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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Bayern and Real enter second leg level

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A scintillating first leg of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) semi-final between heavyweights Bayern Munich and Real Madrid ended 2-2, as a late Vinícius Júnior penalty ensured that Los Blancos marked the 25th H2H in the knockout rounds of Europe’s supreme club competition with their eight consecutive meeting unbeaten.

Two of Europe’s largest clubs battling for a UCL final spot promised to be a spectacle, and that was the case from the off. Leroy Sané hadn’t scored since October, but looked determined to give the vociferous Allianz Arena crowd reason to celebrate early on, as the winger latched onto Harry Kane’s pass but was denied by Andriy Lunin, set up Kane for another effort that was saved, then venomously fired over the crossbar. An opener was all the hosts were missing in a quarter-hour full of encouraging signs with Jamal Musiala also missing opportunities.

They soon found themselves behind, though, as Real Madrid eventually got on the ball and pounced in the 24th minute. Vinícius latched onto Toni Kroos’ perfectly-weighted through ball and coolly slid his finish past an uncharacteristically hesitant Manuel Neuer for the Brazilian’s 20th goal across all competitions this term. While Leon Goretzka’s strike forced Aurélien Tchouaméni into a brave block, the tempo slowed down after the opener and Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked comfortable, until Musiala won a free-kick that Kane flashed narrowly past the post.

Sané struck with the long-awaited goal he craved shortly after the restart, cutting inside Ferland Mendy and smashing a ferocious strike into the bottom corner. Sensationally, Musiala then lured Lucas Vázquez into a sloppy tackle for a penalty that Kane clinically converted to complete a four-minute turnaround. Eric Dier blocked Vinícius’ attempt to avoid a scare, but couldn’t show the same convictions at the other end with his two headers being routinely gathered by Lunin.

Los Blancos had struggled in the second half, but Kim Min-jae offered the visitors a route back into the game as he clumsily brought Rodrygo down, and Vinícius calmly struck from the penalty spot to leave the tie perfectly poised heading into the second leg, while also extending Real Madrid’s unbeaten run in the UCL into its 11th match. Bayern, meanwhile, are unbeaten in 16 home UCL games and maintain hope of avoiding a first trophyless season since 2011/12.

– AFP

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