Real Madrid battled Bayern Munich to a 2-1 win at the Allianz on Wednesday, in a Champions League quarterfinal tie befitting of two giants of the sport. It was a match that really could have gone either way, with both team's stars putting their signature on the match.
Here at 8 takeaways from the tie:
Manuel Neuer sure looks healthy
Bayern's goalkeeper was a bit of a question mark entering the match with a foot injury, but the 31-year-old would probably have to be in a bodybag to miss this match. Luckily for the Bavarians, their net-minder was ready for action against Real Madrid. He made a number of big saves, but two really stood out. The first was a fingertip save against Karim Benzema in the first half to push the ball off of the post. For the second, he stood big to deny Ronaldo on a close-range blast in the second half, sticking out a strong arm to deny the Real Madrid star. If not for his heroics, Bayern might be looking at a considerable loss.
All Cristiano Ronaldo needs is an inch
The first half belonged to Bayern, but Real Madrid responded in kind in the second stanza. Of course, it was Ronaldo who put the Merengues on the board first. Mired in a long slump without scoring a goal, Ronaldo finally snapped his skid with a fantastic move in the box. He timed his run perfectly as Dani Carvajal fired in a cross that the Portuguese slotted past Neuer on the volley. That goal ended a 659-minute run without a goal in the competition, his longest drought ever, per WhoScored.com. He scooped his second to really put that drought out of mind in the 76th minute.
Real Madrid smelled blood in the water
Los Blancos made it a point to pick on Javi Martinez for much of the match, and their persistence paid off when Martinez was sent off with two yellow cards. After that, Real Madrid fully mounted their assault. Bayern did their best with 10 men, but the onslaught they were facing would make Attila the Hun's raids look like a welcoming party. Real Madrid continued to pepper attempts at the Bavarians and weren't content to just sit back once they had the lead. They wanted more and quite nearly got it.
Arturo Vidal's opener was bound to happen
For the first quarter of an hour, Real Madrid were content to head or block a number of Bayern Munich's numerous attacks out for corner kicks. Eventually, that kind of pattern was bound to catch up to them. Corner kicks aren't always extremely dangerous positions, but they're not comfortable ones. When Vidal rose up to head home the opener on Bayern's sixth corner kick in the 25th minute, it wasn't a huge shock when it went in. Mistakes happen in the box, and giving a team as talented as Bayern chance after chance to whip in crosses was never going to be tenable.
Speaking of Vidal ...
The Chilean was all over the pitch on Wednesday. He scored the aforementioned opener, but he did a whole lot more than that. Bayern won the midfield battle in the first half and Vidal was the biggest reason why. He put in tackles when needed and closed down space quickly, then would pivot into the attack with fury. It was as if there were two of him on the pitch. Now, if only one of those Vidals could hit a penalty ...
Ball don't lie!
Referee Nicola Rizzoli was let off the hook late in the first half after blowing for a mistaken penalty. Franck Ribery did the hard work in Real Madrid's box when his right-footed effort caromed off of Dani Carvajal. It hit the defender high, yes, but it clearly hit his chest and not his arm or hand. The soccer gods were just in this case, though, as Vidal's penalty attempt went sky high and Real weren't punished (aside from Carvajal's yellow).
Bayern missed Robert Lewandowski
It goes without saying, but the Bavarians sorely missed their superstar striker. Out with a shoulder injury, Lewandowski could have helped hold up play for Bayern ... especially when they went a man down. Thomas Muller deputized but looked short on confidence and even more short on finished product. It doesn't appear that Lewandowski's injury will keep him out of the second leg, though. That is undoubtedly good news for Bayern.
It's an unfamiliar feeling for Bayern ... kind of
The Bavarians don't lose at home in the Champions League. They just don't. In fact, they'd won 16 straight at the Allianz coming into Wednesday's tie. The last team to beat them on their home turf? Real Madrid, back in the 2014 semifinals. So, it's unfamiliar and familiar all the same time for Bayern Munich!