Carlo’s catenaccio: Madrid showcase best way to battle Bayern

Karim Benzema’s first-half strike was the only goal of 180 minutes of tense Champions League semi-final first leg action between four sides, giving Real Madrid a slender 1-0 win over Bayern Munich last night.

The holders and favourites dominated affairs at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for long periods, with Pep Guardiola’s possession-based style a throwback to his days in charge of Barcelona.

Where the Spanish manager had never lost a game at the Bernabéu from his El Clásico days, his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti inflicted the first defeat on the Bayern boss in the Spanish capital where the likes of José Mourinho failed.

The wily Italian’s tactics were very un-Madrid but worked perfectly in firstly neutralising the Bavarian powerhouses and then punishing them on the counter attack.

At half-time Bayern boasted 74 per cent of the first-half possession, and had a glut of corners but very few gilt-edged chances.

Madrid on the other hand took up a deep position from the very first whistle, allowing the Bundesliga champions to play in front of them and striking on the break.

Benzema’s goal was thoroughly against the run of play, while a similar break shortly after should have seen the Spaniards two up as a centered ball was fluffed by a half-fit Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although Bayern did have chances towards the end of the game after Pepe had been removed with injury and Madrid hung on, over the course of the 90 minutes the visitors did not pose their usual goal threat.

Carlo AncelottiGuardiola has been lauded for his ability to adapt at the Allianz Arena, with the hugely successful coach using players in different positions at times and switching formations to break down stubborn opponents.

However, ahead of the second leg next week the ex-Barcelona boss needs to have a rethink about how his team plays. Sergio Ramos and Pepe were dominant in the air, while Madrid lying deep proved a difficult opponent to break down.

On the other hand, it was Ancelotti who changed his mentality and tactics from the norm to get the job done – with his ploy working well.

Madrid’s glamorous sides have been renowned for their offensive abilities over their glorious history, but the pragmatic Italian got the best of his star-studded side by inhibiting its natural instinct to attack.

The likes of Isco and Ángel di María are used to terrorising opposition defenders, but in the clash with Bayern the attacking pair mucked in to help the team with excellent, hard-working defensive efforts.

Ahead of the return at the Allianz Arena, Madrid will be buoyed by their showing and result at home, with Ancelotti to more than likely set his team up in a similar fashion in Germany.

With Ronaldo a week closer to full fitness and the pace of Gareth Bale to call upon from the start in Bavaria, Madrid will pose an even more dangerous counter-attacking threat in the second leg.

Guardiola’s Barcelona team raised the bar during his time at Camp Nou, while he has inherited a treble-winning Bayern side.

To exceed Jupp Heynckes’ achievements and continue his managerial legacy, Guardiola needs to steer the German team to consecutive European crowns.

This would make Bayern the first team to be named consecutive European champions since the AC Milan team of the late 1980’s and early 90’s. A key midfielder in the 1989 and 1990 victories for the Serie A side? Carlo Ancelotti.

I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo,, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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