Match analysis: Patient Real Madrid prevail against lacklustre, yet promising Dortmund
Real Madrid needed a late winner from Lucas Vazquez as they edged past Borussia Dortmund in a scintillating contest in UEFA Champions League group stage.
The corresponding fixture of Dortmund vs Real Madrid offers a lot of excitement and tonight was no exception as both sides fought tooth and nails in order to end their Champions League group stage campaign on a positive note.
Two early goals from Real Madrid already signalled a long night for the visiting Dortmund side. However, the Black and Yellows fought back bravely and eventually levelled the scoreline thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Although, Real Madrid's attacking onslaught proved too much for them at the end, as Lucas Vazquez's misplaced shot went into the back of the net for Madrid winner in the 81st minute.
Here's a brief analysis of Real Madrid's hard-fought win over the German giants.
Both sides started with a rather familiar formation. While Real Madrid opted for their customary 4-3-3 formation, Peter Bosz slightly tweaked his preferred 4-3-3 into a 3-4-3 formation in order to gain numerical superiority in midfield as well as other dangerous areas of the pitch.
Sokratis, Marcel Schmelzer and Neven Subotic were the centre-backs for Dortmund, with Marc Bartra and Raphael Guerreiro being deployed as the wingbacks. In midfield, Nuri Sahin teamed up with Mahmoud Dahoud while Shinji Kagawa and Christian Pulisic started on the wings with Aubameyang leading the line.
As for Real Madrid, head coach Zinedine Zidane opted for a second fiddle team with the likes of Borja Mayoral and Theo Hernandez starting. The defensive pairing of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane remained the same but Theo Hernandez and Nacho were respectively deployed as fullbacks.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Borja Mayoral lead the charge for the home side with Isco, Lucas Vazquez supporting in behind. Mateo Kovacic and Casemiro were the defensive-minded midfielders for Los Merengues.
Borussia Dortmund started the game with high intensity and a dense midfield. Head coach Peter Bosz did some homework in order to minimize Real Madrid's penetration by deploying a highly disciplined pressing unit.
In a defensive stance, the Black and Yellows switched to an oscillating five at the back defensive shape with Shinji Kagawa dropping in behind to help out the pressing or win the loose balls. Either way, the Japanese International was largely restricted in terms of his positioning, especially in the first half.
In the attacking moments, Marc Bartra and Raphael Guerreiro disintegrated themselves from the defensive shape and moved forward while Christian Pulisic moved deeper into central areas.
While on an attacking stance, Peter Bosz often relied on offside traps by executing an incredibly high defensive line. However, Marcel Schmelzer's lack of pace didn't help his cause, as the Dortmund captain kept Cristiano Ronaldo onside, which eventually led to the opener from Real Madrid.
Some awful marking was also responsible for Dortmund's shallow defending against the European champions. At times, Cristiano Ronaldo was often left unmarked inside the box, which could have been far more dangerous for the visitors.
Although the second goal should largely be attributed to the sensational quality of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese superstar was still given way too much space in the first place.In fact, the 32-year-old made an impressive 70 touches on the night - a score better than Dortmund midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud.
Patience was the key
After going 2-0 up early on, Real Madrid were quick to put more pressure into this fragile looking defensive setup of Borussia Dortmund. However, Los Blancos also remained calm and composed during their build-up phase, pegging back Dortmund back in their own half, with short passes and clever switch of plays.
This helped Real Madrid gain momentum whilst asserting their dominance onto the proceedings. The home side also got rewarded for their patient conservative approach with a few great chances too.
The influence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Theo Hernandez
These two players basically turned the game on its head with their industrious level of work rate throughout the ninety minutes.
Portuguese sensation Cristiano Ronaldo was firmly focused on scoring his sixth consecutive group stage games. The former Manchester United attacker often tracked back and picked up balls from deep in order to start attacks.
Other than managing 70 touches during the game, Ronaldo also had the most shots than any other player on the field as well as completing 53 passes(most by an attacker on the night).
Theo Hernandez, on the other hand, was just as much influential for Real Madrid. The French fullback completely dominated the left flank with his marauding runs forward coupled with his excellent level of build-up play and ability to pester long balls into the attacking areas.
In fact, the former Atleti defender makes a strong case for being the most influential player on the night.
The 'Varane-less' defence and Dortmund's attacking moments
It was no coincidence that Dortmund started to find their attacking rhythm just after the substitution of Raphael Varane.
The French International was a vital cog in defence, often making those crucial interceptions or winning important aerial duels inside the penalty area. But most importantly, Varane was the perfect antidote for the attacking onslaught of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
However, right after he picked up a niggle and got eventually subbed off, it completely hindered Real Madrid's defensive setup. The defence failed to remain resolute throughout the ninety minutes. Thus, more and more gaps started to emerge in the attacking areas, which ultimately got Dortmund back into the game.
It was a thrilling contest between two of Europe's perennial heavyweights, chock-full of drama and excitement.
Borussia Dortmund always lacked the quality to make full use of their chances, especially in midfield. Their biggest task, however, will be to solidify their awful and fragile defence.Dortmund needs to be much more resilient in order to prevail against top-class opposition in nigh future.
Real Madrid were gifted way too many opportunities, in otherwise, a fairly even contest. Los Blancos should really look to improve their defensive credibility without Raphael Varane however.
The victory will give Real Madrid some much-needed boost as they look to get back on track in their league campaign this season. As for Dortmund, Peter Bosz's job might be on the line, despite reportedly having the backing of the board.
[Author's note: All stats are taken from the excellent whoscored.com]