With both sides only playing one out-and-out striker while supported by a creative midfield, the ball was always going to be found more in the middle of the park than within the penalty areas. Interestingly it was the away side Bayern that found their way more into their opponent’s half during the course of the game. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were the German side’s creative sparks as they attempted to find an opening and it was from the wings in the 27th minute where Gomez found himself in front of goal for a chance he somehow blazed over.
The Germans set a defensive tone to the game within the first 30 seconds when Samuel Eto’o was surrounded by no less than five Bayern players, some of whom were kicking his heels and others trying to retrieve the ball. Bayern would eventually commit 17 fouls but despite having Wesley Sneijder stand over their set-pieces, the home side were unable to capitalise.
It could have been so different had Champions league debutant Andrea Ranocchia not wasted an unbelievable chance from one of those free-kicks in just the first minute. Defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk’s deployment as a central defender could have proved costly as Ranocchia was found completely alone 10 yards out before sending the ball wide.
Ranocchia’s chance was particularly significant due to the nature of the game that both teams were restricted to shooting from distance. Inter’s positioning of Thiago Motta, Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso in the centre forced Bayern’s attacking threat to come from the wings. Despite working numerous crossing opportunities the enormous figure of Gomez was not of little effect to Bayern, easily dealt with by Ranocchia and Lucio.
Meanwhile, when Inter did create chances they were denied by some incredible goalkeeping from Bayern’s Thomas Kraft, particularly in the 32nd minute when he pulled off an outstanding save from Eto’o. Had his opposite number taken tips in pushing the ball to the side when saving, the second leg at the Allianz Arena may well have had a completely different nature to it.
Louis van Gaal claimed before the game that Leonardo’s Inter was not so different to that of Jose Mourinho’s. Yet it is doubtful the Special One would have allowed his side to lose as they did last night and Leonardo will need to be far more like Mourinho if the European Champions are to progress to the quarter-finals.