Champions League: Real Madrid takes 1-0 semifinal lead over Bayern
MADRID (AP) - A goal from Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a 1-0 victory over title holder Bayern Munich on Wednesday and a slender advantage in their Champions League semifinal.
Madrid endured plenty of pressure in the first leg match, but scored from a 19th-minute counter-attack when Cristiano Ronaldo found Fabio Coentrao speeding down left to cross into the box for Benzema to tap beyond goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Ronaldo returned from a left leg injury but missed a number of scoring opportunities, eventually giving way to Gareth Bale who started on the bench after battling with `flu.
Bayern pressed for an equalizer in the closing stages, forcing Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas to deny Mario Goetze in the 84th minute while fellow substitute Thomas Mueller had no better luck with his late effort from inside the area.
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Nine-time champion Madrid will rue a number of missed opportunities to extend its lead going into Tuesday's return leg in Germany. Madrid is bidding to end a three-season semifinal losing streak and reach the final for the first time since winning in 2002.
Atletico Madrid or Chelsea await in the May 24 final in Lisbon, with the pair playing to a scoreless draw in their first-leg match on Tuesday.
Pep Guardiola endured his first loss at the Bernabeu as coach after seven previous visits with Barcelona, and at times the encounter took on the appearance of a ''clasico'' with Madrid looking to capitalize on the break while the visitors controlled play.
Madrid's defense did well to contain Bayern in its area and then break quickly, but the Spanish club should have extended its lead after Benzema steered the ball home.
<strong><a href="http://soccer.si.com/2014/04/23/watch-real-madrids-benzema-strikes-on-precise-counter-to-stun-bayern-munich/" target="">WATCH: Benzema strikes on slick counter</a></strong>
Ronaldo, who looked uncomfortable at times despite passing a late fitness test, followed up a sharp header at Neuer with a first-time shot from Luka Modric's perfect pass in the 26th minute - only for his effort to fly high over the top with just the Germany `keeper to beat.
Madrid dug in and did well to clear many of Bayern's best opportunities. The German champions found space between the lines and combined some swift passing movements, with Franck Ribery picking out Arjen Robben inside the area in the 39th.
But Madrid weathered each buildup before surging forward, with Angel Di Maria gathering a loose ball at the right post only to wildly shoot over Neuer before halftime.
After the break, Neuer had to dive low to keep out Ronaldo's angled shot after a Bayern defensive mix-up.
Ronaldo forced Neuer into another low save before giving way to Bale, who energized Madrid's attack with his pace. The Welshman was playing for the first time since his stunning winner in Madrid's 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.
Guardiola brought on Mueller and Goetze for the final quarter and Mueller nearly equalized with a rising shot in the 81st. A chance then fell to Goetze in the Madrid area but Casillas reacted well to stop the German's powerful volley.
Bayern had gone 29 matches without scoring coming into the 20th meeting between the storied European rivals, and will still rate its chances of reaching a third straight final with the return leg at home.