After a dull first leg which produced only one goal in the two matches, the second leg really lit up as goals flooded in and really looked like they were not going to stop.
Real Madrid pummelled Champions, Bayern Munchen 4-0 at the Allianz Arena while Atletico Madrid saw off the feeble challenge of Mourinho Chelsea’s side 3-1 to earn their deserved place in a European Cup Final, the first since 1974.
The results left pundits, fans and onlookers speechless, made some open their mouth agape and for others (including myself), heart beat just returned to normal.
Despite the semi-final results been lopsided, it was filled with drama, long-lasting memories and of course, talking points.
MADRID 2 V REST OF EUROPE 0
Atletico Madrid’s deserved win at Stamford Bridge coupled with the Blancos annihilation of the Die Roten at the Allianz Arena means that on the 24th of May, the Spanish Capital would decamp to Lisbon to witness the mother of all finals; The Madrid Derby popularly known as the El Derbi Madrileno.
The thought of Diego Costa going against Sergio Ramos or Cristiano Ronaldo running at Juanfran is one no one would want to miss. We’ll also witness two great tacticians in serial winner Carlo Ancelotti battling it out against another winner of this competition, Diego Simeone right on the TOUCHLINE.
This is this first time since 2000 when Real Madrid and Valencia squared off at Stade de France that there will be a Spanish Final but more importantly, the first time in the Competition’s 59 year history that we’ll have two teams from the same city contest for the European Cup.
Real Madrid would be making their 13th appearance in a European Cup Final(won 9 of the previous 12) but this is also their first since 2002.They’ll be looking to win it for a tenth record time, the La Decima.
On the other hand, for Atletico, this is the first time they’ll contest in a European Cup Final since 1974 where they lost on replay to Bayern Munchen in heartbreaking circumstances. They’ll be looking for their first European Cup glory.
For the record, these two teams have met 154 times on previous occasions. Real Madrid has won 85, drawn 33 and lost 36 to the Los Rojiblancos. Real have scored 275 goals and conceded 204 to the Los Colchoneros.
These teams have however previously met just once in Europe. That was in the semi final of the 1958-59 season. Atletico had qualified as La Liga runners-up(Spanish Champions) while Real qualified as European Champions. It finished 2-2 on aggregate with the Merengues winning the playoff in Zaragoza.Real,would go on to win the Competition. However, if the away goal rule had applied at that time, it would have Atleti and not the Blancos that would have contested that European Cup Final.
24th of May is the day! It is going to be a “friendly battle”
Real Madrid’s trashing of Bayern Munchen means we are still waiting for our first back-to-back winner since the European Cup was renamed the UEFA Champions League in 1992.
The last team to retain the European Crown is AC Milan (1989/90) and the teams who have come closest to retaining it are Juventus (Won it in 1996, lost the 1997 Final to Borussia Dortmund) and Manchester United (Won the 2008 Final against Chelsea but lost the 2009 Final to Barcelona in Rome)
Bayern Munich was bookmaker’s favorites at the start of the UCL campaign but with their elimination, it has led to doubts as to whether we’ll see a team retain the coveted crown.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH BAYERN!
This was supposed to be the Year where Bayern Munich would start their domination in Europe after conquering Germany. Guardiola replaced Juup and it was expected that it would be the start of a long domination on the Continent. They were made clear favorites to win the European Cup by pundits and football fans who pointed out to Barca’s decline, Real’s defensive susceptibility, PSG’s relative inexperience at this stage and also the fact that the Italian and the English teams were not on the same wavelength as the Bavarian Giants.
They breezed through the group, suffering just one defeat, a dead rubber one against Manchester City.In the second round, they saw off the rather feeble challenge of Arsenal and the Bavarian fans started dreaming of a back-to-back treble. However since their Budesliga triumph in March, they collapsed rather spectacularly. The question is what went wrong?
Tiki Taka introduced by Pep has no doubt made their play slow, boring and predictable. The Bayern of last season is now distant memory.
They’ve lacked the intensity with which they had played with last season. Also the fact that they push up their full backs that play narrow means that they play into the hands of counter-attacking teams. Real exposed it over the two legs not once but twice as they sat back, tight and compact but countered with great pace whenever they had the ball.
Complacency or lack of competition in the German League also played its role. Winning the Bundesliga early unfortunately led to them taking their foot off the gas and it came back to haunt them in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League. While they survived United’s test, they couldn’t keep up with Real’s intensity. They’ll look at this season as opportunity missed.
CHELSEA PAY THE PRICE FOR LOANING COURTOIS
Chelsea had hoped to reap 5 million pounds fee for their on-loan goalkeeper to be allowed to play against them in the semi-final but that was vetoed by UEFA.
The tall Belgian was a spectator in the First Leg but it was in the Second, he came back to haunt his Parent Club. He produced three great saves to keep Chelsea at bay. He got down low and pushed away John Terry’s header. That turned out to a key one as minutes later, Atletico won a penalty and Diego Costa duly converted. He also finger-tipped David Luiz’s effort onto the woodwork and later kept out Hazard’s low effort with his outstretched leg. The Blues feared that the 21 year old would play a vital part in this tie and he didn’t disappoint.
RIBERY NOT ON THE SAME LEVEL AS RONALDO AND MESSI
When Ronaldo won the World’s Best Player in January, there were few grumbles from persons who felt Frank Ribery would have been a more deserving winner considering the exploits of his club, Bayern Munchen and his own key contribution.
Fast-Forward, and about four months later, it is safe to say that Ribery is not in anyway on the same level of Portuguese Superstar, Cristiano and Barcelona Legend, Messi.
While many believed that he was the best of the bunch last year, that fact however no longer holds water as that title belongs to his “rival”, Arjen Robben who has stepped up since his teammate’s form nosedived.
He’s been pretty much abysmal in 2014 and Ronaldo who had lesser time on the pitch over the two legs was more effective than the Frenchman. Guardiola’s plea, the day before the game to see an angry Ribery fell on deaf ears.
SHOULD ABRAMOVICH AND MOURINHO HAVE A RETHINK ABOUT DIEGO COSTA?
Despite Atletico advancing to the Final, the goal machine everyone talked about went missing. Diego Costa was absent for large parts of the tie and his only note of contribution was the penalty he won and converted.
If this was an audition for his potential future employers then it wasn’t impressive. Chelsea would still most likely go ahead to buy the Big Man and should that happen, he’ll need to give more memorable performances in order to set the Premier League alight.
DIEGO SIMEONE AND ATLETICO MADRID: THE NEW DARLING OF EUROPE
What a transformation we are witnessing at Vicente Calderon! That is very much down to a certain man called Diego Simeone, whom the English won’t forget in a hurry for his role in the sending off of David Beckham at the 1998 World Cup. It was in December, 2011 that the Argentine replaced Gregorio Manzano after a series of poor results in La Liga left them languishing in 10th place. He has since transformed his side to a machine that is very hard to break down. Under his reign, they beat Bibao 3-0 in the Europa League Final in 2012, destroyed Chelsea 4-1 in the European Super Cup Final and beat Real Madrid 1-0 in a heated Copa Del Rey Final in 2013.
What he has however achieved this season is what even a die-hard Rojiblanco would not have dreamt of. His Atleti side is two victories away from a first La Liga Crown since 1996 and even more impressively, a first European Cup Final since 1974.Simeone has taken the Club into territory uncharted for decades.
This achievement is even made more impressive considering the fact that he’s has to compete with moneybags like Real Madrid and Barcelona in the League and even against the likes of Chelsea in Europe. He’s also had to battle tight budget and club debts.
What he’s however done, unlike some (Moyes comes to mind) is to build an army in his own image that is very hard to break down. Courtois in goal is easily the best young goalkeeper; Godin and Miranda are no-nonsense defenders with impeccable sense of positioning. Juanfran and Felipe provide the width. In midfield, the likes of Koke, Gabi, Tiago, Mario Suarez and Arda Turan are not only creative but also ball destroyers and hard workers.
While upfront, Diego Costa with 36 goals is one of the World’s most in-form Strikers, David Villa brings in the experience and Adrian, when he gets to play gives a beast-like performance. A team of no Clear Superstar!
It’s not surprising that Manchester United have been credited with interest in the Argentine. He is the most in-demand Coach in Europe.
They will start the Final as marginal underdogs but the Whites of Madrid should be wary of an Atletico side that beat them in last May’s Cop Del Rey Final and have taken four points off their rivals in their two league meetings this season. If there’s anyone capable of masterminding a first European Triumph for the Rojiblancos, it could very well be the Argentine.
They might not be as attractive as the Dortmund team of last year but there’s no doubt that they go about their job in a ruthless manner.
Real Madrid take heed!
The 29 year old scored for the 15th and 16th time in Europe as Real whitewashed Bayern 4-0 to reach the Champions League Final.
It means he now has 16 goals in 10 matches this season, eclipsing the previous record of 14 in a season jointly held by Messi (2011-12, Barcelona), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2002-03, Manchester United) and Jose Altafini(1962-63, AC Milan)
The ex-Manchester United forward has now scored 67 goals in his Champions League career, the same as Lionel Messi and four shy of Madrid Legend, Raul.
The brace against Bayern brought him to 49 goals for the season and his 250th in a Madrid Jersey.
His second, a free kick played under the Bayern wall has semblance with Ronaldinho’s special against Werder Bremen in the 2006/07 season.
It’s worthy of note that the Final would be played in his Country, Portugal.
XABI ALONSO ONLY HAS HIMSELF TO BLAME!
The rules are very clear
Xabi Alonso knew coming into this match that if he was booked he would miss the final.
With his team 3-0 up, he made the rash decision to foul Bastian Schweinsteiger. The foul was useful in that it broke up Bayern’s attack, but given the circumstances, Alonso shouldn’t have made it.
Sergio Ramos was, surprisingly, more intelligent and avoided confrontation until he was substituted for Raphael Varane.
What’s your take on the Semi Final?