Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal went according to plan for Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.
After the match, he admitted that his side had a few problems in the early stages but eventually found their footing, per Spanish football journalist Dermot Corrigan:
Ancelotti: “The game was more or less as I expected."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 23, 2014
Ancelotti: "The first 15-20 mins were difficult, we were a bit timid, but after the team played much better, above all in second half."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 23, 2014
Ancelotti has to be even happier with the win given that it came despite a rather poor performance from Cristiano Ronaldo. The reigning Ballon d'Or winner missed a sure goal in the 26th minute that would've given his side a 2-0 lead.
It was revealed after the match that Ronaldo was still carrying a bit of a knock. His inclusion in the lineup had been a question mark over the last few days, per Sid Lowe of The Guardian. Gareth Bale also had the flu but came on in the 74th minute.
Ancelotti credited Angel Di Maria and Isco for their ability to cover for Madrid's stricken wingers:
Ancelotti asked if team solider w/o one of Bale & Ronaldo "The important thing is sacrifice, Di Maria & Isco do that, which helps the team."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 23, 2014
He added that Bale and Ronaldo should be fit for next week's second leg, per the club's Twitter account:
Karim Benzema's goal in the 19th was the difference between the two clubs. It came off a beautiful counter from Madrid, capped off by Fabio Coentrao's inch-perfect cross that left Benzema with a rather easy tap-in.
The story of the match as a whole was Bayern controlling possession but failing to create any scoring chances. Until about the last 10 minutes of the match, their attack was underwhelming and toothless.
According to WhoScored.com, Bayern Munich had 72 percent of possession but just four shots on target, compared to 18 and five, respectively, for Real Madrid.
Mario Goetze had a golden chance to level the match in the 84th minute, but his shot was within arm's reach of a grateful Iker Casillas.
Ancelotti clearly sent his team out with the directive of absorbing Bayern's pressure and countering quickly, which isn't a bad game plan when you have one of the best counter-attacking teams in the world.
Bayern manager Pep Guardiola praised Madrid's ability to hit quickly on the break, per AS:
Pep: "Madrid are the best counter-attacking team in the world".— AS English (@English_AS) April 23, 2014
Pep: "The thing about getting up there fast is that they can come back at you just as fast".— AS English (@English_AS) April 23, 2014
There was a bit of a contentious moment in the 92nd minute. Thomas Muller went down in the 18-yard box after a challenge from Xabi Alonso. The German midfielder wanted a penalty, but the replays showed what looked to be a clean play from Alonso.
Guardiola agreed with referee Howard Webb's decision after viewing the play on German television, per Alex Stone:
Pep Guardiola just shown penalty decision involving Müller & Coentrao on German TV. "Looks like contact. No, no. That wasn't a penalty."— Alex Stone (@AlexStone7) April 23, 2014
Some might argue that Guardiola got his tactics wrong, failing to prepare for Madrid's attack. He said after the match that he wanted his players to play on the ball, thus leading to such a large possession gap, per The Guardian's Daniel Taylor:
Guardiola explaining his tactics on asking his players to be "real footballers, to take the ball and play, play again."— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 23, 2014
Despite the defeat, the Bayern manager remains confident that his club will turn the tie around at the Allianz Arena, per the Champions League:
He knows that the critical final ball that was missing on Wednesday night will have to be there in the second leg:
Pep press conf: "We played with great personality, we had a lot of possession, but we have to improve our final, diagonal pass."— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 23, 2014
The two clubs will meet next Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see how the managers will approach the fixture. Guardiola knows his club will need to be much more lethal in the final third. On the other side, Ancelotti got his tactics spot on on Wednesday night, but ceding that much possession to Bayern at home may be suicidal. Some sort of change may be warranted.
In seven matches against Bayern Munich as a manager, Ancelotti has never lost—winning five and drawing two. He'll be hoping to avoid defeat No. 1 in Bavaria.