Thursday, March 23, 2023

Analysis: How Borussia Dortmund Continued Their Good Home Record Against Real Madrid

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Anas Molla
An ageing teenager who apparently still likes Twenty One Pilots and HIMYM. Also fascinated by Greek and Egyptian mythology and history. Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam.

Real Madrid once again failed to overcome their dismal record against Borussia Dortmund as the two teams played out a 2:2 stalemate on Tuesday night in the Westfalenstadion.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Varane found the net but, Dortmund managed to equalise twice with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a late blast by Andre Schurrle.


Marc Bartra suffered a knock in the final training before the game as Matthias Ginter deputized the former Barcelona man in the centre of the defence, playing alongside Greek International Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer started as fullbacks.

Julian Weigl alongside in-form Gonzalo Castro and lost hero Mario Götze was slotted in as the three midfielders. While new signings Ousmane Dembele and Raphael Guerreiro played in wings with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the only forward.

As for Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane opted for a familiar 4-3-3 formation.

Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas started ahead of Kiko Casilla in goal, after being declared fit just days before the game.

The four-man backline comprised of Danny Carvajal and Danilo as full backs and Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane as the centre backs. Young rising midfielder Marco Asensio had to settle for the bench as Zidane preferred a more experienced lineup against the German giants. Colombian James Rodriguez started in place of Asensio in the middle, where he was partnered by two of the world’s most gifted midfielders in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

The dangerous so-called front three of ‘BBC’ was unsurprisingly chosen against a Dortmund side, who looked very weak defensively.

Early pressing by Dortmund

The game sparked intensity and high tempo right from the start with Borussia Dortmund players pressing high up the field. The two fullbacks moved to the wider position to provide width while the wingers tried to cut inside.

Dortmund wore out the possession but their intense style of winning the ball back as soon as they lose it, hunched in a reverence of the good old Borussia, under previous head coach Jürgen Klopp. The hard work by the Dortmund players got awarded with several chances, notably a free kick by Raphael Guerreiro which hit Ronaldo’s arm but the referee decided against Dortmund with the review later showing that it was intentional.

However, Real Madrid were pretty content to see possession, which epitomised Zidane’s respect for the opposition but at the same time, it also showed his maturity and persistence as a coach. Despite being the boss of arguably the best club that the footballing world has ever seen, the Frenchman didn’t get frustrated by his team not having possession of the ball for the most part of the first half. Los Blancos kept a low backline, looking to defend Dortmund’s high intensified attacks and utilize the pace of Bale and Ronaldo. Resultantly, the matured game plan from the Real Madrid boss gifted them a goal within the first 20 minutes.

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane (C) and Dortmund's head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) react during the UEFA Champions League first leg football match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at BVB stadium in Dortmund, on September 27, 2016. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Borussia Dortmund were caught attacking and Luka Modric started the counter attack with the defence completely unguarded. Karim Benzema played a neat ball to Kroos after cleverly serving the tackled from Sokratis. Kroos distributed the ball out wide to Carvajal, who played a brilliant one-touch ball to through to Gareth Bale, who teed up Ronaldo with a brilliant back heel nutmeg before the Portuguese send a shot rifling into the bottom corner to give Real Madrid the advantage.

Dortmund, despite all their defensive problems, were saved time and time again due to the exception positioning of their fullbacks. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo was causing menace in the left, Polish veteran Lukasz Piszczek still somehow managed to keep up with the Portuguese while Marcel Schmelzer on the other hand, absolutely nullified the threat of Gareth Bale from the right.

One of the most notable points from Zidane’s gameplay tactics was the freedom of Julian Weigl. The Real Madrid players seemed fairly happy to give the Dortmund midfield lynchpin time and space, unlike Dortmund’s opponents in the past few games. The sensational passing accuracy of 94% with only six failed passes against Real Madrid but that came to little good as Zidane’s troops concentrated more on stopping the initial distribution provided by Weigl and co. Dortmund’s attackers, especially the wingers were given no time with the ball.

And the game continued with the same zest and everything was sound for Real Madrid until Sergio Ramos fouled Mario Götze in a dangerous area. The resultant free kick from Raphael Guerreiro was terribly cleared by goalkeeper Keylor Navas and the attempted punch went straight off from Varane’s head to roll into the back of net, only for a late from Aubameyang to deny an otherwise own goal from Rafael Varane, much to the misfortune of the young Frenchman. The equaliser just before the halftime, waved in optimism from the fans.

The second half was rather contradictory of the first half. Thomas Tuchel’s men began to sat deep and Real Madrid saw most of the possession throughout the second half. But the difference in individuals crept in as an incredible cross from Cristiano Ronaldo found Karim Benzema, whose shot cannoned off the two bar posts to kindly fall for Raphael Varane as Los Merengues re-registered their lead at 68th minute.

Real Madrid's French defender Raphael Varane (R) scores his side's second goal challenged by Dortmund's midfielder Julian Weigl during the UEFA Champions League first leg football match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at BVB stadium in Dortmund, on September 27, 2016. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

By the time it was looking an impossible task for Dortmund to get back in the game, head coach Thomas Tuchel made a few important substitution as Andre Schurrle, Emre Mor and Christian Pulisic (not necessarily at once) came in to replace Götze, Dembele and Guerreiro respectively.

The substitutes turned the game on its head and unsurprisingly so. While Andre Schurrle was limping on the left side, two teenagers in Emre Mor and Christian Pulisic sparked the Dortmund frontline with energy and pace.

In the 86th minute, Emre Mor somehow managed to put the ball wide through to Pulisic, who ran in to the defence and his cross caught Real off guard. After evading Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s attempted overhead volley, the cross from Pulisic fell to fellow substitute Andre Schurrle, who pulled out a finish from the highest order, half-volleying the ball straight into the ceiling of net to put the game back on level terms.

The final whistle meant Dortmund running away as the much happier side, thanks to a moment of magic from Andre Schurrle. While Zinedine Zidane’s men again throw out a lead right at the depth, they are now winless in their last three games all competitions. Real also extend their misery against Borussia Dortmund, as the black and yellows are yet to be beaten at the Westfalenstadion by Real Madrid for six consecutive games.

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