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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid *2 - 2 Bayern Munich

Real Madrid’s disappointing match at the Bernabeu masked by brilliant, last second defensive stops, and a gift from Ulreich. Zidane’s men march on to the final of the UEFA Champions League.

Real Madrid v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Real Madrid draw Bayern Munich 2 - 2 (Benzema x 2; Kimmich, James), but advanced to the Champions League final. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Real Madrid were pinned, outplayed, suffocated, and gifted. Watching tonight’s second leg was almost like watching an extension of the first leg. Zidane’s men struggled finding outlets from the back against Heyncke’s tremendous press (and overall defensive shape). Real Madrid conceded waves of chances that Bayern didn’t capitalize (enough) on, and along the way, the Germans gave Real Madrid a gift from a shocking defensive lapse.

Tonight’s reaction was emotionally draining to write, so we’re going to just jump to to bullet points:

  • You’d think a midfield trio of Kovacic, Kroos, and Modric would be able to control the match. Nope. Let’s list off the problems: this was essentially the diamond, with Kovacic in place of Casemiro, and Asensio over Isco. You live and die with the defensive dominoes of a free role. When Real Madrid conceded Bayern’s first goal, Asensio was walking as a passenger around the top of the box — with plenty of time to make the decision to track Joshua Kimmich. Furthermore, neither Kovacic nor Kroos were in a position to plug vertical gaps, which gave Bayern a ton of space to work with. James, in particular, was not closed down at all — neither were his passing lanes. Another important wrinkle: Modric, tasked with helping Lucas Vazquez (who was playing as a makeshift right-back), had a ton of defensive duties. Both he and Lucas were pinned for large stretches of the match against Ribery and Alaba. Which is a shame, because Real Madrid’s couldn’t punish Alaba being so high up the pitch, apart from the odd Ronaldo run in-behind.
  • At half, I thought a Bale sub would help the right flank quite a bit. He could help defensively against Bayern’s flank, but also have the pace to join the attack and punish them while relieving Modric. Bale eventually came on and played on the left while Asensio shifted to the right. Still the problems on that flank were manifest (this was one of the worst defensive shifts from Asensio I can remember); but it was finally rectified when Nacho came on and Lucas pushed up higher up the pitch, giving Modric more central duties to plug holes alongside Casemiro.
  • Another leg, another gift from Bayern — this time from Ulreich. A shocking mistake by him which Benz pounced on. He’s not going to sleep well tonight.
  • Sergio Ramos was outstanding tonight. The team left him for dead on multiple occassions, and he just stepped in with an important intervention. Another magical European night from him. He could’ve done better on Bayern’s first goal, but the team shouldn’t have put him in that position in the first place. Have to give daps to Varane too here. Combined, the two of them had 24 clearances.
  • Shoutout to Cristiano Ronaldo despite not getting on the scoresheet. His work rate was exemplary, and he even dropped deep to dispossess Bayern’s players and start counters a few times. He never stopped pushing the team forward. That’s what you want from your leader.
  • Karim Benzema was just great. Big Benz rolling in here like....
  • Keylor was fantastic.
  • Most of this week’s column will be about how badly Real Madrid defended vertically. They just didn’t have an answer for Bayern’s penetrating runs and passing out of the back. They were able to slice Real Madrid with just a couple passes, and Zidane watched on as Ramos, Varane, and Keylor had big defensive moments.
  • Another Champions League final. What a time to be alive. Still processing this. Let’s get it fam.

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