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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dortmund 4 Madrid 1: Lewandowski Runs Riot On Real Madrid With Foursome Display As Spanish Wembley Dreams Are Shredded

On fire: Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals as Dortmund crushed Real Madrid in their semi-final first leg

Just what everyone was waiting for at Wembley next month. The first all-German European Cup final. Fussball’s coming home, everybody. Enjoy.
And we will. It is increasingly hard to dispute the top two in the Bundesliga as the best teams in Europe right now.
After Bayern Munich took Barcelona apart on Tuesday, Wednesday saw Borussia Dortmund dominate Real Madrid. An incredible four goals from Robert Lewandowski sealed the deal, but this was no mere one-man show.
Dortmund won the midfield, the defensive battle and Lewandowski was head and shoulders the best forward, closely followed by team-mate Marco Reus. It comes to something when the Germans give up the right to take a penalty, but they stood aside for Pole Lewandowski to claim number four. It is hard to imagine Madrid have a way back, needing to win 3-0 to progress on away goals.
Is the simple fact that Borussia Dortmund are a better team than Real Madrid? They were on Wednesday night, and they have been this season. Madrid have played Dortmund three times this season and have not won. And the aggregate score between the countries in the Champions League semi-finals reads: Germany 8 Spain 1. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, who swapped the Bundesliga for La Liga, must feel they backed the wrong horse.
It was hardly comfortable viewing for England manager Roy Hodgson, either, considering his defenders must find a way of containing Lewandowski this year. He was immense, his three second-half goals coming in the space of 17 minutes, Madrid shaken to the core by his movement and clinical finishing.

Dortmund

Having seen their lead wiped out before half-time, Dortmund restarted with vengeance and verve, and were helped by some pitiful defensive work from Madrid.
The second half was five minutes old when a lame shot by Reus was ignored by Madrid’s back line, who preferred to look for an offside flag against Lewandowski. It was in vain; a sluggish Khedira was playing him onside. The ball rolled to the striker who turned it expertly past Diego Lopez.
If that had a hint of fortune, Lewandowski’s third was a work of art. Marcel Schmelzer hit a low ball across the face of goal, it was deflected to Lewandowski and he held off Pepe before dragging the ball back in one deft movement and firing into the top of the net.
The gasps soon gave way to a sound more raucous. The goal that may have taken the tie came as the Spaniards collapsed. Xabi Alonso clattered into Reus, referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded the penalty, and Lewandowski finished it in style.
He is the fifth player to score four in one game in the European Cup from the quarter-finals onwards: Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Lionel Messi are the others. Some roll call. Some player.
The idea of Jose Mourinho being left to fight for the honour of Spanish football is an irony too rich for many Catalans, who may feel there are three Teutonic teams contending this title now.
This may do a disservice to Real Madrid at their most freewheeling, but there is only one Barcelona and after they were dismantled in Munich, the sole Spanish team with a Champions League pulse could be relied upon to adopt a more pragmatic approach.
That scheme lasted eight minutes. Borussia Dortmund took a deserved lead and the result was a high-tempo tie in which Madrid had to abandon hopes of playing with caution.
The response was to win a series of free-kicks in Dortmund’s half, and pepper the goal with shots and viciously swinging crosses. Cristiano Ronaldo forced a save from Roman Weidenfeller, but the rest were overhit and off-target or competently handled.
Dortmund are no Barcelona, and Mats Hummels in the heart of the back four is a giant in the air. Much the same is said of Madrid’s Pepe, but he was left exposed here.

Helpless: Real Madrid head coach Jose MourinhoDejected: Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo

Dortmund’s first chance came after seven minutes, when Sven Bender won a fierce tackle in the heart of midfield and released Reus. He seemed to glide past white shirts before attempting a delicate finish to which Lopez just got a hand. From the next attack, Dortmund were ahead.
Mario Gotze supplied an outstanding cross and Lewandowski’s movement was superb, giving Pepe the slip and making room at the far post to force the ball past Lopez. The Yellow Wall, as the south tribune is known at this most colourful of grounds, went wild.
It did not matter to them that Gotze’s £31.5m transfer to rivals Bayern Munich had just been announced. It did not seem to trouble them even before he supplied that superb pass.
Coming from a culture that snarls at perceived disloyalty — even if it means financial and professional improvement — the reaction came as a surprise.
There was no venom, few oaths, little animosity at all. The locals had decided beating Real Madrid was a bigger issue on the night. It was all very grown up.
How they will feel if, as expected, Munich take Lewandowski when his contract expires at the end of next season remains to be seen. One can only remain philosophical for so long, and the limit of patience expired on 43 minutes.
Reus broke into the Madrid area, at which point Raphael Varane appeared to latch onto his arm, causing a fall.
Kuipers ignored it and the sixth best official in Holland — behind the goal at the behest of Michel Platini — had neither the wit nor the gumption to take charge. Nothing was given and the ball stayed in play — and from that, Madrid equalised.
To be fair, it also took a horrendous mistake by Hummels, under-hitting a back pass which Gonzalo Higuain seized on like a cheetah with a stricken antelope.
He drove at Weidenfeller and had the common sense and absence of ego to square for Ronaldo to convert. Had the roles been reversed? We will never know.

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