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Champions League: Bayern Munich Advance To Final, Bounce Real Madrid In Shootout
Following the lead set by Chelsea in Tuesday's Champions League shocker, Bayern Munich pulled off upset number two in this year's semi finals. The German side waltzed into the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and promptly dismissed the favoured Real Madrid in thrilling shootout victory.
Edmonton - April 26, 2012 - Following the lead set by Chelsea in Tuesday's Champions League shocker, Bayern Munich pulled off upset number two in this year's semi finals. The German side waltzed into the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and promptly dismissed the favoured Real Madrid in thrilling shootout victory. Despite falling behind two goals in the opening fifteen minutes, Bayern found a way to score the all important away goal, leaving the two sides level with a three goal aggregate each. With both Barcelona and Real Madrid being knocked out from the competition, the "All Spanish" dream final will have to wait for another year.
With all due respect to a Chelsea side that masterfully defended Barcelona into the ground twenty-four hours earlier, the opening half of soccer in Madrid was a treat for all fans of the beautiful game. The two sides came out flying out of the gates and while Munich was the better team, it would be Los Blancos that would open the scoring. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first of the night from the penalty spot, after Bayern defender David Alaba was rather harshly assessed a yellow card, for inadvertently knocking down Angel Di Maria's strike with his arm. The call seemed to be a little much but Madrid took full advantage to go up 1-0, just six minutes in.
To the visitors credit, their early misfortune did not deter them in the least, as both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery had glorious opportunities moments after the Madrid penalty but neither were able to find the mark to bring Bayern back on level terms. Ronaldo would once again make them pay for their poor finish, as the Portuguese star would collect his brace after only fourteen minutes of play, sending the Madrid faithful into a frenzy and his into an on field celebration with their star player.
Much like last night's game at the Camp Nuo, the home sides two quick strikes seem to put an end to all the drama but just as Chelsea did to Barcelona, Bayern Munich would find that all important away goal. It allowed them to not only get back into the match but it draw them even with their Spanish opponents on the two game aggregate. Leading scorer Mario Gomez, was brought down in the penalty area by Portuguese defender Pepe at the twenty-six minute mark and justly gave Bayern their shot from the penalty spot. Despite a wonderful effort from goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Robben's penalty kick deflected off the Madrid captain's outstretched hand and into the side netting. The goal made it 2-1 for Real Madrid on the evening but leveled things at three a piece on aggregate.
Bayern would be given a glorious chance to take the lead at the stroke of half time but Casillas manged to keep the silky smooth Dutchman from matching Ronaldo's brace, with a brilliant diving stop on his spot kick from the edge of the penalty area. Madrid had the lead at the half but it was the German side that was dictating the pace and were frankly unfortunate to not be, at the very least, on level terms heading into the half.
Both sides kept a clean sheet in the second half which meant they were off to thirty minutes of extra time and a possible shootout to determine who would face Chelsea, in this year's final. Not surprisingly, the extra session generated very little and could not provide us with a winner. It was time for penalty kicks and undeniable joy and suffering that is always attached to games, that are determined from the penalty spot.
Munich defender David Alaba was up first and would make up for his early blunder, outguessing the Madrid keeper to put the visitors on the board first. That was immediately followed by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's tremendous diving stop off Ronaldo, putting the Spaniards behind the eight ball off the get-go. Gomez would follow to make it 2-0 and then Neuer would duplicate his stop on Ronaldo, by denying Kaka with an almost identical save. With the match in his hands, the Real captain made wonderful one handed diving save off Toni Kroos to give Madrid hope.
Xabi Alonso would be next and he finally put the home side on the board and Casillas would make things very interesting, stopping his second in a row, thanks to a dreadful attempt from defender Philipp Lahm. Seemingly out of nowhere, Madrid had the opportunity to even the shootout at two but Sergio Ramoes, inexplicably, sent his attempt sailing over the crossbar. With that miss, a spot in the finals was on the boot of one of Germany's premier young players, Bastian Schweinsteiger. The twenty-seven year old made no mistake, confidentially sending his strike in the opposite direction of the helpless Madrid keeper and his side into the Champions League final.
With the win, Bayern Munich becomes the first club to host the Champions League final on their home pitch. This year's final will take place on Saturday, May19th at the Allainz Arena in Munich and will feature one of two firsts. Either Bayern Munich will become the first team to ever hoist the Champions League trophy on their home turf or Chelsea will bring home the storied English club's first ever European Championship.
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