The Breakdown: Dortmund vs Real Madrid

A physically fitter and sharper Borussia Dortmund played their gameplan to perfection in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

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By Suhas Bhat

Having left their league woes to the wayside, Jurgen Klopp's side were excited to welcome the La Liga champions and produce a good result in front of a raucous home support. In fact, the German side did just that as their quick attacks and determined runs ran the Real defence ragged. Impressively, most of their attacks were based on one-touch passing making it seem like the players possessed a telepathetic understanding of one another's intentions. 

But they were also helped by uncharacteristic mistakes by the Real backline as Robert Lewandowski carved out a goalscoring opportunity after Pepe's stray pass allowed him to race clear and catch Iker Casillas unawares. Marcel Schmelzer, similarly, benefitted from a mistake by the usually-focused goalkeeper whose poor attempt at punching away a cross allowed him to hammer home the winner.

Cristiano Ronaldo did help score one back for the visiting side but wasteful shooting by Angel di Maria and resolute defending by the Germans meant that he could not prevent his side from enduring their first defeat in continental competition this season. 

Borussia Dortmund

Defence

Much like Real's arch-rivals Barcelona, Dortmund sought to play their way out of the defence and this helped them dictate the tempo of the game. They sped up their passing whenever Michael Essien or another Real player was out of position and kept control of the ball when finding a way through to goal seemed difficult. 

They were also helped by astute decision-making by goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller as the 32-year-old repeateadly came forth to scoop up through-balls in order to prevent Ronaldo from getting an opportunity to rifle in shots from within the box. 

Moreover, they communicated really well with one another and ensured that no player was rooted to a particular spot and was constantly moving in order to keep the roaming Real attackers in check. 

Weidenfeller - 8 | Subotić - 8 | Hummels - 8 | Piszczek - 8 | Schmelzer - 8.5

Midfield

There was a distinct gap between midfield and attack as Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender were relatively withdrawn in comparison to Mario Götze. It didn't matter a great deal, though, as accurate passing into areas of space helped bridge that distance within a matter of seconds during the many Dortmund counter-attacks. 

Bender was a bit wasteful with his shots on goal, however, and should have really passed the ball more often but the two midfielders were otherwise superb with regards to their defensive responsibilities. 

Götze showed hints of his remarkable technical ability but he wasn't exactly a game-changing presence in this particular fixture. 

Kehl - 8 | Bender - 7.5 | Götze (off 87') - 7.5

Attack

While Lewandowski may have scored the opener, helping his side grab the momentum with the effort, it was former Gladbach wonderkid Reus's intelligent play that was a key difference between the two sides. The 23-year-old pounced upon the weakest of passes and effortlessly dribbled and kept the ball within his control despite challenges flying around him in every direction. In effect, he carried out the role of a ball-playing target man and allowed his team-mates the time to make the transition from defence to attack. 

The Polish striker's finish should not be underestimated, however, as he took the ball into the box and unleashed a pin-point shot that no goalkeeper in the world would have saved. 

Reus - 8.5 | Grosskreutz - 8 | Lewandowski - 8.5

Substitutes

Klopp's substitutions didn't change the complexion of the game but they did help run down the clock. 

Gundogan (on 67') - 7 | Schieber (on 87') - N/A | Perisic (on 91') - N/A

Real Madrid

Defence

The defence is primarily to blame for the loss of three points as Essien, positioned as a left-back, was repeatedly situated in no man's land. Either he was too far forward, allowing Grosskreutz to sneak down the right and send in crosses with alarming regularity (one of which led to Dortmund's second goal) or else he camped himself inside his own half when Ronaldo or Di Maria could have used his help up in attack. 

Pepe's weak pass forward to Alonso led to the opening goal and Raphael Varane, his defensive partner, could not demonstrate the aggression required to impose is presence in the game. 

Casillas, on the other hand, would feel hard done-by as he made a brilliant save off a Kehl shot and seemed the sharpest player in defence. Manager Jose Mourinho would have been concerned by his captain's poor handling skills, though, as the Spaniard flapped at crosses instead of plucking the ball out of the air as Weidenfeller would have done. 

Casillas - 7.5 | Ramos - 7 | Pepe - 7 | Varane - 7 | Essien - 6

Midfield

An injury to Sami Khedira forced his early withdrawal from the game. Alonso was thereby forced to backtrack in order to help Modric, Khedira's replacement, and this prevented him from making the long-range passes that we're accustomed to seeing from him. 

But the creative burden, as always, fell on Mesut Ozil who had a mixed game overall. He missed a sitter early on but then made several dangerous passes in the first half although his presence was rather muted in the second. Di Maria, for his part, was frustrating as he tried to grab the headlines with a number of attempted piledrivers when the likes of Karim Benzema and Ronaldo were in better goalscoring positions. 

Khedira (off 20') - 7 | Alonso - 7 | Di Maria - 6.5 | Ozil - 7

Attack

Only three times have Real lost when Ronaldo scored and all three occasions have been against Barcelona but Dortmund added their name to the list by effectively nullifying the Portuguese star's presence. The defenders matched his pace whenever he sought to burst clear and did not give him much of an opening apart from when he scored Real's only goal in the first half. 

Benzema, on the other hand, was dangerous with his passing but was offside too many times to really pose much of a hindrance to the German side. 

Benzema (off 73') - 6 | Ronaldo - 7.5 

Substitutes

Somewhat strangely, Modric was instructed to play in the anchorman role, where he had to shield the defence, and this move backfired spectacularly as he just does not have the positional awareness or the physical strength required to be effective. He is much better at making slide-rule passes in the final third and whenever he did try to send players through from the halfway line, the ball took forever to reach the intended target and was often intercepted. 

Higuain was brought on too late and perhaps, in hindsight, Kaka would have been a better replacement as Ozil was struggling to come up with the crucial pass in the second half.

Higuain (on 73') - 7 | Modric (on 20') - 6 



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