Spanish super club Real Madrid hosted German giants Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu for the final round of games in Group H of the Champions League. Los Blancos were already assured qualification heading into this game, but would look to use this game as a chance to get back to their best form against a top opponent. Dortmund meanwhile needed to at least match APOEL’s result against Tottenham in order to hold onto their Europa League spot, and they too would want a positive result in this game to give them some confidence to take back to the Bundesliga.
Two quick strikes hand Real an early lead
Zinedine Zidane’s team selection may not have suggested that this was a must win game, but his side started brightly against one of Germany’s top teams. Cristiano Ronaldo had an early shot from 25-yards out that almost forced a mistake from Roman Burki, but the Swiss shot stopper recovered well. It didn’t take long for Los Blancos to find an opener against a shaky Dortmund defence however, thanks to some good work from Ronaldo down the left flank. The winger delivered a low driven cross which was actually miscontrolled by Isco in the box, but the ball fell kindly to Borja Mayoral who finished coolly, grabbing his first Champions League goal for Real Madrid.
Not to be outdone, Ronaldo quickly grabbed a sensational goal of his own on the ten-minute mark. The Portuguese international executed his trademark cut back onto his right foot, before curling the ball perfectly into the far corner. The goal made him the first player in history to score in all six group stage games of the Champions League, and handed his side a simple 2-0 lead. The home side utterly dominated the opening 20 minutes, pinning Dortmund back in their own half and controlling the possession. The tempo of their attacks did not slow despite their advantage, and it was all the visitors could do to prevent another goal.
Aubameyang gives Dortmund some hope
To their credit, Peter Bosz’s side did attempt to get back in the game, and Christian Pulisic in particular was terrorising Theo Hernandez down the right flank. The American almost set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a low cross to the back post, which was cut out well by Raphael Ramos. Moments later he slipped Shinji Kagaway through, and the midfielder looked set to hand Dortmund a lifeline, but for a brilliant save by Keylor Navas. The resurgence did seem to give the German side confidence however, and Real became sloppy in possession as Dortmund dialled up the pressure.
The home side did manage to soak up the majority of Dortmund’s attacks however, and normal service was swiftly resumed as they settled back down to a slow tempo, possession-based game. Mayoral almost grabbed his second goal of the game after some surgeon-like build up play, but his shot on the turn curled just outside of Burki’s post. It was actually the visitors who struck on the stroke of half time, somewhat against the run of play. Marcel Schmelzer found some space down the left wing and whipped in a curling cross, which ended up right on the head of Aubameyang. To the surprise of very few in the stadium, the Gabonese international guided his header past Navas, giving his side some hope heading into the break.
Aubameyang grabs another to stun the Bernabeu
Dortmund came out for the second half with an incredibly intensity, anf their determination to grab an equalier paid off almost immediately. Aubameyang, who looked to be clearly offside, found himself in space in the Real Madrid box. Navas made a great save to deny the forward from scoring with his first attempt, but a follow-up chip from the Gabonese striker ended up in the back of the net, drawing the German side level. Zidane’s players protested furiously to the referee and his linesman, but the goal stood. The sucker punch blow to Real did seem to spark their players into life, and Ronaldo almost restored the lead with a low shot, but the ball rolled a foot wide of the post.
With the game level, both sides seemed to sense that they could easily run out as winners, which quickly turned it into an end-to-end affair. Aubameyang and Pulisic were a constant threat to break in behind the Madrid defence with their blistering pace, while Ronaldo looked dangerous whenever he got on the ball at the other end. For all the additional energy in the game however, neither team was able to create anything clear-cut, and Real in particular were limited to efforts from range.
Vazquez gets the late winner for Madrid
As the game wore on it was the home side that looked more likely to find a late winner, with both Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos going closs with curling efforts from the edge of the box. Ronaldo also saw a penalty claim waived away by Pavel Kralovec, and a header well saved by Burki, but Los Blancos were knocking furiously on the door. In truth it was all Dortmund could do to hold Real back, and they struggled to get out of their own half. Ronaldo thought he had finally grabbed the winner on the 80-minute mark, but was wrongly ruled out for offside in another poor piece of officiating.
In the end it was Lucas Vazquez who got the goal that everyone had been expecting for 20 minutes after a poor punch from Burki fell to Ronaldo. The legendary goal scorer headed the ball down to the Spanish winger, who struck a neat shot with the outside of his foot to curl the ball into the bottom right corner. It was nothing less than Real Madrid deserved, and rewarded their indefatigable determination. Dortmund did push for an equaliser, and Kagawa had a brilliant opportunity late on which he blasted over the bar, but Real managed to hold on for a stunning victory.
At the end of the day this game meant very little for Real Madrid in the grand scheme of things, but it provided the perfect confidence boost as they recovered from a few setbacks to win late on. Cristiano Ronaldo made history with another Champions League goal, and hopefully that form will eventually carry over into La Liga. Zidane will find out his side’s opponents for the first knockout round at the draw on Monday, and they could be in for a touch match having finished second in Group H.
Borussia Dortmund struggled defensively yet again in this game, but they looked good going forward with Aubameyang and Pulisic looking sharp. The German side will now drop down to the Europa League, a competition in which they may well be the favourites to lift the trophy. However, unless they can sort out their defensive woes Peter Bosz may not be long for his job, especially given their poor form in the Bundesliga.
Real Madrid: Navas; Nacho, Varane (Asensio, 38’), Ramos, Hernández; Kovacic (Ceballos, 58’), Casemiro, Isco (Llorente, 69’); Vázquez, Mayoral, Ronaldo
Borussia Dortmund: Bürki; Sokratis, Subotic, Schmelzer, Bartra (Toprak, 80’), Guerreiro; Sahin (Weigl, 65’), Dahoud Pulisic, Kagawa (Yarmolenko, 90+2); Aubameyang
Goals: Mayoral (1-0, 8’), Ronaldo (2-0, 13’), Aubameyang (2-1, 43’), Aubameyang (2-2, 49’), Vazquez (3-2, 81’)
Referee: Pavel Kralovec
Yellow Cards: Bartra (15’)
Red Cards: None
Real Madrid: Navas 6; Nacho 6, Varane n/a (Asensio), Ramos 6, Hernández 6; Kovacic 6 (Ceballos 6), Casemiro 7, Isco 7 (Llorente 6); Vázquez 8, Mayoral 8, Ronaldo 9
Borussia Dortmund: Bürki 6; Sokratis 6, Subotic 6, Schmelzer 7, Bartra 5 (Toprak n/a), Guerreiro 6; Sahin 6 (Weigl 6), Dahoud 6 Pulisic 8, Kagawa 7 (Yarmolenko n/a); Aubameyang 9
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