Real Madrid reaches Champions League final
MUNICH (AP) — Sergio Ramos has his redemption, Cristiano Ronaldo has his goal record and Real Madrid is one win away from the long-awaited “Decima.”
Real Madrid carried out coach Carlo Ancelotti’s game plan to perfection and routed title holder Bayern Munich 4-0 on Tuesday to reach its first Champions League final in 12 years. Madrid will play either Chelsea or city rival Atletico Madrid in the May 24 final in Lisbon.
Madrid, a 5-0 aggregate winner over Bayern, will be seeking a record 10th title — “La Decima” in Spanish.
“We played a perfect game in the first half, we defended very well and pressed very high,” Ancelotti said. “We used the space we had for counters, with some great passing.”
Madrid had never won in Munich in 10 previous matches, losing nine of them. But this time, Ancelotti’s team put its stamp on the game early and struck with awesome efficiency — something its Italian coach had promised ahead of the match.
Madrid’s sweeping, fast counterattacks paced by Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria, along with its tenacious tackling when Bayern tried to come out of the hosts’ own half, were a huge problem for Bayern’s defense. However, the first two goals came from set pieces, as well as the last.
Ramos, who missed the crucial penalty when Madrid lost to Bayern at the same stage in 2012 in a shootout, scored those first two goals and Ronaldo added two more to break the Champions League season record with a tally of 16.
Ramos headed the first from a corner taken by Luka Modric in the 16th and nodded in the second four minutes later after a free kick from Angel Di Maria.
“We prepared the set pieces and we used them to make things easy for us,” Ancelotti said. “We knew they defend with a zone, not man to man.”
Ronaldo made it 3-0 to Madrid in the 34th minute after a perfectly executed counterattack and completed the victory with a free kick in the 89th as he shattered Barcelona star Lionel Messi’s record of 14 goals in a season.
“Goals are great, satisfying on a personal level, but what matters is what we did as a team. The overall result was deserved,” Ramos said. “It’s a dream come true. It’s a dream game, fantastic for all Madrid fans.”
After the final whistle, Madrid players put on T-shirts with the words ‘Now for the 10th’.
It was a bitter defeat for Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, who had enjoyed so much success against Madrid when he was in charge of Barcelona. Bayern was seeking to become the first team to defend the Champions League title but instead slumped to its worst home defeat in the competition, and equaled its heaviest loss overall — 4-0 away to Barcelona in 2009.
Guardiola bemoaned the lack of possession in the first half — although UEFA statistics show Bayern had two-thirds of possession for the game.
“We didn’t have ball possession and that’s why we had no control,” Guardiola said.
“It’s a great disappointment. 0-4 sounds very bitter,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said. “We wanted a lot, but we failed tactically in the first half.”
Madrid had lost three consecutive semifinals, including a 2012 shootout when Ramos missed a penalty. Of five previous semifinal series against Bayern, Madrid had won only one. Coming into the match, Madrid had only two wins in 27 outings in Germany, with six draws.
But Ancelotti had won with AC Milan in Bavaria and believed he could do it again.
“I’d won here, so that’s why I felt confident about our chances here,” the Italian said. “After 12 years to return to the Champions League final is very good for us.”
Holding midfielder Xabi Alonso will miss Madrid’s 13th final because of accumulated yellow cards.
There is a good omen for Madrid: every time it had defeated a title holder, it went on to win the title — in 1998, 2000 and 2002, the last two times getting through past Bayern, it the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively.
Madrid had won only two of its 27 previous matches in Germany, with six draws, but it has eliminated three German teams this season in succession — Schalke, last season’s runner-up Borussia Dortmund and now Bayern.
Ancelotti won the competition twice as a player with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990 — under the European Cup format — and then twice as coach of Milan in 2003 and 2007.