Karim Benzema gives Real Madrid slight advantage over Bayern Munich
Spanish giants will take 1-0 lead to Germany for semi-final second leg
Real Madrid hopes their narrow home win over Bayern put them in position to reach the Champions League final for the first time since 2002.
In a matchup of teams acclaimed to be the best in Europe this season, Karim Benzema scored in the 19th minute to give Real a 1-0 victory over defending champions Bayern Munich in the first leg of their semi-final.
“We have a nice advantage and if we score, we can complicate things for them,” Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo said.
The second leg is Tuesday in Munich. Chelsea host the other semi-final next Wednesday following a 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid this week.
“If you want to do damage, you have to go for the victory – because 1-0 is not definitive,” Real defender Sergio Ramos said. “But it’s a good result to take to Munich.”
Real, who beat Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 for the last of their record nine European titles, have been knocked out of the semi-finals for three straight years. The hosts dominated before a crowd of 79,283, outshooting Bayern 16-9 and maintaining 64 per cent possession.
“They had chances to score more goals, definitely,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola. “We probably should have created a few more scoring chances. [But] they have a very good defence.”
Benzema scored from a counterattack when Cristiano Ronaldo found Fabio Coentrao speeding down the left flank. Coentrao crossed for Benzema, who tapped the ball past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from four yards.
Ronaldo returned from a left leg injury that had sidelined him from April 2 and missed a number of scoring opportunities. He was replaced in the 73rd minute by Gareth Bale.
“It’s been 20 days Cristiano hasn’t been 100 per cent, so it was a sacrifice for him,” Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “It couldn’t have been easy for Cristiano tonight.”
Guardiola, seeking to guide Bayern to a third straight final, had been unbeaten at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in seven visits when he coached Barcelona.
“Madrid thrives off the counterattack. Madrid is the best team in the world on the counter,” Guardiola said. “They get back as fast as they go forward. They’re athletes.”
Mario Goetze, who entered in the 72nd, had one of Bayern’s best chances in the 84th, but his volley was saved by goalkeeper Iker Casillas.