Champions League favorites Bayern Munich were beaten 1-0 by Real Madrid in a riveting clash in the Bernabeu stadium. The result leaves next week's second leg perfectly poised.
Given the sheer prestige of Wednesday night's clash at the Bernabeu (the two teams have 14 European Cups between them) it would be hard to argue with anyone who saw this Champions League tie as the de facto final. Whichever club ends up going through next week, they will likely be the favorites against either Atletico Madrid or Chelsea.
The match was certainly much more entertaining than the first semifinal played out at the Calderon a day before. With Barcelona veteran Pep Guardiola in charge of the Bavarians, the game occasionally had the feel of an old Clasico - Bayern dominated possession from the kick-off, holding Real Madrid inside their own area and probing surgically down the flanks.
The visitors had taken four corners inside the first 15 minutes, but they had little else to show for all their control. In fact, the ball had barely entered the Bavarian half when Madrid took the lead in the 19th minute.
Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos had just seen an excellent chance blocked by a Madrid defender when the ball bounced clear and the Spanish side streamed forward. The attack looked to have been slowed down when Ronaldo slid a perfect pass down the left wing to Fabio Coentrao, whose run and low cross beat Jerome Boateng, Dante, and David Alaba to find Karim Benzema lurking at the back post. The Frenchman merely had to side-foot into an empty net.
The game opened up noticeably after the goal - with Bayern's possession more frequently converted into lightning counters from Carlo Ancelotti's men. Cristiano Ronaldo, on 14 goals in the competition but nursing a suspect knee, had two brilliant chances - one with his head and one with his right foot.
Angel Di Maria could also have doubled the lead late in the first half, but the Argentinean blasted over from close range and a tight angle.
Tight second half
Real began the second half pressing Bayern higher up the pitch, and Ronaldo immediately forced another save from Manuel Neuer. But the Bavarians largely failed to trouble his opposite number, Iker Casillas, in the Madrid goal.
As the half wore on, it became clear Pep Guardiola would have to make changes to provide extra impetus. The Bayern coach took off the disappointing Franck Ribery - whose form has rather flat-lined in recent weeks - and introduced Mario Götze, simultaneously bringing on Thomas Müller in place of Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Ancelotti responded by withdrawing Ronaldo and the injured defender Pepe, and bringing on Welsh winger Gareth Bale, whose heroics in the Copa del Rey final last week have now made him a hero in the Bernabeu.
The two Bayern substitutes made an immediate impact. Both Müller and Götze had vicious shots on goal denied - the first by a last-ditch deflection, and the second by a brilliant reflex save from Casillas. In the dying seconds, Müller and half the Bayern bench were left screaming in despair for a penalty when the German fell as he seemed certain to score, but Xabi Alonso's challenge was fair. The tight result leaves next Tuesday's return leg in the Allianz Arena perfectly poised.
In the post-match interviews, both teams expressed satisfaction with the game and their own performance. Guardiola told German TV channel ZDF, "I think we played a good game, and I hope we'll do better next week. We wanted a game with a lot of control."
Robben, meanwhile, said he had "expected more from Real," especially in the first half, but Ancelotti, suggested this had all been part of his plan: "It got better in the second half, we were very satisfied. It was no surprise that Bayern would control possession."