Real Madrid are in the semi-final of the Champions League for the seventh year in a row after they defeated Bayern Munich 4-2 at the Bernabéu but that does not begin to tell the story. So much happened, so good was this game, that it is difficult to know how to begin it, in fact. Maybe there is no way; this will be picked over for a long time; it lasted for a long time, too: 120 wonderful minutes, 110 of them tense, exciting, the fate of these old European giants always on edge until, late on, Marcelo ran right the way through and finally ended it.
But even starting at the end, with that run and with Cristiano Ronaldo getting a hat-trick after 109 minutes, with Marco Asensio scoring another soon after, seems inadequate to explain this match. It is not even enough to describe the way that Marcelo made it, although that might just have been the best moment of a special night that ended with a huge, relieved and delighted ovation. For so long this was a gift for football fans – as long as they do not support Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
Beaten in Germany, Bayern momentarily beat their opponents back in Spain to take a dramatic Champions League quarter-final into extra time. They did so with a man fewer, after Arturo Vidal was harshly sent off, and wondering what might have been; it was a question they will ask again, and they will ask about the official too. Madrid must also have wondered what had happened, and how, but at least the European champions emerged to do it all again one day. There had been chances at both ends and there would be more in arena suffering a collective coronary until eventually it was decided. Madrid it was who went through. It had been dramatic and nervous from the start, and hugely enjoyable, too.
Bayern had started brightly. When Madrid won a corner after a quarter of an hour, Marcelo gestured to the fans in the north end of the stadium: their team needed them. It had been one of Madrid’s few advances, relief after a spell in which Bayern dominated the ball, constantly switching sides with long diagonals.
Chances came, lots of them. “Madrid score in every game,” Carlo Ancelotti had conceded, “but they concede in every game too.” At half-time, somehow, it was still 0-0.
They had taken 20 shots between them, although only two on target – both for Madrid. It took barely a minute to add to that, Isco’s effort squirming wide. That was one end; time for the other. Robben passed up a wonderful chance after Alaba pulled it back to him seven yards out. He clipped it over Navas but with not enough power to take it beyond Marcelo on the line. A minute later, Robben cut into the area, going down as he went past Casemiro. At first, Viktor Kassai did not seem to give it but then the Hungarian referee pointed to the spot.
Lewandowski had just returned from injury and did not look fully fit here but he ignored Navas bouncing on the line and scored. Bayern needed another; they probably should have got it immediately. Robben clipped in a lovely ball from the right; running on to it, Vidal stretched out but volleyed over. Madrid were on the ropes but still in the lead. It was a time to hang on and look for the break, Benzema off for Marco Asensio, everyone back except Ronaldo.
Lewandowski was released, all alone, but the linesman’s flag rescued Madrid. He was wrong to raise it. Bayern, too, made changes; first Ribéry went, then Xabi Alonso left to an ovation; Douglas Costa and Thomas Müller came on. But Casemiro floated the ball into the area from the right and Ronaldo headed Madrid level. Bayern had needed a second goal anyway and then, suddenly, they had it too. Müller and Lewandowski combined in the area, the ball squeezing in slowly at the foot of Navas’s right-hand post via Nacho and then Ramos.
Bayern pressed to settle it but Lucas Vázquez – on for Isco – came closest to avoiding extra time, when he found the side-netting. Madrid were fortunate not to be heading there with 10 men when Casemiro escaped a second booking. Instead it was Bayern who, as in the first leg, had a man sent off. With five minutes left Vidal walked shaking his head following a second yellow for a challenge on Asensio that had nothing wrong about it.
Bayern seemed inclined to attack anyway, or at least to protect themselves with possession, but passes were harder to find, team-mates fewer and the path to them more swiftly closed. There was tiredness too, and mistakes more common. Madrid saw that and applied the pressure, while spaces opened before them. The flow of chances did not slow, and more went the way of the home side. Neur saved Ronaldo’s shot, the ball running to Marcelo who thumped it across the face of the goal. Then Casemiro went down, appealing for a penalty. As Madrid protested, Robben led a Bayern break that ended with Costa pulling beyond the far post. He had support but had not seen it.
At the other end, again, Neur made a superb low save from Asensio. There were seconds left in the first half of extra time and Sergio Ramos lifted the ball into Ronaldo, standing alone (and offside) not far from the penalty spot. He controlled on his chest, and perhaps his hand, and struck it beneath Neur. There were still doubts, Nacho forced into a sharp interception as Bayern sought the goal that would put them through but then in the 108th minute Marcelo burst through from the back, past red shirts, leaping over tackles and laying it off for Ronaldo to put Madrid into the semi-final. Bayern were broken and Marco Asensio made it four. – Guardian