Super Mario's persistence pays off to down disappointing Madrid

The Bavarians' star striker fluffed his lines for almost the entire match but popped up with the crucial late strike which keeps the Germans' Champions League hopes alive.
It was his great chance to impress on the biggest stage of all. Mario Gomez had generated plenty of expectation in the build-up to this match due to his red-hot scoring streak for Bayern Munich in the current campaign, coupled with his Spanish heritage. As this match got underway, all eyes were on the striker.

And for virtually the entire 90 minutes, Super Mario flattered to deceive. The striker fluffed his lines as he blasted over a clear-cut chance in the second period, missed another decent opportunity, lost control of the ball in the area early on and even failed to trouble Iker Casillas with a free header as the match reached its climax.

But great players pop up at crucial moments and when his team needed him most, Gomez was there.

It was a clumsy finish from the 26-year-old forward, as he slid in ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa to bundle Phillipp Lahm's low-cross past a helpless Casillas with just seconds remaining. And it was a goal which had looked set to elude Bayern, but one it had arguably deserved on the balance of play.

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Much was made before the game of Madrid's ability to produce against a real European heavyweight, having faced smaller sides so far in the continental competition. And the visitors found themselves on the ropes in the early stages. Cristiano Ronaldo had reportedly had his boots stolen at the Allianz Arena in the build-up to this game and the Portuguese looked far from comfortable as he lost possession at will and sent a number of efforts off target, while Angel Di Maria struggled to stay on his feet and Karim Benzema failed to make the most of his opportunities up front. At the back, meanwhile, Sergio Ramos suffered throughout and got away with several poor clearances in the Madrid area.

Indeed, it was his failure to deal with a set piece which allowed Bayern to take the lead following a corner as the ball fell to the impressive Franck Ribery to blast home through a crowd of bodies. And the home side was looking good for its lead as Toni Kroos imposed himself in midfield and Arjen Robben buzzed around against his former side.

Madrid battled back without ever entirely convincing, and leveled the match at 1-1 in the second half as Mesut Ozil tapped home a Ronaldo cutback after both Ronaldo and Benzema had fluffed their efforts.

And with that, Mourinho's men looked as if they may go on to claim the win as the momentum swung in their favor. But slowly, and surely, Bayern began to bite back and as the final whistle approached, the locals looked the more likely.

Lahm advanced down the right and drilled a low ball into the box. It was the last chance for Bayern on the night - perhaps even for its aspirations of making the final at this very stadium next month.

And there was Gomez to make it count. The player's Granada-born grandfather recently told the striker had turned down a move to Madrid in the past in favor of staying at Bayern. And although he took his time to do so on Tuesday, his crucial late intervention showed Real exactly what it was missing.

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