It was the game of the evening as Germany’s top team in Borussia Dortmund took on reigning champions Real Madrid in their Group H clash. In the end, Real ran out 3-1 winners to go top of their group alongside Tottenham, with Dortmund sinking to joint bottom beside Apoel.
Both sides fully played their part throughout the game as open and attacking football was clearly the first thing on the agenda for the teams. Gareth Bale opened the scoring with an outstanding first-half strike, before Cristiano Ronaldo latched onto Bale’s cross to score.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut the arrears in half, but Ronaldo smashed home to make sure all three points would go back to Spain.
Here are the five things we learned from tonight’s encounter:
Ronaldo has still got it
Of course, this was never in question, but everybody enjoys being reminded that Cristiano Ronaldo is a goalscoring machine. The Portuguese, who made his first Champions League appearance of the season following a ban for pushing an official, was once again on the score-sheet.
The winger-come-striker was at his opportunistic best as he beat Dortmund’s defence to Bale’s drilled cross to tap the ball home to make it 2-0. The measure of the man was shown as, when Dortmund pulled a goal back, he popped up again to smash the ball past Roman Burki at his near-post to seal the points for the Spanish side.
While many are beginning to question whether he is as good as he used to be, Ronaldo is still very much a goal scoring behemoth. He may have lost a touch of speed, but his vision, footballing intelligence and finishing are second to none. He is transforming himself into one of the great finishers.
Bale answers his critics
From a British perspective, the treatment of Gareth Bale is one that defies belief. For Tottenham, he was incredible with his pace, power and goalscoring ability saving the London side often. His transfer to Real Madrid has apparently failed to ignite his career, although, when he plays, he is scintillating.
The critics have been out in full force regarding his time in Spain, but he answered many of his doubters this evening. His work ethic and energy were fantastic, while his goal was a thing of beauty. The ball was clipped to the edge of the box and it was surely a better idea to take a touch. However, the Welshman feathered his strike into the top corner, past the helpless Burki. He capped his performance with a perfectly placed assist for Ronaldo to make it 2-0.
While he still has some way to go to win over every Madrid fan, performances like this will help massively.
The simple things still allude Burki
Borussia Dortmund’s goalkeeper knew he was going to have a hectic evening against Madrid with some of the world’s most creative and clinical players lining up for the Spanish side. He made a number of fine saves throughout the game including a superb reaction save low to his right to deny Isco after his shot found its way towards the goal late on.
However, the goalkeeper clearly has a glaring flaw in his technique. For Ronaldo’s goal, Burki was beaten at his near post as the forward made it 3-1. While the superstar had lashed the ball into the back of the net, the goalkeeper should not have been beaten at his near post. It brought back memories of two of the goals he conceded against Tottenham in the first game which squeezed in at his near post.
While he can clearly make the headline saves, he will never be regarded as a world-class player until he can eradicate those mistakes from his game. For the sake of Burki and Dortmund, the goalkeeper must rectify these glaring errors, and fast.
Dortmund are a good side, but they are very unlucky
Borussia Dortmund gave their fans a lot to shout about throughout the game as they continued to display their slick attacking style. The moment Aubameyang struck will have caused hope to come flooding back into the home fans, only for that to be extinguished by Ronaldo’s second.
Irrespective of the result, the German side will have won a lot of neutral fans with their style of play. Their open, attacking mentality perfectly mirrored the style that Madrid incorporates resulting in a fast-paced and entertaining game of football where the focus was on offensive play and scoring goals.
We also learned that Dortmund are not a lucky side. Against Tottenham too, they looked very good as they carved their opponents open, but they ended up on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline. This evening too they got forward whenever possible and were only denied by some superb defending and profligate finishing, but on a different night, they could have been celebrating taking all three points from the game. While it is impossible to make a side luckier, the Germans need to be more clinical if they are to get out of the group.
Things are getting away from Dortmund
While there are some very tough groups in the Champions League this year, Group H takes the title of the most difficult. Dortmund are currently top of the German league, Madrid are the double-reigning European champions, and Tottenham are growing into a world-class team.
One of the three had to struggle and, unfortunately for Dortmund, they are that side, with two 3-1 defeats seeing them sink to the bottom of the group after two games played. With just four matches left, Dortmund will now have to make up for a six-point gap between themselves and Spurs and Madrid, which is an incredibly tall order.
Fortunately, Madrid and Spurs now face off in the next two games giving Dortmund the perfect chance to claw those six points back, although they will have to beat one of the current top sides if they are to reignite their knock-out round hopes.
Borussia Dortmund: Burki 7 – Piszczek 6, Papastathopoulos 7, Toprak 6.5, Tolijan 6 (Dahoud 6) – Castro 6, Sahin 6 (Weigl 6), Gotze 5.5 (Pulisic 5)- Yarmolenk 6, Aubameyang 7.5, Philipp 6.
Unused subs: Weidenfeller, Zagadou, Bartra, Kagawa.
Real Madrid: Navas 6 – Carvajal 7, Varane 8, Ramos 8, Nacho 7 – Casemiro 7.5, Modric 8.5 (Fernandez 6), Kroos 8 – Isco 7.5 (Asensio 7), Bale 8.5 (Vasquez 6), Ronaldo 8.5.
Unused subs: Casilla, Llorente, Hakimi, Mayoral.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers.
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