Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned
Buoyed by a stellar four-goal showing from striker Robert Lewandowski and a tireless performance from the midfielders behind him, Jurgen Klopp's team dominated their opponents and will head into the Bernabeu Stadium next week with one foot already in the Champions League Final for 2013.
Here are six things we learned from the 4-1 drubbing by Dortmund.
1. Robert LewanWOWski
For anyone who hadn't yet realized how good Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski was, becoming the first player to score four goals in a Champions League final ought to do the trick.
The Polish international was superb up front for Dortmund, but he did more than simply tap goals in. He was active and moved around brilliantly, causing problems for a struggling Pepe all night, who was nowhere to be found when Los Blancos needed him most.
Lewandowski was hungrier for the first goal, timed his run to perfection for the second, showcased some tremendous skill and power for the third and was deadly from the penalty spot for his fourth.
It was an incredible performance, and one that is likely put his team through to the 2013 Champions League Final as a result.
2. Dortmund Are at Their Best When They Just Get the Ball into the Box
It's been evident throughout the entire Champions League season so far, but Dortmund showed once again that the direct nature of their attack is difficult to shut down.
Regardless of which defense they've come up against, Dortmund's ability to get the ball into the box allows their dominant strikers—starting with Lewandowski—to show their dominance on the ground and create scoring opportunities.
They are not as graceful on the counter as Madrid or even Bayern Munich, but they are just as deadly.
They move the ball with precision and quickness and don't muck about in attacking midfield and waiting for the right opportunity to fall their way. Instead, they create chances and make them count.
Dortmund won't always score four goals against top clubs, but they will score plenty of goals given the direct nature of their attacking style. And so far, it would be a brave man to suggest it isn't working.
3. Diego Lopez Was Superb for Madrid
Jose Mourinho has faced criticism over the past few months for choosing Diego Lopez as the starting goalkeeper in big games and letting Spanish international Iker Casillas sit on the bench.
And whilst Lopez did allow four goals against him on the night, he showed again that the Madrid boss was right in selecting him over the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year.
Lopez could not have done anything about all four goals, but he made up for them with some splendid saves Three in particular—against Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Robert Lewandowski—were first-class saves against shots that could have easily gone in.
This game could have been an absolute demolition—say 6-1 or even 7-1. Instead, Dortmund were held to just four goals by the brilliance of Lopez, who didn't deserve to have four goals put past him on the night. The central defenders were woeful—not the goalkeeper.
Mourinho was justified in his selection.
4. Madrid Missed Mesut Ozil in the Middle
With Mesut Ozil lined up on the right flank instead of his more customary role as a central attacking midfielder, Real Madrid dearly missed his presence throughout this fixture.
The star playmaker was sent out wide in preference for Luka Modric, whom Jose Mourinho tried to play through the middle. But did it not turn out well for Los Blancos, as Modric played far too low down the pitch to assert any dominance for the Spanish heavyweights.
That made Madrid's attack sputter and forced the likes of Xabi Alonso and even the defenders behind him to play long balls. And whilst Cristiano Ronaldo is a world-class talent, not even he is capable of chasing down every long ball thrown his way and turning it into a goal against a strong defense.
Ozil might have been useful against the German opposition, but instead he was resigned to playing out on Dortmund's strongest area of the pitch and never saw any real attacking chances as a result.
It turned out to be costly for Madrid.
5. Mario Gotze? Stand Up Marco Reus
There is no doubting that the transfer of Mario Gotze from Dortmund to Bayern Munich this summer will come as a bitter blow for Jurgen Klopp's side that will leave a hole in midfield.
However, with Gotze's transfer hanging over his head, it was the performance of Marco Reus in a central role that showed the German side will not be completely bereft of attacking opportunities next season—especially not when he has Robert Lewandowski sitting up field ahead of him.
Reus was superb going forward and was instrumental to Dortmund's no-nonsense attacking system. He moved the ball quickly and decisively and brought about many chances as a result, showing himself to be one of the more underrated playmakers in world football.
If he can continue that next season, even if Dortmund don't buy an immediate replacement for Gotze, Reus will go a long way to filling the void.
6. Borussia Dortmund Were Just Better
Just as Bleacher Report's tactical analyst Sam Tighe suggested in his post-game analysis, this victory was less about Dortmund winning some sort of tactical battle than it was about the German side just being better and Madrid getting it all wrong on the night.
Physically, BVB were superb. They pressed, harried, fought and committed in every single second of the game, giving only Raphael Varane and Pepe time on the ball.
Lewandowski and Gundogan will take the plaudits, and not to take anything away from the latter's stellar performance, but Madrid simply lay down in front of him.
There were no magical PowerPoints from the home side; they had no special tactics for deliberately marking out Ronaldo and didn't make any sweeping changes prior to kickoff. They simply did what they've done throughout the entire tournament so far—play decisive attacking football from the midfield all the way through to the top of their attack.
Dortmund deserved the victory because they were just better. Madrid were poor, but that was a direct result of Dortmund's pressure. And regardless of how dominant Bayern Munich might have been against Barcelona in their semifinal defensively, it will take a strong and disciplined team to stop this side from clinching European glory, after what we saw on Wednesday.
May 25 just can't come quickly enough.
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