So the first legs of this year’s Champions League semi-finals are over and just as many expected they were complete mismatches. But unlike most anticipated it was the German contingent that ruled the roost, and barring a set of unimaginable second leg comebacks it now looks set that we will have the first ever all German European cup final.
Borussia Dortmund vs Madrid (Agg: 4-1)
Dortmund continued their perfect home record in this year’s competition with a thorough demolition of Spanish champions Real Madrid, thanks to a master class from Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish international became the first player ever to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final to maintain Dortmund’s unbeaten run in Europe this season.
Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp had asked for a special “BVB night” before the game, and he was not let down as the Signal Iduna Park Stadium faithful vociferously cheered on their home team.
The Borussians, who have won all of their home games in Europe this season, dominated from the first whistle and could have been 1-0 up inside two minutes with Diego Lopez saving well from Marco Reus. But they did not have to wait too long for the opener with Lewandowski firing them a head after only eight minutes.
The Polish international freed himself of the intentions of Madrid defender Pepe, before launching himself onto a wonderful pass from the left by Mario Götze to give the Germans a deserved lead.
Real rallied briefly but could not create any clear cut chance, with their best attempt a long distance free-kick from Ronaldo. Indeed, Dortmund looked the more likely to add to their tally and seemed in total control, which is why it was such a surprise when Madrid equalized two minutes before half-time.
A hopeful up field pass was cutout by Dortmund’s Matt Hummels, but the defender then under hit his back pass allowing Gonzalo Higuaín to surge in behind and tee up Ronaldo for his 12th of this European campaign.
The goal might have stunned most teams and punctured their momentum, but this Dortmund team are not like most teams and showed so with a breathtaking second half display.
The second half had barely started when Lewandowski put the home side back in front, turning and finishing well from six-yards out after being found by Reus’s miscued effort.
Five minutes later Lewandowski had a hat-trick, swiveling and firing in an unstoppable shot past Diego Lopez to get the Signal Iduna Park Stadium well and truly rocking.
But Dortmund were not finished yet and rounded off a fantastic night when Lewandowski smashed in a penalty in the 66th-minute to become the first player ever to score four goals in a European Cup semi-final.
What they said
Dortmund’s manager Jürgen Klopp:
“[Dortmund] are like this unbelievable team, I can’t explain it in English… we are like Robin Hood,”
“I would never have dreamed that we would score four in a semi-final of the Champions League. If we lose 3-0, we’re out. If 4-1, it’s extra-time. So it’s not over but whatever happens we will give our best and let’s not ruin the pleasure of this night.”
Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho:
“It is obvious that Dortmund were the better side. They were more aggressive physically and mentally and they won virtually all the duels.”
“Things seem impossible but they are not. There is still hope. If you asked the players now if there is a chance, they would say ‘no’. Ask them in an hour and they will say ‘yes’. By next Tuesday they will be ready to go for it and give everything.”
Tuesday 30th April
I expected Dortmund to put in a good performance and win this first leg semi, as they had won all of their home games in Europe this season and Madrid had only previously won once in Germany in 24 attempts. But the ease and manner in which Dortmund won did surprise me.
Ronaldo’s first half goal means Madrid are not completely out of it, and a 3-0 home win would be enough to see them through to the final. Madrid have won three of their homes games in Europe this season and have scored three or more goals on each occasion.
The Spaniards will take heart from the Deportivo team of 2004, otherwise known as “Superdepor”, who overcame a first leg 4-1 away defeat to A.C. Milan by winning the second leg in Galicia 4-0. They will have to burst out of the traps and if they can get an early goal they may just have a chance.
However, Dortmund are the only unbeaten team in this year’s competition and so completely outplayed, out-muscled, and out-thought Madrid that it is hard to envisage them losing 1-0, never mind 3-0.
Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Agg:4-0)
Bayern Munich all but booked their place in the Champions League final with a stunning victory over favorites Barcelona.
The Bavarians put together a scintillating display of pace, power, discipline, and skill to give the Catalan giants their heaviest defeat in Europe since 1997, when they lost to Dynamo Kiev by the same score line.
The game was action packed from the start and Bayern could have been a goal up within the first two-minutes when Robben, perhaps selfishly, chose to shoot and saw his effort saved, when he could have squared the ball inside to Mario Gomez and Franck Ribery who were both unmarked.
On a heavily watered pitch Bayern gave Barca a taste of there own medicine pressing and harrying the Catalans intensely, though the Catalans did still manage to dominate possession.
Nevertheless, it was the home side that looked the more dangerous and it was no surprise when the deadlock was duly broken just before the half-hour mark, with Muller heading in at the back post after Dante towered above Dani Alves and headed towards the back post.
The Spanish side were struggling to play with any fluidity or rhythm as Bayern tirelessly pressed and closed them down in the final third. Nevertheless, they could have scored when Alves drove a fizzing ball across goal to the back-post, but Dante got a crucial touch to take the ball just away from the lurking Messi who no-doubt would have equalized.
Bayern continued to look the more likely to score, and their wide quartet of Ribery, Robben, Alaba and Lahm causing Barca all kinds of trouble down the flanks. The Spaniards looked extremely vulnerable from set-pieces and it was little surprise when Bayern doubled their lead from a corner, Muller heading Robben’s cross back across the goal for Gomez to poke into an empty net.
The German goal-poacher looked marginally offside, but the goal was no less than the German champions deserved, and they went in at the half two goals to the good over their opponents.
Barcelona continued to have the lion’s share of possession in the second half but without stretching or troubling the home side, though there was a moment of worry when Barca defender Marc Bartra found space eight yards out only to poke his finish straight at home keeper Manuel Neuer.
Bayern continued to torment their opponents down the flanks and increased their advantage when Robben worked his way in from the right-wing before slipping the ball past Valdes from an acute angle, although there was a possible infringement as Muller blocked off Jordi Alba.
Barcelona were being taken apart and seemed to have no answers, but their agony still was not over and they conceded yet again from a wide position with Muller applying a close-range finish to David Alaba’s cross to give Bayern commanding 4-0 lead going into next week’s second leg in Spain.
What they said
Bayern Manager Jupp Heynckes:
“It was not a really big surprise to me that we scored four goals. We have played to a high level all season.”
“We defended so well and in possession we have style of play going forward. We have a lot of creativity and a lot of class and quality.”
“Barcelona are a fantastic team and that is why you can only rate this victory even more.”
Barca assistant coach Jordi Roura:
“Bayern played a great game, while we were lacking that freshness to compete with them and that is something that we have to look at.”
“We didn’t see situations where we could have changed things after the break. We know that the situation is difficult but as Barcelona we have to compete in the second leg and try to win. We will give it our all.”
Wednesday 1st May
Bayern’s place in May’s final looks as close to sure thing as there is. No team has ever recovered from a 4-0 defeat in the Champions League, though Barcelona did beat A.C Milan 4-0 earlier in the competition to overcome a first leg defeat. The Catalans are a tremendous force at the Camp Nou, and actually beat Bayern 4-0 in the 2009 quart-finals.
But this Bayern team is a vastly differently and much improved side from the one in 2009, and even if Barca hit the ground running and score early, I doubt they will be able to stop the Germans from making it into their third final in four years.