A replay of last year’s semi-final encounter, this year’s Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund saw a turn of fortunes as Real thrashed their German opponents 3-0 to put one foot firmly in the semi-finals.
To be honest, Jurgen Klopp did face a massive task visiting the Spanish giants with most of his key players missing. Without Lewandowski to lead the team and missing key players such as Gundogan, Bender, Blaszczykowski, Subotic and Schmelzer, Dortmund hardly appeared to be the same team that tore Real Madrid to pieces last year in the very first leg of the tie.
However credit must go to Carlo Ancelotti and his team for putting forward a brilliant display of controlled football that hardly allowed Dortmund any breathing space on Wednesday. Composed and intelligent in the midfield, Real Madrid attacked with pace and ingenuity and pressed hard when they lost the ball. Full of energy and vigour, Real Madrid did everything right as they beat Dortmund 3-0 at Santiago Bernabeu making the return leg extremely difficult for the German side.
The fact that Real Madrid took the lead in the 3rd minute itself is testimony of Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics at the Bernabeu. His team maintained a high line to keep Dortmund at bay and pressed hard in the midfield to mount severe pressure on the Germans. And when in possession, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso played an extremely important role to make sure the game developed steadily without losing possession. The presence of Isco in the middle also gave Real Madrid the edge as the Spaniard contributed both with his intelligent passing and sharp dribbling runs. Gareth Bale was lively on the right flank and his partnership with Carvajal is slowly developing into Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest strength at Real Madrid. Extremely fast and adept at going past defenders, Bale gave Real the lead early on in the game after a brilliant inter-play between Benzema and Carvajal. This goal was the epitome of Real’s attacking threat. Quick short passing along with bundles of pace-Real has been phenomenal in their attacking prowess this season.
However the most interesting and encouraging tactic was to see Madrid push high up on the pitch and pile pressure on their opponents. Extremely quick in closing down spaces, Real chased the ball with gusto which had the desired effect on the German players. They sprayed their passes inaccurately and often gifted the ball away. The second goal was the result of such closing down as Xabi Alonso pressed hard at the defence and a deflection found Isco with the ball just outside the box who went on to place it deftly past Weidenfeller to double Real’s lead. While Isco, Alonso and Modric kept possession and built up the play with patience, Ronaldo and Bale stretched the defence with their splitting runs and deft step-overs.
Remember how Lewandowski tore apart Madrid last year, making a fool out of the defenders, especially Pepe? Well the Madrid defence has come a long way since and it put forward a brilliant display to make sure Real kept yet another clean-sheet in the Champions League. Pepe was fantastic in making interceptions and provided a few invaluable blocks to keep the ball from going inside the goal. Carvajal and Coentrao on the flanks defended with intense determination, giving no room to their opposition and made sure that they were quick to counter Dortmund’s pace on the wings.
Modric-8/10: Modric led the attack and gave Real Madrid much needed composure in the middle. Brilliant with his passing, his runs kept the defenders at bay as Modric orchestrated the team’s attack.
Bale-9/10: Though one cannot deny Ronaldo’s contribution to the game, it was Bale who outshone his Portuguese counter-part with his mesmerizing runs that left Dortmund trailing on their heels. And yes, that early goal that put Real in the driving seat.
Pepe-9/10: Pepe has been great this season and has come a long way from being second choice to Varane last season. Coupled with his intelligent understanding of the game, Pepe provided crucial interceptions to what would have been an easy goal for Dortmund. Man of the Match performance along with Gareth Bale.
Klopp once again entered the Santiago Bernabeu as the under-dogs and many wondered if he could pull yet another rabbit out of his box.
Marco Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan led Dortmund’s attack but Madrid’s high-pressing game and the presence of the solid back four did not allow them to really take control of the match. Though Reus was definitely Dortmund’s most threatening palyer on the pitch, it was clear that he was not being assisted properly as his passes and runs kept being under-utlized by his team mates.
Dortmund attacked cleverly from the wings as there was acres of space left behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale who played very high up on the pitch. It has been Madrid’s undoing in the past and Reus, Kevin and Piszczek made use of the space left behind Ronaldo and Bale to penetrate Real’s defence. They did come close on numerous occasions but failed to get past Madrid’s spirited back four. A couple of fantastic clearances made by Pepe denied Dortmund the opportunity to score that vital away goal.
So obsessed was Klopp with the away goal that he could have easily conceded a fourth goal by Real’s counter-attack. While Dortmund brought on fresh players to keep pressing at Real Madrid, Ronaldo’s injury and a visibly tired Gareth Bale left Real’s attack rudderless. So even though Morata, Coentra and Modric found themselves in lots of space just in front of the box, they failed to score a 4th to put the tie out of Dortmund’s grasp.
Marco Reus- 7.5/10: Dortmund’s biggest threat but the German was ill-supported by his team-mates and hence failed to make much of an impact in the proceedings.
Hummels-8/10: Dortmund have a lot to thank Hummels for as he made sure that they were not embarrassed having prevented Real from scoring on more than one occasion. A rock in the defence, he proved to Klopp’s saving grace.
Weidenfeller-8/10: The Captain pulled off quite a few good saves in the first half to keep Dortmund alive in the tie.
What awaits in the second leg?
Real will be expected to enter the second leg knowing that a single goal will be enough to see them through to the semi-finals. As displayed against Ateltico Madrid over the two legs of the Copa del Rey semi-finals, Real will look to control the possession and hit Dortmund on the counter.
Lewandowski’s presence will be a huge boost for Borussia Dortmund and the fans will be expecting another four goals from their leading goal-scorer of the Germans are to beat the Spaniards for the second consecutive year. Dortmund will press and will do so with a lot of vigour. An early goal is all they need to put the pressure back on Real Madrid.