Borussia Dortmund finished top of group F after drawing with defending champions Real Madrid. Two late equalisers in two games against Real meant Dortmund will now finish top of their group. Marco Reus’ late goal made it 2:2 after Aubameyang had pulled one back in reply to Benzema’s brace within the hour mark.
Zinedine Zidane’s men started without the likes of Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos (even though he was subbed on later in the game). Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos took charge of defence while Marcelo and Danny Carvajal occupied the wingback positions. In midfield, Casemiro sat in front of the defence, alongside Luka Modric and James Rodriguez in advanced positions. The front three comprised of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Lucas Vazquez.
As for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel had to leave out Mario Götze, due to his minor complaint, for which he didn’t travel with the team to Madrid. Gonzalo Castro replaced the former Bayern midfielder, alongside Julian Weigl, who guarded the defence comprising of Sokratis and Marc Bartra. Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek were the fullbacks.
Marco Reus was dropped to the bench, even after his hat-trick of assists against Gladbach as Andre Schurrle replaced him on the left wing, while Christian Pulisic started on the other flank. Ousmane Dembele started in a usual CAM role, just behind the main striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The game started with incredible intensity as both sides tried to disrupt each other’s flow in midfield, especially, Dortmund who pressed with their usual fervour. Marc Bartra was often seen leaving his initial position to help the two midfielders in pressing through the middle. Bartra also had a bigger task at hand, as Marcel Schmelzer, the left back, frequently moved up the field, often leaving acres of space behind which the Spaniard mainly covered up. Lukasz Piszczek stayed relatively deeper in the first half, mainly to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo having space to run into.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, preferred to stay narrow and deep. Casemiro took charge of the middle, while Luka Modric hunted down the passes in midfield, also keeping tabs at Julian Weigl in the process.
Here, we can see Sokratis with the ball, trying to circulate possession while Julian Weigl will try to find a safer spot where he can pick it up and distribute possession while Luka Modric evidently follows the young midfielder.
The ball goes to Piszczek and he passes it onto Weigl, and at the same time, his pursuer Modric applies pressure on the 21-year-old.
The foremost reason for Real’s dominance in the first half was their excellent transition play.
Here we can see how Madrid evaded the Dortmund pressing in the middle, by transitioning the ball through the fullbacks, especially Carvajal. Also see James Rodriguez’s contribution that higher up the field. Even though they looked a bit conservative because of the dangerous counter attacks from Dortmund. We also have to say that Dortmund were far too conservative and failed to make any clear counter attacking opportunities. When they had the chance to break, they used too many touches by the time the Real defenders got back their defensive shape.
From the above pic, we can clearly see Dortmund’s lack of invasion in Madrid’s penalty area. Lots of sideways passing, and conservation meant Thomas Tuchel’s team getting away with just 1.44 expected goals ratio but thanks to some great conversion rate, the Black and Yellows managed to score two goals past Zidane’s side.
The dynamics of the game changed after Real Madrid’s second goal. Los Blancos took the foot off the gas after Benzema scored his brace around the hour mark. And especially, after Auba’s goal, Real Madrid turned to a defensive formation and instead relied on the counter attacks but poor finishing cost them.
Gonzalo Castro was awful throughout the game; his bad touches, poor passes and frequent loss of possession hindered Dortmund’s progression in the final third. However, Reus and Mor’s incursion in the final phase of the game helped Dortmund sustain their fluidity in the final third of the pitch. The German International consistently tried to breach the zone 14 to blind sight the defenders and then made runs in behind.
Overall, it was an exciting game of football packed with high intensity, world class players and some great drama and excitement at the end. Topping a group consisting of three different Champions from three respective countries will certainly mean a lot to Thomas Tuchel and his troops while Zidane’s Real side will be keenly waiting for the draw on Monday.
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