Dortmund Takes Real Madrid in the 'Group of Death'
Enlarge image Dortmunds Marcel Schmelzer (R) scores the 2-1 against Real Madrid's Goalkeeper Iker Casillas. (© picture alliance / dpa) A first-half goal by Robert Lewandowski gave Borussia Dortmund (BVB) the lead, but it was Marcel Schmelzer’s second half strike that secured Dortmund three points after Cristiano Ronaldo tied the game up before the half.
Real Madrid’s struggles at the start of La Liga’s season had not previously affected their play in international competition – until tonight. Madrid struggled to create clear-cut opportunities against a solid BVB defense, allowing Dortmund to come away with a much-needed three points, putting them at the top of the Champions League Group D, also known as the “Group of Death.”
After having defeated Ajax Amsterdam and drawing against Manchester City, BVB was hoping to leave the Signal Iduna Park with at least one point, ensuring that they would remain in second place. Given that key players, such as midfielder Mario Götze and fullback Marcel Schmelzer, would be available for coach Jürgen Klopp and that Madrid’s defense was decimated by injuries to defenders Marcelo and Álvaro Arbeloa, among others, the outlook for the Bundesliga’s reigning champion looked good.
Madrid’s defensive woes showed from the get-go, as sloppy passing prevented the Merengues from executing the dominating front-to-back style of play that they exhibit regularly in La Liga. Dortmund seemed cautious on defense, allowing Madrid to creep up the field before tightening up the back line, preventing Real from penetrating the penalty box. Dortmund looked content to wait for the quick counter opportunity – and they did not have to wait long, enjoying several decent chances in the first half.
Enlarge image Borussia Dortmund players thank their fans at the end of the match. (© picture alliance / Sven Simon) In the 19th minute, German midfielder Sami Khedira had to exit the match for Real Madrid, because his left hamstring did not seem to be completely healed from an injury sustained while playing on the national team. Croatian Luka Modrić took his place, and Los Blancos’ midfield did not seem to miss a step. After several decent chances by both sides, it was Madrid’s weakened defense that would blink first. In the 36th minute, Portuguese player Pepe simply did not see the lone BVB striker Robert Lewandowski, and passed the ball directly to him. Lewandowski pounced, dribbled the ball and struck well, placing the ball out of the reach of Madrid's keeper, Iker Casillas.
Dortmund’s jubilation at taking the 1-0 lead would not last long, however, as German Mesut Özil sent fellow midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo a long pass from the middle of the pitch. BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller reacted quickly and rushed out of the box to meet Ronaldo, but it was too late. Ronaldo simply lofted the ball over the keeper’s head and watched the ball roll into the net for the equalizer.
If anyone thought that the two teams would be content to end the game on a draw, they were mistaken. In the 64th minute, Dortmund player Mario Götze took a shot from a tight angle on the left side of the Madrid penalty box. Casillas punched the shot away from the goal, but right at defender Marcel Schmelzer. The German defender did not waste any time and smashed the ball with his right foot to the backside post. Casillas could do little besides watch the ball take a slight deflection and cross the goal line.
But the reigning La Liga champions are nothing if not dangerous on the attack, and they would not be deterred by a one-goal deficit. This did not scare BVB, however, and they continued to play aggressively. Both teams had several opportunities after BVB took the 2-1 lead, the best arguably for Madrid, when Weidenfeller punched a corner kick away from a jumping Pepe.
With ten minutes to play, Madrid really started to pour on the pressure, but Dortmund’s defense held. Dortmund was able to stop Madrid’s potent attack – which is surprising given the team’s rather poor start to the Bundesliga season – but no objective onlooker could honestly say that they did not deserve the three points.