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Thursday, April 19, 2012

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First blood: Real Madrid's Pepe (rear) heads the ball away from Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez during Bayern's Champions League semifinal first-leg 2-1 win on Tuesday. AP

Late Gomez strike puts Bayern in control of semifinal


MUNICH — Mario Gomez scored in the 90th minute Tuesday to hand Real Madrid its first loss in the Champions league this season and give Bayern Munich a 2-1 win in a pulsating first leg of the semifinal between two sides with a combined 13 titles.

Gomez's 12th goal of this year's competition boosted Bayern's hopes of becoming the first team to play the Champions League final at its own stadium and earn its fifth title.

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho called Gomez's goal a "lucky punch" and said a draw would have been a fairer result.

"But football is about goals and it doesn't matter if they come in the first or last minute," Mourinho said.

Franck Ribery opened the scoring in the 17th minute for Bayern Munich and Mesut Oezil equalized in the 53rd.

The second leg is next week in Madrid.

Bayern has won 14 of its last 15 games in Munich, where Real has never won in 10 attempts. The Spaniards have only one win from 23 visits to Germany — a 3-2 victory at Bayer Leverkusen in September 2000.

"It was clear from the start that it would be an exciting, open game between two champion teams," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who guided Real to the title in 1998. "In my opinion, we deserved to win and we beat a great team. We played with hunger, passion and ambition."

Bayern now has 11 wins from 19 meetings between the great rivals — including nine from those 10 games in Munich.

Despite Real's defeat, the away goal could be decisive for the nine-time champions.

"It's not a bad result but it means we have to win at home and turn it around," Mourinho said. "It's not the biggest turnaround in history but we still have to do it. We can achieve this. We are at home. Real plays to win, at home or away."

Heynckes promised his team would continue to attack in Madrid.

"We are going to try to create chances and score one or two goals. We won't be playing for a draw," he said.

Bayern captain Philipp Lahm struck a similar note.

"We have to do exactly the same in the second leg, work for 90 minutes, restrict their chances like we did today," Lahm said.

Gomez knocked the ball in after Lahm broke through on the right and sent in a low cross. The striker powered through to extend his right leg and prod the ball home from close range.

"Gomez worked a lot and he was rewarded at the end," Heynckes said.

Ribery slotted in a shot from inside the penalty area after Real had failed to clear a corner from Toni Kroos, with Sergio Ramos practically chesting the ball down for the Frenchman to score the first goal.

Mourinho said the goal was a "clear offside," as Luiz Gustavo was behind the last Madrid defender when the shot was taken, and may have obstructed the view of goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Real's coach said English referee Howard Webb should not have allowed the goal, "but I don't have a negative feeling about it."

The equalizer came with Bayern's defense looking uncharacteristically in disarray. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stopped Cristiano Ronaldo's effort but could not hold on to the ball. Real regained possession, with Mesut Oezil passing to Karim Benzema, who found Ronaldo again and the Real star passed across the goal for Oezil to score from two meters out.

Ronaldo has scored 41 goals in the Spanish League but he got few openings against Bayern. One of his free kicks sailed high, one was deflected by Bayern's wall.

Reading wins promotion


READING, England — Reading has secured promotion to the Premier League after a four-year absence with two games to spare in the second tier.

The League Championship leaders ensured they would finish in the top two by beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 Tuesday as third-place West Ham was held to a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

Southampton is poised to join Reading in the Premier League, with the second-place side going five points clear of West Ham by beating Peterborough 3-1.

Promotion seals a remarkable turnaround for Reading, which was second to last in the standings four games into the season.

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