Real Madrid 2 – Dortmund 2: Late Ozil equaliser saves Mourinho blushes again
When the draw for Group D, or the Group of Death, was decided, there was hardly anyone who would have a predicted a torrid qualification campaign for 9 time champions, Madrid. But as it now stands, the 1997 winners, Dortmund are on the top of the group with 3 wins and a draw. Real on the other hand, have coughed their way into second place, after a hard fought draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night against the Germans.
The draw may seem harsh on the young German side, but the lack of experience amongst their ranks and the behemoth that is Jose Mourinho was expected to retaliate to their initial attacks. Jurgen Klopp though deserves thorough credit for moulding the domestic heroes into a side that is now formidable in Europe for the first time since the magnificent 1996-97 campaign.
Kevin Grossekreutz had an early effort from the edge of the box muffled by Iker Casillas. Dortmund then took the lead, when Polish striker, Robert Lewandowski headed a pass to Marco Reus who drew first blood in the 28thminute, after a defensive lapse from left-back, Alvaro Arbeloa.
Madrid were almost instantaneous in response, with Pepe thundering in the equalizer off an assist from Mesut Ozil. Raphael Varane then broke down another moment of brilliance from Reus with a saving tackle, while Marcel Schmelzer dispossessed Cristiano Ronaldo seconds later, in the other half of the Bernabeu pitch.
With half time approaching, the horrible defensive lapses from the Madrid left-back, allowed Dortmund to reclaim the lead with Gotze flicking the ball over Casillas via a defection from Arbeloa.
A fuming Mourinho replaced the struggling Gonzalo Higuain with Jose Maria Callejon, while Michael Essien came on for Luka Modric. The midfield up till this point lacked any creativity, leading to further defensive errors from the back four, who were constantly under the threat of caving in further to the German attacks.
Essien took to the pitch in a stride, reminiscent of his heydays at Stamford Bridge. The impact was immediate with the imposing Ghanaian immediately plugging the hole in the midfield, allowing Alonso and Ozil to dictate the midfield. Callejon’s introduction was necessary to break into the resilient Dortmund defense, and the young Madrid graduate would have registered himself on the score sheet, had it not been for a selfish moment from Angel di Maria, who had an ambitious effort blocked in the 72nd minute.
With Klopp moving in for a more defensive strategy in the second half, the Dortmund defense was almost resolute in action, until the genius called Mourinho, introduced Kaka in place of Alvaro Arbeloa. Arbeloa had been the weak link all along, but the three man defense held the fort during the dying minutes, with Michael Essein providing excellent cover, to the men at his rear.
Kaka’s introduction put more pressure on Dortmund and it paid off rich dividends, when Madrid won a free kick in the 89th minute. The attempt did not go to waste, when Mesut Ozil neatly burrowed the ball past Roman Weidenfeller into the near post.
The Madrid side may boast of a world class attack, but have sorely missed the defensive strength in the midfield, provided by Sami Khedira. Clearly the Bernabeu giants were saved the blushes by the tactical genius of Jose Mourinho, who has much to do if Real are to compete for the trophy that has eluded them since the days of Morientes and Raul. On the other hand, with their current run, Dortmund are finally in the reckoning for a serious run in Europe’s biggest club competition.