It is interesting how history often repeats itself. On Wednesday night Real Madrid took on Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals and won 1-0, two years after the same match-up. In 2012, it was Bayern who took a slender one-goal lead into their trip to the Bernabeu, although there it was 2-1 and the Spaniards had a crucial away goal.
Bayern's claiming of the best team in Europe tag had not yet happened in 2012 - that was to come the following April and May in a 7-0 aggregate trouncing of the former invincibles. In 2012 Bayern still had one or two creases to iron out, namely to get their hands back on the Champions League trophy that they had last won in 2001. They were beaten finalists in 2010 and were desperate to improve on that.
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Both teams were able to name strong lineups for this crunch semi-final clash, which would be decided one way or another. Mario Gomez led the line for the visitors, with both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the flanks beside him. Jose Mourinho had opted to start with Karim Benzema in attack instead of Gonzalo Higuain, with Cristiano Ronaldo, as ever, operating from the left wing. One thing was for sure: this was going to be a very close contest.
It turned out to be a tale of penalties, because as well as the game ultimately going to a shootout two of the three goals scored on the night in normal time also came from the spot. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's battle to be the best in the world was raging in the background and, while the Argentine had missed in the shootout against Chelsea, the previous night the Portuguese calmly slotted one home after just six minutes after David Alaba had handballed in the box.
The game was fast becoming the Ronaldo show, as just eight minutes later he had scored the goal that looked for all the world as though it would fire the hosts into their first final since 2002. It would also have pitted Mourinho against his old side Chelsea. Ronaldo's second on the night was a superbly finished low strike after he was found in the box by the lively Mesut Ozil.
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Real were flying and the game, though still full of action at both ends, had the sense that if the Spanish side were to score again it would be all over. Robben, Gomez and Luiz Gustavo all came close after Ronaldo's second but they were given the biggest chance of all when Pepe was deemed to have fouled Gomez challenging for a cross and Viktor Kassai pointed to the spot. Robben, like Ronaldo before him, made no mistake from 12 yards.
The spot kick meant that things were dead level at 3-3 on aggregate, which opened up the possibility of penalties, but with only 30 minutes gone there would surely be more goals. Both teams were playing at full speed but Bayern were starting to edge it in their hunt for a goal that would have completely transformed proceedings. Gomez and then Robben tested Iker Casillas in the home goal, but for now Real were holding firm.
Going into the second half and Madrid were dropping ever deeper in their quest to limit the threat of Robben and Ribery. Gomez headed perhaps the best chance of the second half wide but no further goal meant extra time. In the 30 more minutes that were played the chances dropped with both sides tiring, and the game went to penalties.
Suddenly it was Casillas or Manuel Neuer with the chance to be a hero. It certainly wasn't to be Ronaldo, who saw his kick saved, before Neuer kept out Kaka too to allow Bastian Schweinsteiger to stroke home the winning penalty. Bayern had done it in a dramatic contest at the Bernabeu.
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