|Real Madrid giant step towards semi-finals|
Playing at home, Real Madrid edged closer towards their third consecutive Champions League semi-final. The Bernabeu crowd were crucial in pushing the Whites’ players, aware that their home fans have not seen them lose for 14 months, to show the connection that they share against Galatasaray. They suffocated the opposition playing the ball out of the back with a high press, moved the ball cleverly and at a high tempo and soon sent the first warning. A 30 metre Xabi Alonso pass to Di Maria, who controlled and played in Benzema, who then shot wide with his head on three minutes.
Real Madrid soon went ahead on the scoreboard. It took just nine minutes. Another steal in the midfield, which Ozil turned to gold. His precise pass was finished by Cristiano Ronaldo who beat Muslera with a chip that was as beautiful as it was effective. The Portuguese once again showed his affinity with the competition and became the Champions League’s top scorer. The start could not have been more promising and how Real Madrid were playing sent the message that they were not content with just the one goal.
Despite the scoreline being in their favour, the home team’s dominance was overwhelming. In fact, following a brilliant counter-attack, a shot from Ozil forced Muslera to show his best in the 18th minute. It seemed that the second goal would not be long in coming. It came a minute before the half hour mark. Essien’s cross from the right, which went through the area, before Benzema, smarter than anyone, brought the ball down and clinically finished. The first half didn’t bring any more, except for Nonkeu’s yellow that will see him miss the second leg (Burak Yilmaz will not play for the same reason). The crowd enjoyed the break with a good feeling because of how the team had played and also because of the scoreline and the Whites’ players could think of increasing their lead, but with the premise that, with the scoreline as it was, it was important to finish with a clean sheet.
The result forced Galatasaray to push out in attack much more after the restart and Real Madrid were comfortable in the role of waiting and surprising them with the possibly the best counter-attack in the world. That is how the third could have come but Muslera stopped Ronaldo’s shot from the edge of the box in the 58th minute. Di Maria’s chance, four minutes later, was much clearer. His shot from near the penalty spot, ended in the goalkeeper’s hands, despite the Xabi Alonso’s great assist deserving a better finish.
Mourinho brought on Higuain for Benzema in the 65th minute. The Portuguese coach could not have made a better decision. Unsurprisingly, seven minutes later the Argentine scored the third. Xabi Alonso took the free-kick and Argentine international placed the ball into the net with his head. All three Whites’ forwards that played had scored and the Whites’ had secured an excellent result to take into the second leg. Despite that, their offensive flow was not cut off and Ronaldo came close getting the fourth from exceptional aerial volley that crashed into Eboue’s body. Modric replaced Ozil in the 80th minute with the German coming off of the pitch to a standing ovation. So did the rest of his teammates at the end of the match. With good cause. Three goals scored and none conceded to take into the second leg, in which there will be no Xabi Alonso and Ramos due to suspension.
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Goals: 1-0 Cristiano Ronaldo min.9; 2-0 Benzema min. 29; 3-0 Higuain min.73.