FOOTBALL / Dortmund turns on the style at home to take 4-1 first-leg lead
First Bayern Munich, now Borussia Dortmund. Barcelona fell on Tuesday; 24 hours later Real Madrid fell in a manner so similar, so comprehensive, as to further fuel suggestions that the European balance of power has moved north. For a second successive night, a Spanish giant conceded four goals in Germany. Madrid at least scored an away goal, giving it the kind of hope for the second leg that Barcelona was denied, but an incredible four-goal display from Robert Lewandowski did it in.
Even his simplest goal, a penalty, was taken with the kind of authority that was astonishing.
Madrid, like Barcelona the night before, could have few complaints: this Dortmund victory was richly deserved. Jose Mourinho’s side might even be considered fortunate to have got a goal at all, coming from virtually its only clear chance and gifted by Mats Hummels just before half-time.
“It is obvious that the best team won,” Madrid’s coach conceded. His team was out-powered and outplayed; Dortmund’s win being clinched with similar pace and precision, energy and efficiency, as the previous night’s Germany-Spain clash. That swarm of red had turned yellow and black.
Not even the terrible timing of Mario Gotze’s €37m signing for Bayern Munich could derail Dortmund, although there may be a tinge of sadness when it is considered that the team’s brilliance on this stage may hasten its dismantling. But on Wednesday night, that did not matter. It was time to enjoy it.
“If they want to damage us, they won’t succeed,” Jurgen Klopp had said. Instead, Dortmund damaged Madrid. And it all started with a wonderful Gotze delivery, a swirling right-footed cross from the left that found Lewandowski dashing in towards the far post.
Lewandowski wrestled free off Pepe and launched himself at the ball to volley it into the net. The game was only eight minutes in, but it was not its first chance. Two minutes earlier, Sami Khedira had been robbed and Marco Reus was soon racing through, as he would be often.
He brought a sharp save from Diego Lopez and the rebound dropped just too wide for Lewandowski to be able to turn it towards goal.
There was a collective speed about Dortmund that was breathtaking. Madrid struggled to get out from the back and, when it did, it felt like it was walking into a trap. A quick robbery and Dortmund was off again, the noise rising in the stadium as it advanced. Its transitions were swift and frightening, Madrid’s space closed down in numbers. With the lead, Ilkay Gundogan controlled the pace, switching gears, and Reus kept on running. He was still running right to the finish.
In the forward bursts, some of the touches at speed were superb. Madrid was momentarily lost, its only strategy to seek free-kicks as a temporary respite. Soon, Jakub Blaszczykowski was dashing into the area on the right and ready to shoot, only for Madrid’s centre forward Gonzalo Higuain to block.
Gotze and Lewandowski then just failed to connect and in the next attack, Reus again was on the run. Into the area he went, tumbling under a challenge from Raphael Varane. He appeared to have been bundled over, his ankle possibly clipped, but it was not entirely clear.
Suddenly, in the midst of the indignation, Madrid was level. Hummels played a dreadful pass back to his keeper, Higuain reached it and slid the ball across for Ronaldo to finish simply. From 2-0 to 1-1 in the blink of an eye.
Yet if Madrid appeared to be back in it as the half-time whistle went, the sensation was a fleeting one. Five minutes into the second half, Dortmund was back in front.
Sergio Ramos had furiously sprinted to the linesman to insist that Lewandowski had been offside when the Pole turned neatly and nudged past Lopez from seven yards. He was wrong, but for a moment the home supporters held their breath.
When Lewandowski scored his next goal, the hat-trick effort, their breath was taken away. Again he turned sharply on his right foot, spinning away from Pepe to make a tiny bit of space for himself.
This time, from further out, he thumped a rocket shot into the top of the net — a brilliant effort to complete a brilliant trio of goals. And he was not finished. Gundogan’s rising shot was superbly saved by Lopez and then, on 66 minutes, the Dutch referee, Bjorn Kuipers, gave a penalty.
Inevitably, it was Reus breaking into the box, to be pushed down by Xabi Alonso. Lewandowski took the penalty, opting for a long, arcing, fast run-up, like a bowler coming in from round the wicket, and thrashed the ball into the net.
Four goals were not sufficient; still Dortmund’s players poured forward, still they attacked. But for Lopez, there might have been a fifth or a sixth.
The chances were theirs. Until, in the last minute, Roman Weidenfeller had to make a smart save at the feet of Ronaldo. Then, in stoppage time, Varane shot over. It would have been more than Madrid deserved. This was a historic night. And it was Dortmund’s night. — ©Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013
Born August 21, 1988, Poland
Joined Dortmund for £4m from Lech Poznan in 2010
2011-12 Bundesliga Player of the Year
35 goals this season, 14 in his last 12 Bundesliga games