Malaga vs. Borussia Dortmund: 6 Things We Learned
Malaga and Borussia Dortmund played out a 0-0 draw that leaves many mysteries unsolved.
Both teams were intent on winning this Champions League quarterfinal, but neither managed to produce the all-important breakthrough.
What did we learn from the first leg in Spain? This encounter is tighter than many anticipated. Although Dortmund were rightfully outlined as favourites before the match, Malaga aren't willing to stop their run to Wembley without a fight.
Let's take a look at the major lessons from this exciting fixture.
Malaga Happy to Walk the Tightrope
Manuel Pellegrini knows the importance of not conceding an away goal. His side was set up to frustrate Dortmund with a diverse 4-2-3-1 formation that squeezed the opposition into giving away the ball in vital areas.
Malaga were more than happy to throw men forward on the counter—particularly in the first half. As energy sapped and the tempo dropped, we saw this boundless sense of life dissolve, but nobody can argue against the Spanish team's desire to attack in the opening 45 minutes.
Although Dortmund only ever seemed one quality pass away from unlocking Malaga's defence, it's a risk the home side needed to take in order to remain dangerous.
Willy Caballero Will Be Key to Any Malaga Success in the Second Leg
Although Malaga tackled doggedly, aspects of the team's defensive play gifted Dortmund a number of opportunities. While the likes of Martin Demichelis and Weligton put in decent shifts, it was Willy Caballero who deserves the most praise.
The Argentinian stopper made six important saves to keep his side in the game. Dortmund played without conviction and should have tested the 31-year-old more often, but anything thrown at Caballero was batted away from trouble.
Only half the battle is complete. Dortmund are likely to step their game up in Germany, meaning Caballero's excellent performance counts for nothing just yet. If Malaga are to progress, you can bet the experienced keeper will need to make another set of vital saves in the second leg.
Mario Gotze's Missed Chances Could Cost Dortmund
So much of the game's build-up focused on the exquisite talent of Mario Gotze. Back in 2011, German legend Franz Beckenbauer hailed the youngster as "the next Messi." Always a silly comparison to make, but his point is obvious (via BBC Sport).
Gotze had an extremely poor night against Malaga.
Opportunities presented to the 20-year-old could have Dortmund through to the semifinal already. Gotze's chances started as early as the 13th minute when he latched on to a towering Robert Lewandowski header on the halfway line. Although he should have been flagged for offside, Gotze approached Caballero's goal in a one-on-one situation, only to drag his shot wide.
Five minutes later, another opportunity presented itself when Dortmund nicked the ball off a sloppy defensive pass. Gotze should have tested the goalkeeper once more but failed to grab a crucial opener. This continued into the second half when Gotze raced beyond Demichelis and shot wide with a large portion of the goal at his mercy.
Gotze managed three shots on target out of five—but in all honesty—should have notched up a comfortable lead for the visitors.
Dortmund Have Plenty More to Offer
Gotze wasn't the only player responsible for a subpar performance. Although Dortmund looked threatening for the first hour, both teams eventually subsided into a timid second-half display.
Dortmund's slick passing was nowhere to be seen. Malaga worked extremely hard to halt any momentum and should be applauded for showing great determination. Even so, Dortmund failed to capitalise on pockets of space and often sloppily gave the ball away.
Robert Lewandowski was also guilty of a terrible miss at the beginning of the second half. Ilkay Gundogan took control of the midfield but couldn't consistently link up with his forwards, who had an uncharacteristically quiet day.
Malaga Have the Power to Score an Away Goal
La Rosaleda Stadium was bouncing when the final whistle blew. Malaga continue to impress in the Champions League and have taken a major step towards a semifinal appearance. A 0-0 home draw with Dortmund is a fantastic result, but it could have been so much more.
Two of Malaga's most experienced players wasted glorious chances. Javier Saviola dribbled inside the Dortmund box with six minutes gone and had an excellent opportunity to square a pass to his onrushing teammates. He decided to shoot. He missed.
Joaquin failed to deliver on a similar moment before half-time. Some crafty work on the right was followed by a poor ball to the edge of the box. Malaga had bodies forward and could have grabbed an unlikely winner.
It's All to Play for in the Second Leg
Both sides will feel they can win this tie.
Dortmund's home advantage could be the most important factor. Malaga's desire to grab an away goal could turn out to be decisive. The fact is, Malaga only need a draw with Dortmund to advance.
All the pressure is on Jurgen Klopp's team. He knows his stars need to step up in front of the Westfalenstadion crowd and will be urging them through the gears from the off.
This is Dortmund's last chance at winning a trophy this season, and Malaga's final opportunity at European football for the considerable future. Who will win? It's too close to call.
What did you think of the match? Who will stand victorious after the second leg? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.