Tuesday 24 October 2017

No miracle in Madrid as Real fall short

Real Madrid 2 B Dortmund 0 Champions League s-final (Dortmund win 4-3 on agg)

Borussia Dortmund players celebrate after the Champions League semi-final second leg.
Borussia Dortmund players celebrate after the Champions League semi-final second leg.

Henry Winter

Real Madrid walked off to a standing ovation, but it was Borussia Dortmund striding off to Wembley for the Champions League final having withstood Real's epic late rally which brought goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos.

"Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we're going to Wembley," sang the Dortmund fans in perfect English.

Dortmund had Robert Lewandowski's four goals in the first leg to thank and, last night, a masterclass in defending from Mats Hummels. They were also grateful that Real found their accuracy only late on.

The odds had always been against Real. Lewandowski's pyrotechnics in the Westfalenstadion had made it a mission bordering on the impossible for Real.

Jose Mourinho had gambled. He had no choice. He told his players to go down fighting, an order that Sergio Ramos certainly absorbed.

Hope briefly took hold at the Bernabeu. As the home fans chanted "yes, we can," Real tore into the Germans, their fervour stoked by Mourinho, a live-wire presence at the edge of the technical area.

During the whirlwind opening 15 minutes, it really did seem as if Real could overturn that 4-1 deficit. Modric was darting here and there, at one point dribbling down the right, the move ending with Roman Weidenfeller saving from Gonzalo Higuain.


Angel di Maria's return helped, the Argentine linking with Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo but Real lacked a focus. Ronaldo was not right, lacking his pace and sharpness and swagger.

If they only had possessed a centre-forward of Lewandowski's form and stature instead of the labouring Higuain.

Dortmund dealt well with the siege. They were calm, occasionally calculating. Mike Dean, one of the additional assistant referees in Howard Webb's officiating team, had a word with Weidenfeller about taking time over a goal-kick – in only the second minute.

Madrid needed the early goal but their finishing was poor. Di Maria shot over. So did Ronaldo.

Real were undeniably up for this. So were their supporters. But resilience underpinned Dortmund. They wanted Wembley. They wanted this final.

Dortmund fans tried to make themselves heard. They had arrived early, hanging out their 'Magic Goalgetter' and 'Rude Boys Dortmund' banners, never losing their belief that Jurgen Klopp's players would take them to London.

Their route was almost totally smoothed after 12 minutes. Lewandowski chested the ball down, swivelled and shot but it was straight at Diego Lopez.

Real kept hunting the goals, the comeback. The urgency was seen in the way the Bernabeu ball-boys quickly whipped the ball back to those in white shirts.

Real kept creating and wasting good chances. Ronaldo was through on goal but placed his shot too close to Weidenfeller, prompting mass sighs.

It was a wonderful opportunity, the type Ronaldo usually takes so confidently.

Real then screamed for a penalty when Higuain went down in the box. Webb waved away all their pleas.

Dortmund had to reorganise when Mario Gotze limped away, bringing Kevin Grosskreutz into the centre, but they were drawing the sting, protecting their handsome aggregate lead.

Still the fans believed. Still Real poured forward. Ozil snaked a shot wide. Hummels went through the back of Modric, who was trying to spin away with the ball.

Fabio Coentrao, racing down the left, crossed high into the centre but Hummels dominated the air. Always Hummels.

One of Ozil's runs down the left simply cried out for a proper target-man to aim at.

Higuain has his merits but he is no Lewandowski and it was little surprise when he made way for Karim Benzema in the second half.

Klopp's players were working so hard to keep Real at bay. Black-and-yellow swarms descended on Mourinho's inventive players.

When Di Maria collected the ball on the right with five minutes of the half remaining, he was immediately surrounded by Jakub Blaszczykowski, Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer, pressing hard, forcing the turnover.

Such was the tension that some unpleasant challenges went in. Coentrao clattered Lewandowski. Modric caught Reus. Ramos elbowed Lewandowiski.

Dortmund were hardly angels. Ilkay Gundogan brought down Ozil.

Bender clipped Ronaldo's heels. From the resultant free-kick, Ronaldo lifted the ball high into the crowd.

Four minutes into the second half, Lewandowski could have ended the tension, running on to Reus' measured pass but firing the ball against the bar and out.

With hope draining away, Mourinho sent on Kaka for Coentrao and Karim Benzema for Higuain 10 minutes into the half.

So committed to attack, Real were vulnerable to the counter and only a superb save from Lopez denied Gundogan.

Mourinho had one last throw of the dice, sending on Sami Khedira for Xabi Alonso, trying to guard against breaks.

Essien threw himself in the way of a Lewandowski shot.

When Modric then curled in a promising free-kick, Hummels headed imperiously clear.

Webb had been dealing well with a fast-moving game, though he missed a Hummels hand-ball with 11 minutes remaining.

Real finally found a breakthrough with seven minutes left when Ozil crossed from the right and Benzema rammed the ball into the roof of the net.

Weidenfeller immediately rolled on top of the ball, requiring the intervention of Webb to get the game going again.

The Bernabeu believed. Ramos had a header held. Ronaldo's shot was tipped over by Weidenfeller.

Then the Bernabeu went crazy as Benzema showed calm, stroking the ball to Ramos, who swept a shot past Weidenfeller. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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