Real Madrid’s players proudly strutted around the Allianz Arena as Tuesday grew closer to Wednesday in T-shirts emblazoned with “A por la decima”.
Sergio Ramos had said this week, in an interview with Champions Magazine, per football-espana, that the club are not “obsessed” with winning their 10th European Cup, but that didn’t look especially true as they celebrated with the Madrid fans in their T-shirts.
A couple of first-half headers from Ramos had eased Madrid into a 2-0 lead against Bayern Munich, with a Cristiano Ronaldo brace completing an emphatic victory over the reigning European champions.
But where did it all go so wrong for Bayern and so right for Madrid?
Defending set plays
For all the talk that has followed Madrid’s win in Germany, the nuts and bolts of the narrative come down to Bayern being undone by two set plays in the space of four first-half minutes.
First up was a corner.
The impressive Luka Modric delivered a decent ball into the box, far from un-defendable, and Ramos, an obvious aerial threat, arrived completely unmarked to thump a header past Manuel Neuer in the home side’s goal.
Whether Bayern Munich’s, and ultimately Pep’s, style of play is to be rendered redundant almost becomes secondary in the wake of being unable to defend basic set pieces.
Amazingly the warning was not heeded by the fastest-ever Bundesliga champions and, moments later, Ramos doubled his tally for the night.
This time the delivery was a free-kick from Angel Di Maria, but the result was exactly the same.
Flighted in from the left, the ball ghosted over too many Bayern players to once again find an unmarked Ramos, this time in a more central position, to head past Neuer.
Pace of Madrid on the break
Pre-match, the doubt for Bayern was always keeping a clean sheet when faced with the power and pace of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Once they were 1-0 down, let alone 2-0, they had to attack, which meant allowing far too much space for the world’s most expensive players to gallop into—although it was, of course, a risk the Bavarians had to take at this point.
It was a danger that was going to grow as Bayern grew more attacking, which didn’t take too long.
With over 10 minutes still to play in the opening half, a swift counter-attack from Los Blancos resulted in Cristiano Ronaldo stroking the third home and killing the tie off.
The above photo shows the vast amounts of space Bale, who set up the goal, and Ronaldo had to explode into—Bayern’s defenders had little-to-no chance of keeping up with them.
Madrid had joy in one-on-one situations all evening, using the speed available in their side to complete nine out of their 13 attempted take-ons in various areas of the pitch, as per statistics provided by Squawka.
Lack of penetration
As in the Spanish capital last week, the German champions showed a complete lack of penetration when it came to breaking down Ramos and Co. at the back.
David Moyes’ Manchester United side received criticism for reverting to crosses earlier this season, and Delaney suggested that it was the sign of a side having a “nervous breakdown.”
And you could see it in the match yesterday. After playing through middle so much this season, Liverpool had record number of crosses v CFC— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 28, 2014
This was partly evident with Bayern on Tuesday night.
Guardiola’s side, who struggled to find a way in the style which they, and Barcelona previously, have had plenty of success implementing, eventually ended up pumping 34 crosses into the box against Madrid in the second leg—just five of which were successful.
In terms of creating chances, despite having 19 attempts on goal, Bayern never looked particularly like scoring one, never mind the five they would have required.
The following Squawka graphic reveals that the majority of their shots were taken outside the area, with just four forcing Iker Casillas into making saves and the rest either blocked or comfortably off the target.
Before the inquisition starts on Guardiola’s Bayern reign, credit must be given to the work done by Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu in his first season.
Ronaldo, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan, has said that “[Ancelotti] has changed everything. He has changed the mentality of the players.”
Praise indeed from the Portuguese forward.
Ancelotti has gone about work since day one in Madrid superbly. We talk individuals but he's done the unthinkable - made Real Madrid a team.— David (@davidjaca) April 29, 2014
As for Pep and his German champions, this shouldn’t be viewed as the end of a playing style or anything overly dramatic but must be considered more sensibly.
This has been his first season in charge of a side which conquered all before them last season; replicating that was always going to be a tough task—especially when you consider that no team has ever retained the Champions League.
It’s true that there is plenty to work on, especially, as noted above, in defending and set plays, but you’d have to imagine Pep is the man to improve them further.
The arrival of Robert Lewandowski will add variety and Bayern will remain a force in the Champions League next season.