A special live blog for the Counter Attack faithful this afternoon. A preview of May 25th’s Champions League final takes place at Signal-Iduna-Park. The league has long been decided, with Bayern Munich 20 points ahead of Dortmund, but this match takes on special significance thanks to this week’s events.
I’ll be the first to admit: there’s a part of me that can’t deal with watching my club play. I think a lot of us understand that feeling of dread well. How different it must be then for someone with actual money/job security on the line. Which is why I think we might give our sympathies to Hans-Joachim Watzke, the Borussia Dortmund chairman who locked himself in the washroom in the dying stages of Dortmund’s Champions League match against Real Madrid:
The Germans conceded two late goals to José Mourinho’s side before clinging on to secure a 4-3 aggregate win and book their place in the final at Wembley. “It seems like we only can do it with drama,” Watzke said on the club’s official website.
“For the first time in my life I had to give up due to heart problems. I went to the toilet for the last minutes, locked myself in, covered my ears and looked at my watch. I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head.”
Lord knows it might be a good idea for Watzke to pull a Billy Beane for the final and just go for a nice drive.
Two late goals from Real Madrid weren’t enough to advance to the Champions League final as Borussia Dortmund win 3-4 on aggregate.
Despite a late scare in the final 10 minutes of the match, the thrill factor was largely absent for the rest of the match. 2-0 was as much as Madrid could muster.
So yes, the team that has caught everyone’s imagination and adoration is heading to the final.
Jose Mourinho made a few changes to the lineup. He left Sami Khedira out and instead paired Xabi Alonso with Luka Modric.
Angel Di Maria also returned, allowing Mesut Oezil to play in his more natural position, in the centre right behind Gonzalo Higuain. The German international created many chances, but missed a crucial opportunity early in the game.
Di Maria surely added a level of energy and speed that was missing in the first leg. Modric also connected finely with Di Maria and created several great passes.
In the first 15 minutes, Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ozil all had incredible chances, but failed to convert. Higuain got the first chance for his team. His right-footer, however, was poor and Roman Weidenfeller was quick to cut down the angle and make the save with his stretched-out leg.
That chance was followed by Ronaldo’s attempt, which went straight to the Dortmund keeper, who managed to make the save. Ozil had another excellent opportunity for Madrid on the right side, but his attempt also went wide.
The majority of Madrid’s attacks came from the right flank in the first half. Alonso and Modric bonded for most of the night until Mou opted for change in the second. Modric’s effort and performance were top-notch. His passing was also very effective.
Madrid excelled the first 30 minutes, yet their attacks slowly subsided. Their advancements left the German side tantalized with Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender looking quite vulnerable on the left side.
Dortmund did a fine job of absorbing the Spanish side’s pressure. But the attacks also forced them to concede three corners early in the game. BVB was more reactive than proactive. Their high-tempo and high-pressing tactics were missing and only short spells of it were present today.
At the beginning, the German side struggled to create any chances. It was only when los Blancos’ failed to sustain the pressure that die Schwarzgelben managed to step up their game. BVB’s first good opportunity came from Robert Lewandowski in the 13th minute. He couldn’t finish though.
Goalkeepers were solid on both ends. Diego Lopez made several salient saves, and Weidenfeller kept his team in the game when it mattered. He produced important saves in the first 30 minutes as well as in the final 10 minutes, despite conceding two late goals.
Mats Hummels also had a superb game tonight. He cleared and intercepted several of Madrid’s balls. Lukasz Piszczek also kept a close eye on Ronaldo and curtailed his movement deep in Dortmund’s own zone.
In the 14th minute, Mario Goetze had to leave the game due to some sort of hamstring injury. He was replaced by Kevin Grosskreutz. German media reporting he’ll likely miss the match against Bayern Munich this Saturday, but should be fit for the CL final in Wembley.
With all the licit and illicit pre-game talk by Mou, Sergio Ramos surely didn’t miss a word of it. He was excessively physical with the Polish striker and was lucky enough to get away with the fouls. Alonso also reacted very unprofessionally towards Lewandowski and appeared to slap the player in the face at one point during the game.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Only now, Dortmund had the better chances, including a few by Robert Lewandowski, who just couldn’t repeat the magic away at the Bernabeu.
His best attempt came in the 49th minute on a slide from Marco Reus, only to hit the crossbar. Although Reus didn’t make the same exceptional runs as we witnessed in the last match, he still had a strong performance tonight.
The wastefulness continued, with a spectacular miss by Ilkay Gundogan in the 62nd minute. Gundogan really wasn’t as decisive as usual. When Reus slipped him the ball, he should have beaten Diego Lopez, but the Madrid keeper made a confident save throwing his full body in front of the ball. Credit to Lopez, the save was exceptional and well read.
With time running out and the score still level, Mou brought on Karim Benzema for Higuain and Kaka for Fabio Coentrao in the 57th. He also replaced Alonso with Khedira. The substitutions soon made their impact. It was an intelligent move playing with one less defender as Madrid came very close to possibly creating an upset.
The final 10 minutes were pulsating. In fact, it was so intense; that some at the game were reporting the BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke reportedly left for the game once the score was 2-0 and didn’t return until the final whistle.
While this wasn’t the most entertaining match, Benzema’s goal brought a message of hope to a demoralized side. He scored on a pass from Oezil in the 83rd. The next 7 minutes were thrilling.
Madrid’s offence continued to hound Dortmund, with Weidenfeller making a series of key saves, but his defenders (and the team as whole, actually) struggled to clear the ball and Ramos eventually added another goal (with Benzema assisting) in the 88th minute.
Could karma hit back at BVB? Could Madrid make a comeback? Dortmund dealt with the late scare much better in the five minutes of added time, clearing the ball and holding on to the ball to kill time.
BVB’s unbeaten streak was finally brought to an end. They’re not invincible, after all. Despite losing tonight, they were the better team in the 180 minutes and deserved to advance to the CL final in Wembley.
As for Madrid, the most important development there will deal with Mou and his future at the club.
Perhaps, 2013 is the year of the Bundesliga. This could be the year the Germans make history and have an all-German Uefa final.
Choosing three stars wasn’t so easy for this match with some players on both sides having a phenomenal night. Modric was key for Madrid. Oezil’s creativity was also in full swing, just unlucky at converting. Di Maria definitely an energy boost, but couldn’t finish. Lopez with some incredible saves and Benzema of course with a goal and assist. Whereas for Dortmund, Reus was strong, Hummels just as sturdy in defence and Weidenfeller (despite the two goals) made a few very very very important saves.
Perhaps, the audience can choose the three best players for this game. Feel free to post them below.
Robert Lewandowski scores four goals as Borussia Dortmund hammer Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
Dortmund are resilient in the face of controversy. The team didn’t allow the leaked news of Mario Goetze joining rivals Bayern Munich to destabilize their chances of reaching the Champions League final.
There were even reports of tighter security during Dortmund’s training session, and one report even suggested Goetze’s brother was bullied at school.
Juergen Klopp spoke and the players and fans listened. Klopp appealed for a special night and that is what he got. His team stayed united and didn’t allow Real Madrid to capitalize on the drama.
Even the atmosphere at the stadium wasn’t hampered by the news although there were earlier fears of abuse and jeering towards Goetze.
While all the pre-match talk was over Goetze, the game had Robert Lewandowski written all over it.
In the 7th minute Marco Reus made a spectacular run from the half-way line past several Madrid defenders, but couldn’t get his shot near the net. The rebound ended with Lewandowski, who should have instinctively tapped it in rather than trying to do too much with the ball.
A minute later, however, he made up for the earlier miss. Ilkay Gundogan passed the ball to Goetze who was waiting on the left. Goetze made the cross and Robert Lewandowski tapped it in, foiling Pepe. Lewandowski is now a top-scorer for Poland in the Champions League.
At best, Madrid only looked dangerous for a few minutes, especially on the counter with their speed. But the Dortmund defence was rock solid and hindered them from establishing their usual pace.
BVB were transitioning beautifully and pressing high up the pitch. The back-four, which at times appeared vulnerable in the past, were communicating brilliantly. Marcel Schmelzer was constantly throwing his body in front of the ball and troubling Mesut Oezil’s attempts from the right flank, who was paired with Luka Modric (Mou opted to go with him instead of Angel di Maria in the starting XI) in the centre and Ronaldo on the left.
The entire game, Madrid struggled to create any real chances, with several coming from set pieces, especially in the first half. Oezil and Modric lacked creativity and kept having their passes intercepted. Sami Khedira was a physical presence, but his advancements were continually held back.
Weidenfeller was absolutely stellar in net. He made a a few great saves on a slew of free kicks in the first 45 minutes. In the 24th minute he made a save on Ronaldo’s and then had to endure three more free-kicks from Xabi Alonso’s left side. One went wide and Weidenfeller made a double save on the third one.
The German side did a fine job of containing Ronaldo, denying the Portuguese his trademark dribbling and speedy runs forward. As in the group stages, Dortmund cut Alonso out of the game, denying him the creative ability to make key passes to the forward line.
A loss in concentration by BVB, allowed the Spanish side to score their only goal of the night. Dortmund were busy appealing for a penalty after Reus was brought down. Meanwhile Mats Hummels failed to control the ball and underhit it. Higuain was there to take advantage of the mistake and crossed it to Ronaldo, who volleyed it into the empty net. This was his 12th goal of the competition.
But die Schwarzgelben were in cruise control, in particular their prolific striker Lewandowski. He scored his second in the 50th minute after Reus made a pass just outside the penalty box. Madrid protested saying it was offside, but the replay showed it was onside.
The Polish international went on to score four goals, that’s four in 66 minutes, with one coming from a penalty kick. The penalty was awarded after Alonso pushed Reus to the ground.
Pepe and Raphael Varane (with the latter starting off strong) really had difficulty defending against Lewandowski, whose hat-trick was a hard-fought effort. After controlling the ball from a forceful Schmelzer shot, Lewandowski slammed it into the top of the net. Diego Lopez stood no chance.
Lewandowski became the first player in European football to score four goals against Real Madrid in a single game. And he almost made it five, but Diego Lopez, with probably his best save of the night, denied him that record.
As always, the crowd at the Westfalenstadion exploded. Surprisingly, viewers weren’t treated to another brilliant tifo before kick-off. Perhaps, next time.
Even after Madrid’s first goal, they failed to shift any momentum their way. BVB were incredible at controlling the game. Klopp wanted his team to play with Vollgasveranstaltungen and his team executed. It was another exciting and passionate performance.
Die Schwarzgelben continued to play a very compact game denying Madrid the leeway to set up a pace. BVB were counterpressing all night and swarming key players on the Spanish side whenever they touched the ball.
Jose Mourinho made a few substitutions in the second half, but it was pointless. Karim Benzema came on for Higuain, Kaka for Alonso and Di Maria for Modric. It’ll be hard to make a comeback now that they’re down 4-1, even with the return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
As for Dortmund, they’re the only team that still hasn’t lost a game in the CL.
It’ll be hard to see Dortmund next season without Goetze, who has incredible chemistry with teammates Reus and striker Lewandowski. The wunderkind played another strong game tonight and was involved in the first goal.
It’s on every football fans’ wishlist to keep this team intact. They’re truly something special, especially for a team that’s on a much smaller budget than any of the other European giants and even mid-table clubs.
Dortmund’s Facebook page confirmed the news early on Tuesday, although the club stressed at the time that they had yet to hear anything official from the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions. The statement read: “Mario Götze’s agent Volker Struth told us a few days ago that the player wishes to make use of his release clause and on July 1, 2013 move to Bayern Munich.”
Klopp & Co. will speak to the media shortly. To be a fly on the wall of the Dortmund dressing room tomorrow.
Breaking news out of Germany this afternoon.
It seems the biggest transfer of the summer has already been arranged: Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich, says Bild. That’s a dynasty right there
Wow. The timing of the move–days before Dortmund and Bayern play in the Champions League semi-finals– makes the news all the more crazy. Bild reports Bayern Munich has activated the €37m release clause in Mario Gotze’s contract. As always with transfer news, nothing is official until pen is put to paper. Again, the timing is incredibly bizarre.
More to follow as this major story develops. Never a dull moment.
Dortmund superman Robert Lewandowski scored in his 12th consecutive Bundesliga game. The record he’s chasing belongs to Gerd Muller, who scored in 16 straight contests in 1969/70. Lewandowski also set a personal record with his 23rd league goal of the season. Next stop: Manchester United?
BVB defeated Mainz 2-0. Meanwhile Bayern Munich continue to destroy German opposition, throttling Hannover 6-1.