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3 things we learned from Real Madrid’s win away to Bayern Munich

Leganes v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid came to Germany looking for a fight, and they got one against Bayern Munich in their Champiosn League semifinal match — and came out of the fist leg with a massively important 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Marcelo and Marco Asensio, stunning the Bayern crowd and taking a big advantage back home to Spain for the second leg.

The first half was played at an almost frantic pace at times, with Bayern Munich overcoming early injuries to Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng to play some absolutely sublime attacking football, but some finishing woes kept them from scoring — until right back Joshua Kimmich went on a lung-busting run and finished it up with an absolutely phenomenal finish that left Keylor Navas helpless to stop it in goal.

Bayern continued to dominate the run of play, and it could be argued that they should have scored again — but you can never count out Real Madrid’s own fearsome attack, and so it was that they scored out of nowhere just before half time, with Marcelo scoring on a sublime volley after Cristiano Ronaldo threatened a bicycle kick at the top of the box, but let the cross run to his fullback instead.

After a first half filled with two giant teams trading absolute haymakers, the second half kicked it up with another level at times. Bayern kept battering at Madrid’s defense, but it was Madrid who scored first, blunting one of Bayern’s best thrusts forward before launching forward on the counter, with substitute Marco Asensio slipping behind the Bayern defense to get on the end of a pass from Lucas Vazquez before scoring his first Champions League goal of the season.

That kicked up the level of tension and aggression in Bayern up to a new level, and they started laying an absolute siege on Madrid’s goal. Thomas Muller came inches away from an equalizer ten minutes later, and he and Franck Ribery kept trying to combine to create something that would lead to a Bayern goal. Instead it was Real that had the next great scoring chance, with Ronaldo getting on the end of a long ball over the top to fire it home, only for the goal to get waved off after the ball hit his arm on the way down.

That lead Bayern to make a desperation move of sorts, taking an effective but slightly shaken-up Javi Martinez, who came out on the worse end of a challenge a few minutes earlier, and bringing in their record signing in Corentin Tolisso, the only attack-minded substitute they had left on the bench after Thiago Alcantara was forced into the match early by Robben’s injury. But Martinez was the only thing really keeping Luka Modric in check in Real’s midfield, and after he left, Madrid suddenly started looking much more lethal on the ball again as the Croatian midfielder found himself virtually uncontested.

Robert Lewandowski should have scored in the waning moments of regulation, but couldn’t, only adding to the woes Bayern had suffered in front of goal all match long. They just couldn’t find a way to level the score, and that leaves Bayern staring up at the wrong end of a 2-1 aggregate scoreline heading into the second leg, with Real Madrid holding two crucial away goals after a truly impressive showing in Germany.

Bayern Munich: Sven Ulreich; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng (Niklas Sule 34’), Mats Hummels, Rafinha; Javi Martinez (Corentin Tolisso 75’); Arjen Robben (Thiago Alcantara 8’), Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery; Robert Lewandowski

Goals: Kimmich (28’)

Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal (Karim Benzema 67’), Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Casemiro (Mateo Kovacic 83’), Toni Kroos; Lucas Vazquez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco (Marco Asensio 46’)

Goals: Marcelo (44’), Asensio (57’)

Three things we saw

Joshua Kimmich may be the best player you don’t know much about

Kimmich rarely makes headlines, but over the last couple of years he’s become one of the absolute best German players in the world, a very elite group that any manager would be thrilled to have. And while Kimmich doesn’t have the defensive solidity of a Mats Hummels, the playmaking grace of a Mesut Ozil, or the goalscoring prowess of a Thomas Muller, Kimmich does so many things so well that he’s impossible to ignore in that conversation,

When he was coming up as a youth player, Kimmich was known as someone who had an endless amount of energy on the pitch. Since joining Bayern in 2015, Kimmich has refined that energy into an effective work-rate, and he’s developed sorely under-rated passing and defensive skills, as well as a top-notch on-pitch intelligence in terms of how to use all that. As a result of that and a willing versatility on the field, Kimmich can easily be ranked among the top five right backs, defensive midfielders, and box-to-box midfielders in the world at the same time, not something that many players have ever been able to attest to.

Age and injuries are catching up to Bayern

The first-half injuries to Robben and Boateng were unfortunate, but also served as something of a continuation of a trend: Bayern simply cannot rely on their aging core to pull them through high-profile games as they once could. Against an elite opponent like Real Madrid, Bayern’s slowing and oft-injured stars don’t always have enough in the tank to get the job done the way Bayern need them to. You could especially see it in the second half, when despite the urgency of the situation, Bayern started moving slower and slower and slower on the ball, giving Madrid more and more time to launch counter attacks and choke the game off.

Younger players like Kimmich, Thiago Alcantara, and James Rodriguez have helped stem that tide this season, but Bayern need to make a lot of concentrated investment in making their team younger and better if they’re going to improve, or at least stay at the level they’ve maintained in recent years.

You can never discount Real Madrid’s efficiency

Bayern dominated the run of play in the first half, but came out of it with a 1-1 scoreline because while Madrid didn’t have the same volume of dangerous attacks as their German foes, they were much more effective with the ones they created. They knocked Bayern off balance several times in the first half, and on their two best scoring chances of the day they converted to level the score and then take a massively important second half lead.

But that efficiency isn’t just in Madrid’s attack — just look at how they play defense. When they’re at their best, there’s no wasted movement on their back line, but rather a well-orchestrated series of rotations and step-ups between their back four and Casemiro in midfield to cut off passing and crossing lanes, force runs wide, and block shots almost at will. That skill was on full display against Bayern, who against almost anyone else would likely have scored four or five times on the day with how they played. That Madrid kept them in control the way they did was massively, massively impressive.