Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Bayern beat Real, Neuer a hero

‘OBSESSION’ BEARS FRUIT:Schweinsteiger put Bayern through to the final in their own stadium, only the third time penalties decided a Champions League semi

AFP, MADRID

Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, left, saves a penalty shot from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo during their Champions League semi-final second-leg soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Manuel Neuer was the hero for Bayern Munich on Wednesday as his side went through to the Champions League final after beating Real Madrid 3-1 on penalties in the Santiago Bernabeu.

They will face Chelsea in their own Allianz Arena in Munich on May 19th after losing their return leg 2-1 after extra-time, to send the tie into penalties with the Germans having won by the same score in the first game.

The ’keeper stopped Madrid’s two initial spot-kicks from Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, and Sergio Ramos blazed one over the bar before Bastian Schweinsteiger held his nerve to put the four-time European Champions through to the final.

They last appeared in a final two years ago, losing 2-0 on this same stage to Jose Mourinho’s Inter.

Earlier, Ronaldo had scored twice for Real before Arjen Robben grabbed one back in a frantic first half-hour to level the tie.

As the players gradually tired, penalties loomed ever larger for only the third time in a semi-final in the Champions League era.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was delighted on the final whistle.

“We played a great game against an extraordinary opponent who went 2-0 ahead tonight, but we have managed to get a goal back, our goalkeeper has been great at the end and we’ve had a bit of luck,” Heynckes said.

“I told them before, we may have to play for 120 minutes, but I did not expect the penalties. My players are tired, the tension was high, but we’ve achieved our main objective of the season, it was almost an obsession for us to play the final in our stadium,” he said.

Mourinho was philosophical about the defeat.

“You have to be level-headed about it when you win and lose, football is like that,” he said. “My team had a huge game in our league [against Barcelona] at the weekend while they were able to rest players and it was noticeable towards the end.”

“At 2-1, any mistake would have lost the game, but I’m proud of my players and we have to be strong. If we win our league, it’s a big step forward for us and we need six points for that,” he said.

He went on to analyze the final between Bayern and Chelsea.

“I hope it’s a good game, but I obviously want Chelsea to win, they were heroes to beat Barcelona with ten men,” he continued.

The game started at a furious pace and German international Sami Khedira had the first chance of the game on three minutes for Real forcing a save from Neuer in the Bayern goal.

Two minutes later, Madrid were ahead thanks to Ronaldo from the penalty spot after Angel Di Maria’s shot had fortuitously hit the outstretched arm of David Alaba.

Alaba was booked for that and will miss the final — later bookings for Luiz Gustavo and Holger Badstuber mean they will also miss the big game.

Bayern’s response was immediate and Robben should have leveled the game when he met Alaba’s cross in the six-yard box.

Iker Casillas in the Madrid goal did enough to hurry the Dutchman, whose shot spun over the bar when it seemed certain he would score.

At 12 minutes, Casillas blocked a shot from Toni Kroos and just when it seemed Bayern would quickly get back into the game, Ronaldo struck again.

Khedira was quick in the tackle deep in Bayern’s half to allow Mesut Ozil time to supply the Portuguese with a perfect pass that he converted with a well placed left footed shot.

Bayern fought back and their reward came from the penalty spot after Pepe pushed Gomez, Robben leveling the tie at 3-3 on aggregate.

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