Real Madrid stormed into the Champions League final after a sensational 4-0 victory in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday gave them a 5-0 aggregate win over holders Bayern Munich.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Bayern were undone by two Sergio Ramos headers from set pieces that left them needing to score four times and effectively ended the tie with just 20 minutes on the clock. Madrid then hit Bayern with the type of devastating counter-attack that Guardiola has likely being losing sleep over ever since the first leg. Karim Benzema found Gareth Bale, who played it onto the final member of the famed BBC front line, Cristiano Ronaldo, to finish simply as opposition defenders trailed in his wake. Adding late insult to painful injury, Ronaldo then added a fourth late on with a clever free-kick.
It was a goal of the sort that Bayern destroyed Barcelona with at the same stage of the Champions League last season. One year on, Bayern were now the victims despite controlling possession throughout the tie. Under Pep Guardiola they have won the Bundesliga at a record early point but they have fallen short in their quest to become the first side to win the Champions League in consecutive seasons. Instead, it is Madrid that head to Lisbon next month looking to complete their own much-coveted piece of history and end a 12 year wait for La Decima.
For that Carlo Ancelotti deserves immense credit. Many managers have tried, including Jose Mourinho who reached three-straight semifinals, but the Italian has become the first in that time to lead the most successful club in the history of the competition back to the final. Of course, having the two most expensive players of all time was always going to give him a major chance. Still Ancelotti found a way to get the best out of his team’s counter-attacking threat and keep Bayern’s relentless passing at bay, without simply parking the bus.
There was an incisiveness and impetus about Madrid’s play for much of the tie that simply wasn’t there with Bayern. Whether it is simply down to their failure to regain their mojo since claiming the league title is hard to say for sure. The weakness in their defense that reared its head the ties against Arsenal and Manchester United proved mightily costly here. Bayern’s attacking approach also needs tweaking, having been rendered impotent by the Ancelotti’s tactics and the excellence of Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso screening Ramos and Pepe.
There will be a temptation by many to start writing off either Guardiola or his tiki-taka philosophy. But such talk would be nonsense. Simply Madrid had performed better over these two legs and will now fancy their chances whether it is their former boss and Chelsea or local rivals Atletico Madrid who await them in the final. In either case the narrative will be full of intrigue. The only negative from the evening for Madrid is that they will have to fight for the trophy without Xabi Alonso, whose first-half booking leaves him cruelly suspended.
Madrid had made one change to the side from the first leg, with Bale, recovered from illness, taking the place of Isco as Ancelotti reverted back to his 4-3-3 formation. Although more attacking in personnel, it was still a side that worked diligently without the ball, with Bale tracking back far more than usual. While Ronaldo on the other flank didn’t do likewise, Angel di Maria was tireless behind him, particularly in curbing the attacking instincts of Philipp Lahm, who had been restored to right-back.
Modric was equally superb. Able to create with his passing and dribbling, he has developed into a hugely reliable figure without the ball this season. It was his quality delivery, though, that brought the opening goal after just 16 minutes. From his out-swinging corner, Ramos was allowed a free run at the ball at the back post and headed emphatically past Manuel Neuer.
Before that point, Bayern had started with intent, with Thomas Muller behind Mario Mandzukic offering a more direct threat and Toni Kroos looking to pull the strings alongside Bastian Schwesinsteiger in midfield. Once the dreaded away goal had been conceded and Bayern needed three they instantly became flustered and agitated. And four minutes later their task went from mighty difficult to highly improbable. This time it was Di Maria who provided a expert delivery. The Argentine’s in-swinging free-kick was flicked on by Pepe and Ramos got ahead of Mandzukic to get his second goal of the game.
Franck Ribery threatened with a quick turn and shot across the face of goal, but, as in the first leg, the player voted the third best in the world again failed to aid his team’s attacking endeavors. Bayern’s struggles were in sharp contrast to their opponents. While they have become a team far more comfortable in possession under Ancelotti, their personnel means they remain phenomenally dangerous with wide open space in front of them.
In the 20th minute they gave the perfect example of just that to finish off the defending champions. Di Maria started the break by finding Benzema, who easily held off Dante and played it onto Bale. The most expensive signing in history easily outpaced Jerome Boateng and might have gone for goal himself, but unselfishly played laid the ball off for a better-placed Ronaldo to shoot low past Neuer. It was a goal remarkably similar to the one scored by Ronaldo to put Manchester United 3-0 up against Arsenal in the second leg of the 2009 Champions League final. His strike in Munich meant that for the first time since then, the Ballon d’Or winner is now heading back to the biggest game in club soccer.
From then on whatever happened was academic. Like Bale early on, Ronaldo had a chance to lob Neuer from distance after the Bayern goalkeeper raced from his goal but missed the target. The second half was a non-event, played in a strange atmosphere of almost silence in a massive arena that was rocking just an hour earlier.
Ronaldo, whose early goal made him the top scorer ever in a single Champions League season, was not done, however. In the 89th minute, he cleverly fired a free-kick under the Bayern wall to add a final flourish to Madrid’s victory and deliver Guardiola his heaviest defeat as a coach and Bayern's biggest ever at home in Europe.