Real Madrid fall just short as Dortmund reach final

Spanish side’s two goals in last ten minutes not enough to peg back first-leg deficit

Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski is challenged by Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as team-mates Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema, Sami Khedira and Sergio Ramos look on during their Champions League semi-final second leg soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski is challenged by Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as team-mates Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema, Sami Khedira and Sergio Ramos look on during their Champions League semi-final second leg soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters


Real Madrid 2 Borussia Dortmund 0 ( Dortmund win 4-3 on agg )

Borussia Dortmund are on their way to Wembley. But only just. Jurgen Klopp’s side rode out an opening storm and a late, late siege to reach the final on May 25th. Just when it appeared that their passage would ultimately be a comfortable one, two goals in the final eight minutes, first from Karim Benzema and then from Sergio Ramos, left them hanging on. In the end a 2-0 defeat, Dortmund’s first in four matches against Madrid, was not enough to deny them. When the final whistle went there were celebrations from Dortmund’s players and applause from Real Madrid’s fans.

For a long time it had not looked like ending that way. Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil all missed clear opportunities in a breathless start as Madrid looked to overcome the 4-1 deficit from the first leg. But the momentum was lost and the game appeared to be drifting to a premature and limp close until Benzema scored to set up a dramatic finish.

Jose Mourinhochose the same side that had started against Madrid in the first leg; he recalled Angel di Maria and sought greater creativity in the middle by partnering Xabi Alonso with Luka Modric instead of Sami Khedira.

Modric’s inclusion implied a more considered approach and Mourinho had talked about going “goal by goal and minute by minute”. The fans, of course, wanted an early goal and the comeback legend speaks of the need to make the first corner, first foul and first shot all Madrid’s. Here, they came racing out of the blocks; the first corner came before the opening minute had closed. The ball dropped to Di Maria, whose wild shot flew over, but the momentum was there: within seven minutes Madrid had taken four corners.

Three minutes earlier they should have taken the lead. Modric and Ozil combined to put Higuain one on one with Roman Weidenfeller, but his shot was blocked. Then there was a chest control and close range volley for each side in less than a minute: the first fell to Robert Lewandowski, the second, at the other end, to Ronaldo. Both should have done better, both seemed unaware of how much time they had.

Soon, Ozil had the game’s best chance. Clean through on the right, he dipped the shoulder as if to shot towards the far post. Weidenfeller certainly seemed to think so but, with the space opened up at the near post, Ozil pulled his shot wide. The game was not even a quarter of an hour old and Madrid had already created sufficient opportunities to believe that a comeback was possible. Ninety minutes would indeed be a long time for the visitors, it seemed.

Dortmund, though, had ridden out the storm. Slowly they settled and took control of the ball, drawing the sting from the game, getting to grips with Ozil. It would take another ten minutes for Madrid to take a shot, but Di Maria’s effort wasblocked on the edge of the area, and the Germans were starting to open up the home defence, breaking with purpose. All the while, the clock ticked down. Ronaldo’s free kick was the last opportunity Madrid would get in the first half and it sailed high into the stands. If the plan had been a goal every half an hour then they now needed three, at least, in 45 minutes.

Dortmund could have ended it at the start of the second half but Lewandowski wasted two chances in as many minutes. First he fired over from just to the left of the penalty spot, after Kevin Grosskreutz expertly turned the ball into his path; then Marko Reus rolled a pass into him on the other side of the area. Faced with Diego Lopez, he put his head down and hit the ball as hard as he could. It screeched past the keeper and thumped off the underside of the bar. Four in the first leg should have been three more in the second.

It was a let off for Madrid but still the chances were not falling at the other end, where Ronaldo was struggling to escape Lukasz Piszczek and Higuain had disappeared. There was little fluidity or imagination and their passing was erratic. Mourinho sought to remedy that just before the hour when he withdrew Higuain and Fabio Coentrao for Ricardo Kaka and Benzema.

Yet the best chance would again fall Dortmund’s way and this time it was a sitter. Reus pulled the ball back for Ilkay Gundogan just five yards out but Lopez scrambled across his line to make an astonishing save. A moment after that, Lewandowski sneaked in but headed wide. Madrid needed three goals but Dortmund, calm whenever the won the ball back, smooth in playing their way out and into the space that opened before them, always looked the more likely to get one.

There was something flat about Madrid now, even when they did attack. Ronaldo toe-poked one shot over the bar and headed wide before Di Maria shot wide, but the conviction seemed to have drained out of them. At the other end, Lewandowski again received close to goal. This time, his shot was blocked. Another chance gone; but the damage had already been done in Dortmund six days before.

Or so it seemed. And then the incredible happened. With eight minutes to go, Ozil finally escaped down the right. He pulled the ball back into the six-yard box, where Benzema was waiting to side-foot home. Suddenly, there was a roar, belief. A Raphael Varane effort was blocked. When the ball dropped to Benzema near the by-line moments later, he coolly pulled it back for Ramos, who controlled and smashed into the roof of the net. When they won their next corner, the goalkeeper went up. Instead it was Ramos who reached the delivery, his header drifting wide. Amazingly, when Dortmund got the ball back, they too threw men forward. Hearts were in mouths until, at last, Howard Webb put the whistle to his.

Guardian Service
REAL MADRID: Diego Lopez, Essien, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao (Kaka 57), Modric, Alonso (Khedira 67), Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain (Benzema 57). Subs Not Used: Casillas, Pepe, Albiol, Morata. Booked: Fabio Coentrao, Higuain, Sergio Ramos, Khedira.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Gundogan, Bender (Felipe Santana 90), Blaszczykowski, Gotze (Grosskreutz 14), Reus, Lewandowski (Kehl 87). Subs Not Used: Langerak, Leitner, Sahin, Schieber. Booked: Gundogan, Bender, Weidenfeller.
Howard Webb (England).