MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid are used to making other teams suffer but they withstood waves of pressure from Bayern Munich to win their Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday 2-1 and take a confident step towards reaching the final for a third year in a row.
At the Allianz Arena, Zinedine Zidane’s side had only 39.7 percent possession - their second lowest after the 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in December - while Bayern had 17 shots on goal to Madrid’s seven.
But in contrast to Bayern’s profligacy, the 12-times European champions made their few attempts count, hitting the target four times and scoring twice.
“We suffered a lot but the result is important,” said Real coach Zidane.
“You have to suffer, you cannot play in the Champions League and not suffer. But we are happy because we knew how to suffer without the ball.”
Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich gave the home side the lead with the help of unconvincing goalkeeping from Madrid’s Keylor Navas and Franck Ribery missed a chance to double the lead before Marcelo equalised just before halftime.
Substitute Marco Asensio pulled Madrid in front early in the second half by starting and finishing a sweeping counterattack.
“The game had the circumstances that we went behind and unconsciously we sat back a bit and suffered a little and they obviously wanted to go all out and try to win the game,” Real captain Sergio Ramos said.
“We took advantage of that, we got the equaliser, we defended very well and then we killed them on a counterattack. We need to remember nights like this and learn because that’s what makes this team great.”
Spanish newspaper AS called the result “a victory through suffering” and said Madrid “survived Bayern’s siege”.
Barcelona-based daily Mundo Deportivo praised through gritted teeth Madrid’s knack of winning games without being at their best.
“Just like always,” was their headline, claiming “Madrid rode their luck against an imprecise Bayern”.
As well as benefiting from Bayern’s profligacy, Madrid also showed their versatility when winger Lucas Vazquez switched to right back to cover for Dani Carvajal who was forced off injured. Asensio also came on to replace injured Isco.
“Independently of how well the team played you have to hand it to Lucas Vazquez who played with all his spirit,” Ramos added.
“He held his own against Ribery, who is one of the best players in the world. It is moments like that which make this team even greater.”
Ramos was not concerned by the manner of Real’s victory and wore it as a badge of pride in a post on Instagram, posting a picture of himself clenching his fist with the message: “Know how to suffer. Know how to win. Know how to be Real Madrid.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Sudipto Ganguly