By JOHN BOSCHINI
Bayern Munich are one step closer to playing a Champions League Final in their home stadium as they dispatched Real Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal.
Mario Gomez scored from very close range off a Philipp Lahm cross in the 89th minute to break a 1-1 deadlock. It was Gomez's 12th goal in his last 10 European games as Bayern Munich dominated the latter stages of both halves.
Franck Ribery fired the home side ahead early in the first half with a well-taken shot after a failed clearance from Madrid off a corner kick. Mesut Ozil equalized for Madrid early in the second half as the visitors broke on the counter attack.
Despite the loss, Madrid are still in a solid position heading home considering Ozil's away goal. They have yet to lose at the Bernabeu in the Champions League this season and have scored at least three goals in the five games played there.
The first 15 minutes were all Madrid as the visitors dominated possession. A through-ball from Ozil split the Bayern defense and gave Karim Benzema a clear shot on goal from the edge of the box, but Manuel Neuer tipped the shot just over the bar in the eighth minute. Madrid controlled possession but were punished for an inability to clear a corner in the 17th minute.
Ribery, who had a penalty shout waved off after a clear dive moments earlier, controlled Madrid's short clearance and rifled the shot from 12 yards out through a crowd of players and into the net. Bayern managed to take hold of the game for the rest of the first half, with Bastian Schweinsteiger forcing a stellar save from Iker Casillas just before halftime.
The second half was more even as both teams had opportunities. Arjen Robben rifled over the bar just after the restart, and Benzema's wicked shot from 16 yards out was blocked. Madrid capitalized on a rare mistake by Bayern's defense and equalized with a swift counter-attack. Ronaldo found himself in on goal but made had his shot from 10 yards out parried by Neuer. Benzema collected the rebound, found Ronaldo on the back post, and the Portugese international fired a pass across goal where Ozil was waiting to poke it home from a yard out.
Bayern should have taken the lead with 20 minutes to go when Sergio Ramos failed to clear a cross. The ball fell to Gomez, but his shot from a six yards out sailed over the bar. Bayern continued to press forward, and Gomez finally redeemed himself with a goal in the dying stages. Lahm blew past Fabio Coentrao on the right flank and crossed to Gomez, who made good on his chance.
The game ended on a sour note when Marcelo lunged in for an ugly challenge on Thomas Mueller. Referee Howard Webb decided to only show a yellow to the Brazilian. Players from both sides converged on midfield and pushing and shoving ensued but no further discipline was levied.
What did you think of today's game? Impressed with Bayern's win? Can Real Madrid overturn the one-goal deficit at home? Who do you see advancing to the final?
Share your thoughts below.