REAL MADRID DECIMA-TED

Robert Lewandowski ***image courtesy of zimbio***
Robert Lewandowski ***image courtesy of zimbio***

Robert Lewandowski finds himself in very illustrious company.

In the Champions League era, he became the first player ever to score four goals in a semi-final. He also became the first player to score four against Real Madrid in this competition that so defines los merengues.

It means that he puts his side in a wonderful position to go through to the final. Certainly, in as far as history is concerned, this is not a huge feat for Borussia Dortmund. In context however, it means that a young team, experiencing only its second ever Champions League is potentially continuing a dream run.

It will certainly raise eyebrows. Those in Manchester will wonder why their team of assembled superstars cannot negotiate the group stages. Elsewhere in North London, questions will be raised as to why the number of consecutive years in the Champions League have only produced two semi-finals and one final.

Besides that however is the realisation that Dortmund are showing the rest of Europe how to do it.

With a team based on youth, it is their development that is paramount. That is the case with Dortmund as a galaxy of young stars have been harnessed to produce a team. With youthful exuberance and tactical know how, they have shown that anything is possible.

On the other side however, their victims, Real Madrid were the direct opposite. A galaxy of known stars assembled together to chase after every title. On this night, they looked disoriented and disorganised. A sports car with the best of parts but lacking its chassis.

Right from the first whistle, Madrid were out-ran, out-manoeuvred and eventually, out-thought. The Germans were full of energy and directed those energies in the right directions. Indeed, to only score one goal in the first half was surprising considering the amount of chances they creaed.

That they went into the break level was however a sign of things that may yet come. A slight lack of experience as in context, Dortmund were still stuck in the moment of being denied a penalty that they lost concentration. A mistake by Mats Hummels led to Gonzalo Higuain squaring the ball to none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. The outcome was never in doubt.

But, after the break, Dortmund were in devastating form. Marco Reus and Mario Gotze, as they had done all game long, troubled with their creativity. Ilkay Gundogan ran the heart of midfield. Sven Bender dictated the tempo.

It was Lewandowski though who applied the finishing touches. Not once, not twice,but three times to take his tally to four goals. Indeed, with each strike, his transfer fee doubled, trebled and quadrupled. Not just anyone scores four in a semi-final of the Champions League. Not just anyone hits four into the Madrid net. In fact, nobody ever has.

This means that a potentially all-German Final is set up in London on the 25th of May.

In terms of performance, it most certainly illuminated more than that of Bayern Munich 24 hours ealier. It may have not been more telling, but it was a sign that they are there to compete as much as make up the numbers.

However, that away goal may come to haunt them. Going to the Bernabeu is a daunting task, no matter what the advantage. And in Jose Mourinho, Madrid have a manager who has overturned first leg defeats in this competition before. Such as in 2005 when coming from a 2-1 loss from Camp Nou, Mourinho’s Chelsea stormed into a 3-0 lead inside half an hour.

That though will be dependent on whether or not they can prevent Dortmund from scoring. Of course, with Lewandowski in this form, it seems improbable.

And as well, it should not be forgotten just how much Jurgen Klopp’s input to this side’s success has been. It is he after all that manages on a minimal budget, and has seen Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa leave for greener pastures. Yet, even now, his team still competes.

Against Madrid, he pulled a masterstroke in man-management. With the potentially distracting news that Gotze was Bayern-bound coming out this week, he managed to get the very best out of the young German. It never looked as if Gotze’s mind was elsewhere. If it was, it was probably looking forward to Wembley.

And the road to Wembley started that day Klopp realised that he had to change his tactics somewhat in Europe. He realised that his pressing was too brave and too suicidal at the time. He shifted this, kept the quality transition and balanced out the whole team.  To use Miguel Delaney’s words, his team are now more poised and more controlled as the whirlwind football of last season proved wasteful against better teams. Without this slight change, he probably would not be competing in a semi-final.

With those tactics though, it seems as if he will be competing in the final.

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One comment

  1. […] That was most clearly evident in last season’s semi-final. In the first leg in Germany, Dortmund took the lead before Real Madrid equalised just before half time. Buoyed by overconfidence, Madrid came out for the second half ready to take them on. In the process, they left gaps at the back which Dortmund exploited and which Robert Lewandowski fully capitalised on. […]

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