If anything, Bayern Munich's 2-1 victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday was a lesson in patience and perseverance, in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals -- for the German club and for superstar Mario Gómez.
Desperately trying to find the back of the net after the Spanish powerhouse grabbed the equalizer, Gómez was denied several times by goalkeeper Iker Casillas in the second half and even had his claims of a penalty kick denied in the 87th minute. But instead of sulking, Gómez continued to plug away and the German international demonstrated why he is considered such a lethal goal-scorer, converting Philipp Lahm's right-wing cross in traffic to score a dramatic 11th-hour goal.
A major win for Bayern and a downer for Real, especially surrendering the goal so late and falling for the first time in the competition this season.
Had Gómez -- or any of his teammates -- not tallied, Real would have entered next Wednesday's match in Madrid with a 2-1 advantage, thanks to the away-goals rule that doubles scored on the road in the Champions League.
When you have two high-powered sides with so much at stage, every goal and every non-goal, for that matter, means so much.
We learned that earlier in the second half.
In a matter of seconds, Real's fortunes changed dramatically. Ronaldo found himself one-on-one with Bayern goalkeeper Martin Neuer and the Portuguese international some missed what should have been a sitter as the keeper knocked the ball away.
Give Ronaldo a lot of credit for staying with the play. He saved the ball from going out of bounds on the left side and sent German international Mesut Ozil a short feed that hit his shin and bounded into the goal from point-blank range for a 1-1 deadlock in the 52nd minute.
Give Bayern some credit as well. The German side did as well as it could to keep Real off the scoreboard, especially in the opening half. Ronaldo tested Neuer, who made a fine save in the seventh minute. While the hosts managed to keep Real off the scoreboard, it was a Frenchman, Franck Ribéry, who stole the first-half spotlight.
In the 15th minute, Ribéry claimed he had been fouled in the penalty area, but did not receive any satisfaction from referee Howard Webb. But only a minute later, Ribéry did get some satisfaction -- for himself and Bayern fans. Off a corner kick that could not be cleared by the defense, Ribéry slotted a ball home from 12 yards for his first goal in 11 matches.
It also was the first opening-half goal that Real had surrendered in 11 Champions League encounters this season and the first time the visitors found themselves behind in the competition.
After Ozil equalized, Bayern, realizing it needed another home game, went on attack and pushed forward as the hosts' patience and persistence paid off -- in the 90th minute.
Real would love to return in a month's time on Saturday, May 19, for the Champions League final at Bayern Munich's home. But there still is at least 90 minutes of soccer to be played as they have a Tuesday date with Bayern at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the second leg.
If you are a Spanish soccer supporter, La Liga fan or a Real Madrid and Barcelona backer, then this one wonderful week.
The fun continues on Wednesday afternoon when Real's archrival, Barcelona, visits Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London, for the first leg of its semifinal series.
The second legs for both series are set for next week as the Spanish sides get to host their foes, but not before Real and Barca tussle in their El Clasico at Camp Nou on Saturday.
A wonderful week, indeed.
Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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