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Real wins opener

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Friday, April 25, 2014

MADRID - Real Madrid took a huge step towards their first Champions League soccer final in 12 years as Karim Benzema's first-half goal gave them a 1-0 first-leg lead over holders Bayern Munich.

The Frenchman turned home Fabio Coentrao's cross on 19 minutes and Madrid's advantage could have been greater had Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria not missed chances before the break.

Bayern had dominated possession but failed to convert.

The Germans have it all to do at home yesterday in their quest to become the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

"We played with a lot of personality; we had a lot of possession. We will have to improve in Munich, but I am very proud," said Bayern boss Pep Guardiola.

"I have experience of how difficult it is to come here and play at the Bernabeu but I congratulate them because ... they played better."

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed his players for keeping out Bayern for 90 minutes despite lack of possession.

"In terms of individual qualities, it is true that we played with a lot of forward players, but the important thing is the sacrifice they all make.

"When you have the combination of quality players and sacrifice, that is all you can ask for."

"It is a good result to go to Munich with," Real defender Sergio Ramos said.

"It was a very hard game; we had to work so hard. They are a team with players of an incredible level and they like to dominate the ball, but we knew we could create danger on the counterattack."

Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said: "We have every chance of winning by a two-goal margin at home.

"I have a good feeling going to Munich. We were missing that little bit of luck and that final something in attack."

Madrid stung the Germans with a stunning counterattack as Ronaldo's ball down the left for Coentrao was timed to perfection and the Portuguese full-back's low cross was tapped home at the back post by Benzema.

Two minutes later, Ronaldo came close to doubling Madrid's lead, but his bullet header from Di Maria's cross was too close to Manuel Neuer.

Ronaldo then missed a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 when another quick break caught Bayern hopping but he blasted over Benzema's low cross from close range.

Both sides made multiple substitutions entering the final quarter with Bale replacing the clearly not 100 per cent fit Ronaldo 16 minutes from time.

There was controversy deep into stoppage time as Mueller tumbled under a challenge from Xabi Alonso inside the area, but English referee Howard Webb waved away the protests for a penalty to condemn Bayern to a third defeat in six games in all competitions.





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