CL: Benzema strike gives Real Madrid edge over FC Bayern Munich
Madrid: Real Madrid took a huge step towards their first Champions League final in 12 years as Karim Benzema's first-half goal gave them a 1-0 first-leg lead over holders Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (2nd R) celebrates with (from L) Real Madrid's Portuguese defender Pepe, Real Madrid's Argentinian midfielder Angel di Maria and Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos after scoring during the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg football match Real Madrid CF vs FC Bayern Munchen at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on yesterday. Pic/AFP
The Frenchman was on hand to turn home Fabio Coentrao's cross on 19 minutes and Madrid's advantage could have been even greater had Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria not missed fine chances before the break.
Bayern had the overwhelming majority of possession but failed to convert it into many sights of goal as Iker Casillas' save from Mario Goetze five minutes from time was the only significant stop the Spanish captain was forced into all evening.
Defeat leaves the Germans with it all to do next Tuesday, if they are to continue 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 won and if they own it is because they played better."
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, hailed the effort of his players to keep out Bayern for 90 minutes despite their 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."
Ronaldo was returning after four games out with a hamstring injury as he replaced Gareth Bale, who had been suffering from flu in the days before the game, in the only change from the Real side that beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final last week.
And after a bright early spell by Bayern, it was Madrid who created the clearer openings in the first-half.
Real stung the Germans with a stunning counter-attack to open the scoring 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.
Ronaldo missed a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 when another quick break caught Bayern hopping and the World Player of the Year blasted over Benzema's low cross from close range.
Di Maria was next to go close as he latched onto a deep cross at the back post but wastefully volleyed over with just Neuer to beat.
Real defender Sergio Ramos admitted Madrid knew they could catch Bayern on the break.
"It is a good result to go to Munich with," he told Canal Plus.
"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 counter-attack."
The second-half produced more of the same as Neuer was forced into an early save by Ronaldo.
However, the game came to life in the final 20 minutes after a raft of substitutions by both sides.
Bale replaced the clearly not 100 percent fit Ronaldo 16 minutes from time, whilst Raphael Varane came on for the injured Pepe for Real.
Guardiola, meanwhile, introduced Javi Martinez, Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller in the search for an away goal.
And it was two of the substitutes who combined to create the visitors' best chance of the night as Mueller's dinked cross found Goetze free inside the area and his low drive was brilliantly saved by Iker Casillas.
There was one final moment of 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.
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, though, was not too disheartened by the result.
"We have every chance of winning by a two-goal margin at home," said the 30-year-old German international.
"I have a good feeling going to Munich. We were missing that little bit of luck and that final something in attack."