Madrid - FC Bayern München remain in contention to reach a fourth UEFA Champions League final in five years, but are up against it after suffering a 1-0 defeat away to Real Madrid CF in their semi-final first leg.

After a sure start in the Santiago Bernabeu, die Münchner fell behind when Karim Benzema put the finishing touches on a quick breakaway. Bayern controlled much of the play, but created few goalscoring opportunities and will not have the comfort of an away goal ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg.

Bavarians caught cold


The Reds were greeted by a cauldron of noise when they emerged from the tunnel, but within the first ten minutes had succeeded in subduing the hostile crowd, enjoying close to 80 per cent possession in the first 13 minutes. Yet despite completely dominating the opening stages, they had very little to show for their greater share of the ball.

On the contrary, Real barely strung more than a few passes together, yet their attacking incision had Guardiola’s men reeling, with the game echoing the 2011/12 semi-final second leg, when Bayern fell 2-0 down inside the opening 15 minutes. After Pepe produced an excellent block to clear a Toni Kroos volley, the hosts countered in devastating fashion and Fabio Coentrao was able to cross for Benzema to tap in a simple opener after 19 minutes. The story of the half thereafter was one of missed opportunities for the hosts that could yet come back to bite them.

Real profligate


Cristiano Ronaldo directed a firm header into the arms of Neuer just seconds after the opener, before Angel di Maria wasted a promising three-on-three situation with a tame shot straight at Germany’s No. 1. Bayern’s assuredness in possession had temporarily deserted them and their tactic of defending in the opponent’s half looked suicidal, as Ronaldo and di Maria both spurned glorious chances to extend the lead by slicing wildly off target.

The second half began in much the same vein, with Ronaldo forcing Neuer into an agile save with an angled effort, before the defending champions re-established something of a foothold with another spell of possession. Yet again, however, their constant recycling of the ball proved fruitless, with only Robben testing Casillas with a weak shot after a rare Reds’ breakaway.

Müller goes close


Guardiola, growing visibly frustrated on the sideline, attempted to inject some impetus into his team's performance by throwing on Mario Götze and Thomas Müller, but still there was no urgency to their passing and Casillas remained a spectator, until the final 10 minutes. Müller’s drive was deflected agonisingly wide with the keeper stranded, before Götze’s instinctive volley drew a smart stop from the home custodian.

In the dying minutes, cross after cross was launched in the direction of Mario Mandzukic with Bayern searching desperately for that all-important away goal. Müller almost provided it after swivelling from the Croatian’s knockdown, but he failed to connect properly and Real managed to scramble clear, with the final whistle coming soon afterwards. The reigning champions remain well in the tie, but will need a more purposeful display in the second game if they are to remain on course to become the first team to defend the Champions League trophy.

Bernie Reeves

Line-ups:

Real Madrid: Casillas – Carvajal, Pepe (Varane, 73’), Ramos, Coentrao – Alonso, Modric, Isco (Illarramendi, 82’) – Di Maria, Ronaldo (Bale, 73’), Benzema

Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha (Martinez, 66‘), Boateng, Dante, Alaba – Lahm, Schweinsteiger (Müller, 74‘) – Ribery (Götze, 72‘), Kroos, Robben – Mandzukic

Goals: 1-0 Benzema (19‘)