozil who fed Karim Benzema in the box for a fierce effort that was palmed over by Manuel Neuer, the Munich ‘keeper.
A slight hush loomed over the home crowd as the visitors grew in confidence. But, lucky for them, Munich was able to bag the go-ahead goal on 17 minutes as France International Franck Ribery blasted in the opener with a low shot after Madrid failed to clear a corner; 1-0 at half.
Any errors were most likely to be punished as the Spanish giants capitalised on a Munich defensive mistake in the second period which allowed Madrid to get back into the tie. Neuer did well to block a Cristiano Ronaldo shot which fell to Benzema who scuffed his effort across the face of goal. Luckily for Real that it fell to Ronaldo’s feet to put in a low cross for Ozil who was standing in front of goal unmarked for the easiest of tap-ins. 1-1 at the 53rd minute.
At the final stages of the game, Philipp Lahm delivered a splendid low cross for Mario Gomez to slide it into the back of the net. 2-1 Bayern Munich who now have a foot in the final at home.
The second leg will take place at the Bernabeu on Wednesday in Madrid, Spain.
Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (Aggregate 1-0)
The other semi-final first leg fixture took place at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea welcomed current holders Barcelona.
The Blues boast an impressive record against arguably the best side in the world – no losses in the past 6 fixtures. Knowing this absolutely sparked some confidence in the Chelsea players who have turned their season around thanks to Italian head coach, Roberto Di Matteo.
Barcelona did impose their web-like style of play by holding possession and making crisp, short and one-time passes which can open any defence. This time though, they were not able to draw in and fool the Chelsea defenders who are always stubborn at home, keeping even the likes of Lionel Messi quiet this evening. At the Camp Nou though, it will be very tough to repeat the same feat against an upset Blaugrana side.
The Spanish giants were very unfortunate not to come out winners as the Barca players will rue their missed opportunities. In the 9th minute, Andres Iniesta filtered in a beautiful through pass for Alexis Sanchez who lifted the ball and had Blues ‘keeper Petr Cech beaten, only for the ball to slam the crossbar.
Cech continued to make impressive saves on Iniesta and Fabregas twice. At one point, the ex-Arsenal playmaker had the Czech international beaten only for Ashely Cole to clear off the goal line.
Chelsea were on their heels and would have accepted a tie at the interval, but were able to turn the result in their favour on the stroke of half time. Frank Lampard switched the ball to the left for Ramires who spotted an unmarked Didier Drogba for a first-touch effort to go past Barca ‘keeper Victor Valdes for his 3rd goal in five Champions League games.
In the second portion of the match-up, Barcelona managed to stir up more chances only for the English side to clear. Cech was called in to rescue his teammates on several occasions.
The game ended 1-0 for Chelsea who take this slight advantage to the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
The semi-final second leg of the Champions League will be played on Tuesday, April 24 in Spain.