December 20, 2014
Benzema puts Madrid ahead against Champions League holders Bayern
Real Madrid moved a step closer to a first Champions League final appearance in 12 years when a Karim Benzema strike gave the record nine-times winners a 1-0 win at home to holders Bayern Munich.
Bayern dominated possession in the semi-final, first leg at the Bernabeu without posing much of a threat to the home goal and Benzema's 19th-minute effort means Madrid will have the advantage going into next week's return in Munich.
Despite the victory, Madrid may live to regret not converting a couple of clear chances in the first half when Champions League top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, back after injury, and Angel Di Maria both produced wasteful efforts.
Bayern almost equalised late on but Mario Gotze was denied by a brilliant Iker Casillas save.
It was a losing return to Spain for Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, who mostly got the better of Madrid in four trophy-laden seasons in charge of their arch rivals Barcelona between 2008 and 2012.
With decorated Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti in his first season, Madrid have high hopes they can finally claim the elusive 10th European crown they have been chasing since their last triumph in 2002.
There was an electric atmosphere at their giant Bernabeu arena before kickoff and the home fans unfurled a huge banner proclaiming their status as "Kings of Europe".
However, it was the current champions and five-times winners who bossed the early stages with the home players clearly under instructions to sit back and try and hit Bayern on the break.
The opening goal came from exactly that scenario. Toni Kroos had a shot blocked in the penalty area and the home side picked up possession and poured forward.
Ronaldo played Fabio Coentrao in on the left and his low cross evaded the Bayern defence and found Benzema waiting at the far post to tap into an empty net.