Through 45 minutes on Tuesday, Bayern Munich dominated Atlético Madrid. The German champions had rung up 15 shots (six on target) to just 2/2 for Atlético. Bayern were relentless, pressing high and winning the ball back easily when Atleti did have a second or two to break. However, this game turned at halftime - arguably before - and los rojiblancos did the one thing they had to do to seal a spot in the Champions League final. Let's take a tactical look at this game and why it was so complex and (frankly) bizarre.
Atlético kicked off, but in what was a sign of things to come, Bayern had the ball within 10 seconds, moving it around with urgency and using a variety of players to probe the Atleti defense while avoiding the center-back duo of José Giménez and Diego Godín. Pep Guardiola's players again tried to target Filipe Luís and Juanfran out wide. To combat this, Diego Simeone instructed his players to narrow the pitch. Observe!
Here we see Thomas Müller being harassed in possession, and you also can see Juanfran standing just to Jan Oblak's right in front of the Atleti goal. That's important, because as mentioned earlier Guardiola and Bayern tried hard to get Robert Lewandowski away from the bruising Giménez-Godín CB pairing.
Simeone was ready for this, however, and Juanfran held his own as Lewandowski tried to get away here for a header:
The Polish superstar could only harmlessly head this ball over the line for a goal kick.
While Atlético dealt well with the narrowing of the pitch in a defensive sense, it inhibited the team's ability to turn around and counter. Antoine Griezmann dropped to the wing inside 10 minutes because of the constant pressure, and neither Koke nor Saúl Ñíguez were able to escape long enough to supply Fernando Torres up top. When someone was able to win the ball, they soon gave it away after a poor first pass out of defense. The result: Atleti barely broke forward in the first half and Torres was extremely isolated.
Bayern got on the board after half an hour but if Giménez simply stood still here, Oblak would have made the save:
As we know, it would not be the last time Joséma would lose his focus in the first half, as just moments later he dragged down Javi Martínez in the box for a penalty. And if Oblak didn't make this save, tie's over. (Also, the follow-up stop on Alonso was just as good).
Oblak's heroics may have inspired Atlético, as Bayern were unable to add that second goal before halftime. That would become key later in the match.
Now it was Simeone's turn to change up his tactics. Yannick Carrasco was called upon for his pace, directness and ability to keep the ball, qualities required if Atlético were to turn the game around. Carrasco indeed inspired the changed Atleti we saw after halftime, but the more important adjustment Cholo made was the formation switch to a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1:
This is approximately 20 seconds before Griezmann's goal. Saúl dropped deep to a role shielding the back four, leaving Gabi and Koke in the middle with Carrasco and Griezmann on either wing. Torres was still alone up top, but this subtle switch helped him get the supply he needed.
The move started with a Jérôme Boateng long ball that was swiftly picked out and cleared by Godín. Gabi latched on to the ball, settled it down and played it over to Koke, who lofted the ball to Griezmann. The Frenchman nodded it back to Torres and El Niño subsequently delivered a sick through ball. Griezmann got a good touch on it (onside, mind you) and sprinted forward into a 1v1 with Manuel Neuer. The finish past the World Cup-winning goalkeeper was perfect. Atlético had its away goal and had finally burned Bayern's high line.
Bayern were stunned, and for the next 10 minutes or so a deathly quiet fell on Allianz Arena as the Bavarians moved the ball around slowly and without much intent. That would soon change, though, as a few quick chances soon unsettled Atleti's defense. Godín lost Lewandowski on Bayern's second goal; he simply found himself glued to the pitch as Lewandowski rose high to meet Arturo Vidal's headed pass.
Atlético would break one last time through Torres, who won a (dubious) penalty in the 83rd minute...which he subsequently missed. But not to worry. Bayern came close again in the final minutes, but Simeone was able to hustle third center-back Stefan Savic onto the pitch to negate any threats from out wide.
The final stats: less than 30% possession, seven shots to Bayern's 33, a 2-1 loss. And a trip to Milan.