Borussia Dortmund were a Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot-on-the-post away from reaching the Champions League semi-finals as they beat Real Madrid 2-0 on the night but still went out 3-2 on aggregate, based on last week’s abysmal performance at the Santiago Bernebeu.
How Jurgen Klopp must be ruing his team’s rendition of a rabbit in headlights in the first leg! The game had quite an explosive start, with Lukasz Piszczek adjudged to have handled the ball and Real getting a penalty as early as the 15th minute. With Ronaldo out of the game with a knee injury, Angel di Maria stepped up to score from the spot and take the game beyond Real’s reach. But the Argentinian let the pressure get to him and kicked a tame shot at Roman Weidenfeller. And the Signal Iduna Park, which was waiting with baited breath, let out a huge sigh of relief.
That sigh was repeated almost instantaneously, but for different reasons, as Mkhitaryan came tantalizingly close to opening the scoring, shooting just wide of Iker Casillas’s post. But Dortmund could not be denied for long and Marco Reus pounced on Pepe’s slip to shoot past the Spanish captain and score. And just like that, the Great Yellow and Black Wall erupted.
Marco Reus then went on to give his team even more cause for excitement – he disposed Asier Illaramendi and passed the ball to Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker could only hit the post, but the rebound fell kindly for Rues, who was able to stroke the ball into an empty net. And suddenly, Dortmund could believe, they could hope. Pity, then, that Carlo Ancelotti did not pay attention to the slip-up.
The Italian brought on Isco in the second half, with a view to control the midfield, and the move worked spectacularly. Real did not threaten while going ahead, yet retained the ball and were able to absorb Dortmund’s attacks. The Spanish team was also very lucky to not have a man sent off – Xabi Alonso was repeatedly getting into the shins of the Dortmund midfield and how he got away with just a yellow card in the entire match is one of life’s great mysteries.
There was one close, close chance for Dortmund though. Mkhitaryan was the culprit again as he ran onto a Reus through ball and was able to round the ‘keeper, but with an empty goal to shoot into, the Armenian could only hit the post. And that was the heartbreak moment for the German side, as they could not muster anything else to trouble Casillas.
At the end, Dortmund can be proud that though they are out of the competition, they have gone out with their pride intact. For Real, however, this game would have been a good wake-up call.