Dortmund leave Real with barely a leg to stand on

Posted by Rob Train

What's the German for "Ouch"? After Barcelona was emphatically beaten by Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, the chances of the same thing happening to Real Madrid were duly reflected in the odds offered by the bookmakers. Dortmund to win by the same margin was priced at between 50-1 and 80-1 -- the sort of odds that usually require a correct first goal scorer as well. 4-1 was going for roughly for the same. What difference would a Real goal make in that scenario?

But that is the conundrum that faces Jose Mourinho and his Decima-chasing side ahead of next week's return leg at the Bernabeu. The Portuguese coach's rueful glance back at the turf of the Westfalenstadion before he disappeared down the tunnel said it all: a theatre of nightmares for his side.

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Dortmund was better prepared, physically and tactically, for the match than Real, much as Bayern had been the previous evening. At least Real, in Cristiano Ronaldo, had the benefit of its best player being fully fit. But even that was not enough to stop a serious bout of yellow fever. Not only on the field, but also in the stands. Dortmund gave Real a lesson in how to approach a European semifinal. For 90 minutes the wall of noise from the stands spurred on a home side that needed little in the way of motivation but received oodles of it anyway.

Thursday's headlines will belong to Robert Lewandowski. The Poland forward gave a striking master class and beat Diego Lopez in the Real goal four times. His first, which came from the right, Dortmund's most profitable area of attack, was the result of a poacher's instinct. The second, quick feet in the box. Lewandowski's third is a contender for goal of the tournament, a wonderful drag back, touch and thunderbolt into the roof of the net. The fourth came from the spot after Xabi Alonso had bundled over Marco Reus in the box.

Ronaldo had leveled matters at the end of the first half, capitalizing on a blunder by Mats Hummels. The Germany international cut out Luka Modric's acrobatic pass - the Croatia international was the only real surprise on Mourinho's team sheet, Angel di Maria having arrived in Dortmund after the squad due to attending the birth of his child on Monday night. But it was Hummels having kittens when he saw his soft back pass picked up by the otherwise ineffectual Gonzalo Higuain and squared to Ronaldo, who slotted home with ease for his 51st goal of the season, his 12th in the Champions League and sixth in consecutive European games.

At that point, it seemed Real had weathered the worst of Dortmund's onslaught and the visitor had the upper hand in the closing stages. But after the break, it was the home side that took the initiative. Lewandowski's ability to drift away from a marker returned the advantage to Dortmund and Real's defenders were far too busy protesting a nonexistent offside when he beat Lopez at his near post. It was a theme to run throughout the match; surely it is better to play to the whistle than try to cajole it into being sounded? Mesut Ozil incurred a yellow card when he suggested the referee award one the other way and Real were guilty too often of trying to gain advantage with similar tactics.

In fairness, there was not much else they could do against Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund side. In a series of interviews this week with the eccentric German schemer, the existence of the "footbonaut" emerged; a contraption that fires balls at between 60 and 120 kilometres an hour at a single player inside a ring. Under the pummeling provided by the machine, a player controls 200 balls in 10 minutes. "We'd need 16 coaches to do what this thing does. We're the only club in the world to own a footbonaut! We don't copy," Klopp said. That Hummels threw in a challenge on Ronaldo so hard that it burst the ball on 87 minutes says it all.

It is this innovative approach, the physical condition of their players and the, some may say typically German, attention to organization that make Dortmund so intimidating. And in a nutshell, Real were caught between their pincers and crushed.

Lopez made a couple of good saves to prevent the score line getting out of hand while Real pressed at the other end for an all-important second away goal that would have meant a 2-0 win at home next week would do. Despite the efforts of Ronaldo, isolated for the most part, Ozil, lively but crowded out, and Karim Benzema after his perhaps tardy introduction, the deficit remains three goals.

Barcelona is, in all likelihood, out of the competition. It is difficult to see Bayern, which has a +75 goal difference in the Bundesliga and has scored 26 in Europe, failing to find the net at Camp Nou. As Xavi said: "Practically impossible."

Real's situation is more a case of mission possible, but it will require its strongest back four - Pepe was mesmerized by Lewandowski - a striker in form and Ronaldo being fed as often as possible. It may even make sense to play the Portuguese through the middle at the Bernabeu: at least he'll see more of the ball. Even so, the same applies to Dortmund - one goal in Madrid, and Real will require five.

It might not have been a manita, but it was as vicious a slap in the face for Mourinho's Real project as his first major encounter in 2010. It will take all of the Portuguese's guile, and the performance of his team's existence, to turn the tie around.

In the short term, Real's goal is clear. In the medium, it might not hurt to try to gazump Bayern's reported bid for Lewandowski in the summer. No player had ever scored a hat trick against Real in Champions League. No player had ever scored four in a European semifinal. The Pole's virtuoso performance is exactly what Real have lacked this season from their own centre forwards.

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