May 1, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT
On Tuesday night Borussia Dortmund put on yet another classy performance against Real Madrid to ensure the German side its second appearance in the Champions League final. The 4-3 aggregate victory punched BVB’s ticket to Wembley for the May 25th final where they will likely face fellow countryman, Bayern Munich, who throttled Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of last week’s semi-final.
Yesterday’s match provided a slew of talking points, and here are but a few.
Sergio Ramos Is A ________
Sergio Ramos continues to divide opinion. On one hand the Spanish international is one of the finest center-backs in all of world football. He is a great leader, one who organizes his back four and influences through acute positioning, vicious tackles and lung-busting runs forward. His speed, aerial prowess and courage make him a game-changer, one who can repeatedly thwart attacks and, as was evident with yesterday’s strike that brought Los Blancos within a single goal of progressing to the final, score big-time goals.
But perhaps Ramos’ greatest attribute is also his most controversial – his mean-streak. With every tackle the Seville-born player unleashes an insidious array of elbows, half-punches and headbutts that leaves opponents in a heap. Yesterday, he repeatedly landed such combinations on Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski. There’s little doubt it was payback for the Polish international’s sensational four goal performance in the first leg but nevertheless, Ramos’ display on Tuesday has to go down as one of the dirtier 90 minutes a player has put in without being sent off. Brilliant yet dirty, Ramos is one of those guys you either love or hate.
No Love On The Left
As in the first leg of this semi-final, Cristiano Ronaldo saw no love on the left side of the field. Early on Madrid tried to play the Portuguese’s feet but he was smothered by the Yellow and Black blanket of Marco Reus, Lukasz Piszczek and Sven Bender. The suffocation forced Madrid to change their approach and attempt to access Ronaldo through quick, aerial switches of play. Most of the crosses came to CR7 through the sweet left-foot of Angel Di Maria, although few met their target.
After 70 minutes of ineffectiveness Ronaldo was forced to change position and work in a more central role. Few would choose to tango with Nevan Subotic and Mats Hummels but it was Ronaldo’s only option. No stranger to praise for his offensive line of work, Reus’ indefatigability makes him a highly underrated defender. As for Piszczek and Bender, they are two of Dortmund’s less-heralded players who, after 180 minutes of frustrating the world’s second best player, deserve our undivided attention.
Holy Di Maria
Angel Di Maria is a terror on the pitch. He has all kinds of speed – he’s quick, shifty and fast – while his cat-like balance and ability to play with either foot allows him to beat players to the line and provide succulent crosses for teammates to devour. There’s little doubt that he provides some of the sweetest service in the game.
Unfortunately, yesterday was not a testament to his skillset. On at least six different occasions he decided to forgo linking up on the right side of the pitch in favor of cutting a 40 yard ball to Ronaldo, which rarely found its target. It was predictable, ineffective and left Di Maria looking like a player short on confidence when he should be anything but that.
37 Yards Of Hell
Real Madrid simply couldn’t cope with the stifling defense of Dortmund. So how did Jurgen Klopp’s men do it? They defend within a 37 yard area, from midfield to their 18 yard box.
By staying compact Dortmund allowed Madrid to tire itself out. Los Blancos were free to swing the ball from full-back to full-back but as soon as they looked to play into Dortmund’s half it was lights out. Subotic, Hummels, Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer kept a high, U-shaped line, which allowed the four midfielders to provide quick, focused pressure in one of two spaces: either centrally on Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric or outside on Di Maria or Ronaldo.
Big Boys Eat Now
Sure, Dortmund conceeded twice in the final ten minutes of regulation but the circumstances weren’t exactly ideal for keeping a clean sheet. Up until that point, however, Subotic and Hummels were absolute beasts in the center of defense. The predominant transfer chatter may currently surround Robert Lewandowski but don’t be surprised when the big boys – ahem, Barcelona – come calling for these two studs.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Gotta love Ajax fans, they’re always loud, positive and pretty darn clever.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Living off the counter-attack, Schalke looked for Draxler every time out the gates.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Toure’s inept displays bring up question marks over his commitment to Man City.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
What happened across Europe in the Champions League? Here’s a recap of all eight games.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
A solid outing by Chelsea but Jose Mourinho’s side will rue their lack of finishing in the final third.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
An impressive display from Roma who will fancy their chances of an upset against Manchester City and Bayern Munich in Group E.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
Boateng’s late volley hands Bayern win against stubborn City.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Nothing like breaking your nose in the third minute and playing the full 90. Beast.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
Find out what’s going on around Europe as the group stage openers continue.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
The former Manchester United legend has had difficulty finding results for the troubled Welsh side.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
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Sep 17, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT
After a hot start to their Premier League campaign, Aston Villa has extended Paul Lambert’s contract until June of 2018.
Sep 17, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT
On this day 14 years ago, Barcelona signed Lionel Messi. The rest is history.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
European giants clash as Manchester City travels to Germany to take on the mighty Bayern squad.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
Check out full match highlights from Seattle’s 3-1 extra-time win over Philadelphia in the U.S. Open Cup Final.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
In this new edition of the Men In Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo explore Johnny Football’s favorite football team.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT
Chelsea will look to open up their Champions League campaign with three points at Stamford Bridge.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT
Full details of MiB’s new show, which debuts on Monday, September 22, can be found right here.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Liverpool is planning to expand at Anfield while Everton looks to build from the ground up.
Sep 17, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
The Bayern Munich manager claims Manchester United didn’t have enough money to lure away star players from the German giants.
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