While Robert Lewandowski will obviously be grabbing all the headlines Thursday morning after becoming the first ever player to score four goals in both a Champions League semi-final and against the mighty Real Madrid in Europe, the all-round contributions of Marco Reus towards Borussia Dortmund’s stunning 4-1 first-leg victory over Jose Mourinho’s side should not be overlooked.
The home team were vastly superior to their much-vaunted opponents in every facet of the game, with the likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski, IIkay Gundogan and, of course, their history-making Polish striker especially catching the eye.
However, right from the very off at a rocking Westfalenstadion it was the performance of one man, Dortmund’s blond-haired 23-year-old midfield player, that really set the tone for what would turn out to be one of the greatest nights ever in the history of the club.
Reus, of course, had already served notice of his prodigious talents earlier in the competition with some eye-catching displays in the group phase, in particular his man-of-the-match showing at the Etihad stadium against then Premier League champions Manchester City last October.
And virtually before Mourinho had even taken his seat in the opposition dugout, the Germany international had almost created an early goal for Lewandowski after a searing run through the visitors' backtracking defence, and the low shot produced an outstanding save from backup Madrid keeper Diego Lopez.
For the Spanish giants, that was a sign of things to come from a player who is now thought of in the very highest echelons of European football, and Reus’ first-half display did little to alter that perception, full of strong, pacy and direct runs right at the heart of Los Blancos’ back four whenever he picked up possession of the ball.
One such moment resulted in the major talking point of the opening period just minutes before half-time when Reus appeared to be caught in the area by Madrid defender Raphael Varane, who at times on Wednesday night was made to look his tender age for the very first time in his short career to date.
However, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers waved away Dortmund’s penalty appeals and within seconds the Liga champions has netted what at the time appeared to be an absolutely crucial away strike, totally against the run of play, after Cristiano Ronaldo had tapped in the 50th Champions League goal of his career following a terrible error from Mats Hummels.
Dortmund, though, and Reus in particular, simply moved up another gear after the interval, if that were even possible, to blow Real’s Decima dream to smithereens, with the forward having a part to play in two of their three second-half goals that were scored in a crazy 17-minute period.
First, Reus’ volley from the edge of the area was smartly collected and poked home by the ever-alert Lewandowski on 50 minutes, before yet another penetrating forward burst into the box this time resulted in the award of a spot kick following Xabi Alonso’s clumsy challenge.
The youngster appeared all over the pitch last night, right side, left side, centre of the park, attacking and then back helping out his defence, it really was a sight to behold, and you can quite understand just why the Bundesliga giants value Reus at upwards of £25 million.
And Madrid really did seem to have no answer whatsoever to this all-energy forward, with yet another of his lung-busting surges resulting in the first yellow card of the match for Sami Khedira 10 minutes into the second half.
“He [Reus] has been the one with the penetration, the one who has run beyond the back four,” said Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville about Reus’ performance on Wednesday.
In fact, the only thing missing from his night that would have capped off a memorable display was a goal, the closest the midfielder came was when he was denied by a marginal offside flag 12 minutes from time.
Reus, though, was still producing his characteristic clever turns and shimmies so as to escape the attentions of close markers in tight spaces in the dying stages to help relieve some late Madrid pressure as the Spaniards went in desperate search of a crucial second away goal.
Not only that, but moments later he would then be seen making another forward burst deep into opposition territory, while who could be seen guarding the near post when Madrid’s final chance of the night fell to Varane in the penalty box? None other than that man, Marco Reus.
Wednesday night in the Ruhr Valley clearly belonged to four-goal hero Lewandowski, however, without the contributions of local boy Reus, Dortmund would be travelling to the Santiago Bernabeu for Tuesday’s second leg with a far slender lead to protect.
And do not forget either that Jurgen Klopp's men would not have even been playing Madrid last night were it not for Reus' late intervention against Malaga in the quarter-finals...
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