Bayern reach dream final after penalty thriller

''Finale Dahoam'' - Home Final - Photo courtesy Bayern MunichBayern Munich will become the first club to stage the Champions League final on their home ground after beating Real Madrid 3-1 on penalties.

In a nail-biting penalty shoot-out, Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the decisive spot-kick after goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had made two stunning saves to deny Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. Austrian David Alaba and Mario Gomez comfortably sent Iker Casillas the wrong way to put Bayern in control of the shootout, but Real were given a lifeline as the Spanish captain saved weak efforts from Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm. However, after Sergio Ramos blazed his attempt into the Madrid night sky, Schweinsteiger duly dispatched his effort to seal Bayern's fourth Champions League final (after 1999, 2001 and 2010).

Real had wiped out their 2-1 deficit from the Allianz Arena within five minutes as Alaba was somewhat harshly adjudged to have handled Angel Di Maria's shot and Ronaldo coolly rammed home the resulting penalty.

The Reds responded as Alaba turned on the turbo down the left flank but somehow Arjen Robben scooped over the talented 19-year-old's ball from close range.

Ronaldo doubled his tally and Real's lead on the night on the quarter hour mark. The Portuguese star latched on to a measured through-ball from Mesut Özil and calmly slotted home past a helpless Neuer.

Bayern were now behind on aggregate and lesser teams would have perhaps caved in. Instead the record German champions re-grouped and surged forward with increased vigour. They were arguably the better side for the remainder of the piece. FCB captain Lahm finally got to grips with two-goal Ronaldo.

On 27 minutes, the semi-final tie was back on a knife-edge as Brazilian Pepe was penalised for a blatant shove on Gomez as he tried to latch on to Kroos' inch-perfect cross into the box. Robben had missed an important spot kick in the Bundesliga title showdown against Borussia Dortmund a fortnight ago, but the former Real winger showed some character to take responsibility once again. Casillas was a foamed finger away from saving the Dutchman's effort, but it sneaked into the corner of the net to put the tie back into the melting pot.

It was an end-to-end first half which would have had both coaches scratching their head at some shambolic defending. Frenchman Karim Benzema curled one just over the bar and Gomez - not for the first time on the evening - could not find a way past the over-worked Casillas.

The second half was a noticeably tighter affair but it was Bayern who now held sway. Gomez's header from Lahm's delivery fizzed just wide whilst Benzema wasted Real's best opportunities. Gomez should have sealed the tie with just five minutes left but 'Super Mario' took one touch too many inside the box and the chance to send Bayern into the final was snuffed out.

The semi-final drifted into extra-time and chances became a rarity as both sides seemed content to take their chances in a spot-kick lottery. Real's legs were visibly tired after their efforts in the weekend 'Clasico' against Barcelona whilst Bayern had spent a lot of credits recovering from the 2 goal deficit on the night.

If there hadn't already had been two penalties already on the evening, Real might have had another as substitute Esteban Granero went down in the box after a shirt tug from Neuer. But the officials turned a blind eye, giving Neuer the opportunity to make himself a hero.
And that decision was to prove vital as Ronaldo, Kaka and Ramos all failed from the spot to hand the Bavarians a place in the final on May 19 in Munich against English contenders Chelsea.


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