Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich: 9 Lessons We Learned
Bayern Munich's penalty shootout win in the semifinals of the Champions League is not a result many expected.
Even fewer would have considered that the German giants would have been scheduled to face Chelsea on their home ground rather than defending champions Barcelona.
However, both of the Spanish titans that are widely considered to be the two best sides in Europe were both humbled.
Here are nine conclusions from the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Record at High-Pressure Penalties Is Patchy
He may be the second-best player in the world, but Ronaldo has a surprisingly poor record from the penalty spot in Europe's top club competition.
The Portuguese superstar had his penalty saved in the shootout at the Alllianz Arena. Before that, he had a spot-kick saved against Barcelona in the 2007-08 semifinal before also seeing one parried in the final of that year against Chelsea.
No one is doubting the scoring prowess of a player who took his tally up to 54 this season against Bayern, but his record from the spot when it really matters is an issue worth highlighting.
German Teams Are Good at Penalties
Former England striker Gary Lineker once famously said: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."
The quote was borne out of his heartache at losing a shootout to West Germany at the 1990 World Cup, but it rings true.
The German national team has not lost a shootout since 1976—in fact, they have only had two spot-kicks saved in the last 36 years—while Bayern's win over Real means they have won all four shootouts they have contested in European competition.
Manuel Neuer Can Be a Club Legend
When Bayern signed the Germany No. 1 from Schalke last summer, the young goalkeeper became a pariah. Not only did fans of his boyhood club brand him a traitor for jumping ship, but a vocal section of the Bayern supporters also made it clear they did not want him in their squad.
The 26-year-old was also a shootout hero in the semifinals of the German Cup, in which he made two saves from 12 yards that saw Bayern beat Borussia Moenchengladbach to reach the final.
The anti-Neuer banners and chants that were seen and heard early in the season have all but disappeared now.
The Form Book Isn't Always Right
This week's thrilling events mean that we have the Champions League final that very few expected. Many would have predicted that Bayern could beat Real, while others might have given Chelsea a chance against Barcelona, but for both to go through was a prospect hardly anyone would have bet the farm on.
Real and Barca were undoubtedly the two best teams in the tournament, scoring the joint-most goals in the competition (35, 10 more than Bayern and 11 more than Chelsea) as they lay waste to all before them.
But the respective semifinal defeats of the two Spanish clubs just goes to show that all teams are vulnerable. Losing to Bayern and Chelsea do not exactly represent historic upsets, but those results show that the form book does always count on the pitch.
Jose Mourinho Doesn't Like Semifinals
Jose Mourinho may be one of the world's top managers, with a record from over the last decade that most mangers will not be able to boast from their entire careers, but he is also not infallible.
The Portuguese coach has won the Champions League twice with two different clubs, but on no fewer than four occasions he has been on the losing side in semifinals in the competition.
His Chelsea team lost to Liverpool in 2005 courtesy of Luis Garcia's "ghost goal," and again in 2007 on penalties. Last season, his first at Real, saw his side eliminated by Barcelona after his team lost the first leg 2-0 at home and could only salvage a 1-1 draw in Catalonia.
There are very few blotches on Mourinho's copybook, but his record in the last four of the Champions League is one of them.
David Alaba Is a Star in the Making
Bayern's versatile left-sider has enjoyed an incredible breakout season for the German giants. The 19-year-old has become a mainstay in the team, making 38 appearances in the Bundesliga and Europe this term.
The Austrian youngster could have been forgiven for going into his shell after he was harshly judged to have handled in the area, with Cristiano Ronaldo converting the spot-kick to hand the advantage to Real on away goals.
However, he showed maturity beyond his years by stepping up to take the first penalty of the shootout, which he scored clinically with a cool low finish inside the right-hand post. Win or lose in the final on his home ground, Alaba is set for a bright future.
Pepe Remains a Liability
The Brazil-born Portugal international has long been a controversial figure, a high-quality defensive player who is prone to major errors of judgement and violent outbursts.
The 29-year-old should have known better than to give Arjen Robben—a former teammate of his at Real—the opportunity to go down so easily in the area and win a soft penalty, which the Dutchman scored to level the tie at 3-3.
Coupled with his aggressive performance against Barcelona last season—in which he received a red card for a foul which in isolation was harsh but was fully warranted for his consistent dirty play—Pepe has now made costly mistakes in two successive Champions League semis.
Mario Gomez Still Gives Fodder for His Doubters
It may have taken four years, but this season the Bayern Munich striker appears to have finally convinced many of his detractors that he is a top-class goal scorer.
Gomez gained a poor reputation when he wasted plenty of clear chances for the Germany during the early stages of Euro 2008, and he was eventually dropped from the team.
Despite being named German Footballer of the Year for his title-winning exploits at Stuttgart, he was branded a joke by fans across Europe who only saw him for the first time at the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
This season he has not only scored 25 goals in the Bundesliga—and is close to beating last term's tally of 28—but also netted 12 Champions League goals, including four in one match against Basel.
However, in the second leg against Real, Gomez missed several gilt-edged chances that will continue to fuel the doubts some still hold over his true quality. Mind you, winning the Champions League and the European Championship for club and country this summer would be a good way to silence them.
Chelsea Will Need a Different Game Plan for the Final
Chelsea may have doggedly ground their way to a place in the final—which they fully deserve—with their uber-defensive tactics against Barcelona, but they will have to come up with a different way of beating Bayern.
One of the conclusions that can be drawn from that semi is that Barcelona have an incredibly effective Plan A, but when that is stifled they struggle to find a different way of playing.
Bayern are a far more adaptable side, able to keep the ball and frustrate their opponents but also well suited to playing direct with their pace on the wings and height in the centre.
Add to that the fact that Bayern will be playing the final on their home turf, and Chelsea have yet another tough challenge in front of them on May 19.