Champions League: Elber puts Real hopes on hold

by JEFF POWELL, Daily Mail

Real Madrid 0
Bayern Munich 1
Elber 55

Built like robots, programmed by computer, and rich in human resources, the German dream-busters of the Champions League have done it again. Bayern Munich did to Real in Madrid what they did to United in Manchester.

Only more so. The score was the same but this triumph against the Spanish maestros, whom the German technocrats themselves acknowledge as the finest football team in Europe, surpassed their conquest of Old Trafford.

Giovane Elber's Brazilian left foot impaled Real's reigning European champions on their first defeat in eight Champions League matches at Fortress Bernabeu.

That Bayern moved to the threshold of the Final by manning the barricades and defying Real to shoot down Oliver Kahn from long range does not diminish by one iota the enormous scale of their achievement.

A masterclass in defending is still a masterclass. A faultless demonstration of the goalkeeping art is still the stuff of which the man of even the biggest match is made.

Not that it is all over yet. This one is for the heavyweight football crown of Europe - and Bayern have the reigning champions on the ropes.

The two titans of the Champions League are scheduled to go the distance and that means a fight to the finish when they meet again in Munich next Wednesday.

Real embody all the romantic history of the greatest club competition in world football. Bayern are the realists, the precision engineers of the ultra-modern Euro-game.

They each played their roles to order in this first leg of this, the first semi-final... although only Real to absolute perfection. Real swept forward full of flourish and dramatic intent. Bayern absorbed the punishment with Teutonic stoicism and efficiency while waiting for the right moment.

A match of contrasts was being weighed as much in the minds of the coaches on the bench as on the pitch itself. But no sooner did Madrid's Vicente del Bosque replace Guti with Savio than Ottmar Hitzfeld's Bayern sprung the trap into which they had been luring Madrid for 55 minutes.

While the Spanish were ruing another onslaught which came to nothing, Elber silenced the Bernabeu with a sweeping left-foot volley low inside the right-hand post of young Iker Casillas in the Real goal.

Bayern were fortunate earlier in the match when Guti failed to make the minor contact which was all that was required to turn in Ivan Helguera's clever little pass. Steve McManaman went close early in the second half when he escaped on to Guti's angled pass but keeper Kahn made a fingertip save to emerge with the clean sheet which could yet prove vital.

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