Real Madrid is through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the fourth consecutive year after a 3-2 win on aggregate despite going down 2-0 at Signal Iduna Park. Ten conclusions from the loss but advancement to the next stage in the competition:
- The attitude was wrong. I’ve said this before and I am saying it again. The idea of going into a game, to somehow consolidate the lead or the advantage is never a good one. We aim to sit back, pass our way out of the game and hope to go through 90 minutes in that fashion. It puts undue pressure on the midfield and defence to hold their ground than move forward. Simply said, ‘attack is the best form of defence’ as a measure goes for a spin.
- Goal? Meh, who wants that! Combine the idea of #1 with the idea of trying to pass around than take a shot and you’ve hit jackpot. A jackpot where the result is disaster. For most part of the game, we had equal or better possession than Dortmund but we weren’t taking shots, providing crosses or going for a goal. Possibly the thought was to maintain possession than giving it to Dortmund and either be caught out or tracking shadows. But if you’re 3-0 up, have quality attacking options available, why not rattle them and push them too? Again, attack is the best form of defence. Bit of stat here: Real Madrid’s run of 34 consecutive games with a goal scored came to an end today.
- Defensive midfield got it horribly wrong While the trio of Xabi, Modric and Illarramendi have done well recently. Against Dortmund, they were caught out. Not entirely their fault but because Dortmund pressed quicker on the ball forcing players to make hurried passes and try to niggle way out with little passes in the final third which, usually, did not go according to plan.
- Attackers meet defence Apparently a formal introduction was needed for Di Maria, Benzema and Bale to chat with the midfield and the defence. The attackers didn’t run back to volunteer with defensive duties and take the ball from the back. Di Maria did have a case in the end as he played two positions by the end of things – left-wing (first half) and a little subdued in the second half. Benzema looked lazy and did have a few shots on target later in the game but that was only when Dortmund were tiring.
- 90m well spent? Not yet. If the idea was to pay 90m+ for a player to deliver in games against Valladolid etc. then it’s been money well spent. Otherwise, it hasn’t delivered yet. A great season for Tottenham, thunderous freekicks and goals from distance in Europa League is one thing but to step up, make an impact and be counted against the likes of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in Champions League is another. Sure it is early to judge a player and his abilities but with that price tag, you would expect a little more in big games, when it really matters.
- Iker, you saviour! Turns out, when it matters, it is Iker Casillas who delivers. Be it at 32-years old against a German club from Dortmund or 21-years old against another German club from Leverkusen. He made some great saves to deny multiple Dortmund shots on target. Mkhitaryan was on target thrice, once hitting the post and twice had his shot saved by Iker. He was so good that Jurgen Klopp also appreciated his abilities. Spain number one and our captain everybody!
- Cristiano – a cheerleader! Even though Cristiano wasn’t on the pitch, he was leading and egging the team forward off of it. He was up and yelling from the seats on most instances, looked more than eager to come on and play and at one stage had to be warned by the UEFA official to be seated. It’s strange that Cristiano was on the bench, we were on the edge and yet he didn’t come on – even if to run the clock down. Maybe it was a scare tactic to keep Dortmund guessing? Anyway, Ancelotti said Cristiano may play on Saturday against Almeria.
- The difference: Isco and Casemiro Isco came on to replace Illarramendi at half-time with the Basque player having a nightmare in the first half, a mistake which led to the second goal. Isco held on to the ball better, kept it in his wake for as long as possible, ran with it down the flanks when possible, and was more confident in his approach than Illarramendi ever was. Later, Casemiro came on to replace Di Maria to further consolidate the slender one-goal advantage and he did a neat job of it. At times he was slow on the ball but he made up by staying organised and getting stuck in in the middle.
- Attack and you stand a chance Near the hour mark, Real had two good chances when Dortmund were tiring down. Bale went past two players and tried to curl it in the back of the net but it didn’t get the desired result as it trickled wide. A minute later, Benzema rounded Weidenfeller but he was slow to get a shot on as the ball was taken off his toe. The point is, with these attacking moves and near-goals, Dortmund were pushed back and we grew in confidence to get an away goal which would have possibly but the game in the bag.
- Do we ever learn? Whoscored lists one of Real Madrid’s negatives as “preserving lead” and that was proven true in the second leg. Further, Modric’s quote in the post-match interview was apt and hit the spot on the mark. The Croatian said, “We say we will learn from these games but to me it seems like we never do”. Yes, Luke, you lot never do.
What did you guys make of the game? Any assessments? Thoughts!