Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich – Robben’s redemption a fitting story before Pep takes over.

Starting XI’s http://seekingalpha.com/ images tagged with photo evgeny novitsky.

Jurgen Klopp lost Mario Gotze through injury earlier in the week so caused no surprises by picking Kevin Grosskreutz in his place, allowing Marco Reus to play more centrally, and effectively putting Dortmund in a 4-4-1-1 shape to counter Bayern’s threat in wide areas.

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Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes’ chose Jerome Boateng over Daniel Van Buyten as Dante’s partner in central defence and otherwise lined the team up as expected in their 4-2-3-1 shape. With Toni Kroos still injured, Thomas Muller started the game centrally, as he did in the semi final against Barcelona, giving Arjen Robben a chance to start again.

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Observations

  • It took three touches. One to get away from the defender, one to position himself for the shot and one to pass the ball into the back of the net, and shortly past 930pm in North West London, inside Wembley Stadium, Arjen Robben could finally forget about Johannesburg 2010. For 88 minutes it looked like it was going ‘the Robben way’. His team were entering the final moments of a game, not winning and haunted by a number of misses from the Dutchman. Then from a free kick, deep inside their own half, Franck Ribery controlled the ball brilliantly, again brought Dortmund players towards him, before sending Robben through on goal. He leaned heavily on his left foot, once again, and one, two, three touches later it became Robben’s final.
  • Ribery and Robben had combined 28 minutes earlier to put Bayern ahead when three Dortmund defenders (sound familiar) flocked to the Frenchman who found Robben to his left, before the winger sent a ball across for Mario Mandzukic to nod Bayern into the lead.
  • It was a lead that they narrowly deserved having been the better side for the final 15 minutes of the first half and the opening 15 minutes of the second.
  • Typically, though, electric Dortmund dug deep and got a break when Dante used his wrong leg in a challenge against Reus, one Mr Miyagi would have been proud of, to concede a penalty. Ilkay Gundogan, a man who grew into a star in this year’s competition, converted the spot kick with ease to set up such a dramatic finale.
  • It will easily be forgotten now but the manner in which Bayern played, at 1-1, with the game on the line in the late stages was courageous. A team whose own players said they can be known as ‘losers’ if they didn’t win on this night could have gone into their shell, played nervously and tried to take the cautious approach for a winner. Instead, they reacted like a champion and now great, world class players like Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger quite rightly are looked at as winners.
  • The use of Robben centrally during that crucial period was pivotal, not only in the game’s winning goal but in their overall attacking flow. Thomas Muller did not have a great game (failed to link better with midfield; was indecisive in front of goal) but his ability to stick closer to the touchline stretched Dortmund’s back four more than they would have liked, Ribery got stronger as the game went on and Robben thrived in the space afforded to him.

KJ-footy1

  • Muller, David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger all came close to scoring in that period and the central midfielder, in particular, was enjoying how the game’s pendulum had swung having played a key part in it during the first half.
  • Dortmund came as advertised, pressing their opponents early, starting in top gear and pushing Bayern deep for the opening 25 minutes of the game. It was a fascinating period to see how Bayern would cope, as they still dominated possession but couldn’t play their way to their front four in the usual manner. Schweinsteiger dropped deep to ensure they could at least treasure the ball while losing the territory battle, often splitting the full backs to maintain composure at the back. Only when Bayern got into their gameplan did he start to venture further forward.

KJ-footy 2

  • Schweinsteiger was not the only one making adjustments at this stage. As all great teams do, all 11 Bayern players worked tirelessly during a difficult moment for them. In the 16th minute even Robben was in his own box to make a significant clearance and eventually they grew into the first half, which was dominated by brilliant saves by both goalkeepers, with three stops on Robben being the ones most remembered.
  • Until that final minute that is. Robben won a major final, playing centrally in a match where both midfields struggled to insert their dominance, in a tournament where central midfields have been essential to success. Mark it down, folks. It was as unusual as a Robben pass. Robben, and Reus, effectively saw two teams playing with just two central midfielders, using width more than most, which effectively meant the game for the neutrals was a wide-open entertaining affair.
  • It is fitting that it be Robben who takes this current Bayern Munich team to the promised land before Pep Guardiola takes over next season. The Dutchman is not a Guardiola player and it is very likely this performance will keep him at the club next season, but he will struggle to get a lot of playing time before moving elsewhere. And with that Bayern will get better. Many will wonder this evening what the Spaniard can possibly do to make them even stronger but a club should not always be defined by trophies. There is still plenty to improve on. Next season Bayern may not win the Champions League (it is a cup competition after all) but they will become more efficient in their passing and, with the return of the exceptional Toni Kroos, will have a central midfield trio that can rival any side in the world. Players like Muller and Ribery, for all of their strengths now, can get better and will be pushed by the likes of Mario Gotze and Kroos going forward to do so.
  • This is clearly just the beginning of Bayern’s greatness but going forward it will have a different look and charisma about it than the one that won the 2012/13 Champions League. Robben’s three touches took care of that.

Bayern Munich: Neuer 8, Lahm 6, Boateng 7, Dante 5, Alaba 6, Martinez 6, Schweinsteiger 7, Ribery 7 (Gustavo 90), Muller 6, Robben 8, Mandzukic 7 (Gomez 90).

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller 8, Piszczek 6, Subotic 7, Hummels 6, Schmelzer 6, Blaszczykowski 7 (Schieber 90), Bender 6 (Sahin 90), Gundogan 6, Grosskreutz 6, Reus 7, Lewandowski 7.

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Malaga – Incredible finish far too cruel on Pellegrini.

Starting XI’s

Jurgen Klopp made two changes to last week’s 0-0 tie in Spain, bringing back Sven Bender for club skipper Sebastian Kehl in midfield while Jakub Blaszczykowski was now fit to play on the right, pushing Marco Reus to the left and Kevin Grosskreutz to the bench.

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Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini was forced into two changes, with Weligton and Manuel Iturra suspended, choosing Ignacio Camacho and Sergio Sanchez as their replacements while also making another key switch from last week’s first leg, bringing in Duda for Javier Saviola.

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In the five days since drawing 0-0 in the first leg of this Champions League quarter final, Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini took his team to Real Sociedad, watched them concede three in the first half-an-hour, told them at full time his father had passed away, travelled to Chile to be by his side, flew back to Germany, arrived in Dortmund at 2pm today and then produced a tactical masterclass that looked set to knock Borussia Dortmund out of the tournament.

Then Marco Reus and Felipe Santana scored goals in injury time to finish off one of the wildest Champions League games you will ever see and continue Pellegrini’s week from hell.

When he eventually falls asleep tonight, wherever that may be, the Chilean, who was two minutes away from being the first man since Brian Clough in the 1970s to take two teams in their first attempt to the semi final of European football’s elite club competition, will hopefully rest peacefully knowing his team could not have been any better.

His use of Julio Baptista and Joaquin up top worked brilliantly. Malaga looked like a 4-4-2 drawn up but effectively they were a 4-2-4 with none of the front four seriously committing to a front position throughout the game. This confused Dortmund, whose centre-backs often were left alone to pass amongst themselves while waiting for an outlet to come deeper to be found. There was a remarkable difference between their distribution from leg one to leg two.

Santana-Subotic leg 1

Subo leg 2

The brilliant Ilkay Gunogan had a magnificent first leg because he wasn’t pressed and was given far too much space and although he was excellent again in this game he didn’t get the time or space afforded to him in Spain because of the congested Malaga system. He also struggled to get as many passes from his centre backs (which is why they held on to the ball so well), being forced to come a lot deeper and split the centre backs to start many Dortmund attacks.

Passes to Gundogan in leg 1

Gundo 2

Despite his struggles linking up with the centre-backs, Gundogan again saved one of his best performances for the big stage. He finds space easily, is decent in the tackle for a technical player and can produce a brilliant pass in a flash. He treasured the ball like no other player in this tie and finished with an incredible pass ratio of 128/146 (88%) in two quarter finals in the Champions League. He was born in 1990, folks.

gundo pass

Much focus will righly be put on Dortmund’s incredible comeback but lost in that might be the work of Willy Caballero in Malaga’s net as the Argentine produced a couple of brilliant saves in the second half, particularly one on Mario Gotze whose quick 1-2 with Gundogan showcased the understanding and vision the Dortmund players have in attack.

The same could also be said for Dortmund’s opening goal, an equaliser to make it 1-1 on 39 minutes, when Gotze picked out Reus before the German Player of the Year backheeled a pass to Robert Lewandowski, who showed his outstanding predatory instincts to go around Caballero and finish off a sensational move.

The goal was cruel on Malaga who had deserved their lead, which came courtesy of Joaquin and again showed Pellegrini’s thinking behind dropping Javier Saviola. Baptista came deep, put through Isco who then laid it off for the Spanish winger to fire home on the left foot.

At 1-1 the game was very entertaining with Malaga sticking to a disciplined shape, not retreating too much, while Klopp’s team attacking at a rapid pace. In the 82nd minute it looked like the dark horses had booked their semi final ticket when they broke away and scored through substitute Eliseu, although he was marginally offside.

Then in injury time suddenly Dortmund found a way of doing something they couldn’t do for the entire 90 minutes.

dort goals

Dortmund became the first team to score two goals in added time, whilst needing both those goals to win, since Manchester United in their 1999 CL final against Bayern Munich. Over the two legs, considering the amount of chances they created, it is hard to say they don’t deserve their place in the semi finals but this was very cruel on an excellent Malaga side.

Sleep well Manuel. You deserve it.

Malaga 0-0 Borussia Dortmund – Klopp’s men fail to score for just the third time in their last 52 matches.

Starting XI’s

Manuel Pellegrini had a fully fit Malaga squad to choose from and went with the same XI in a 4-2-3-1 shape that overturned Porto in the second leg of the last 16.

football formations

Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp picked an expected XI with Jakub Blaszczykowski and Mats Hummels both ruled out through injury.

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Observations

  • While most of the Spanish press focused on Barcelona and Real Madrid’s plights in the Champions League this week, those that covered Malaga’s listened to boss Pellegrini all week talk about the importance of not conceding an away goal. The 59-year-old may have not got a performance he dreamed of but he still ultimately got just what he wanted.
  • Dortmund were excellent in every facet aside from finishing. Jurgen Klopp’s men failed to score for just the third time this season but this had little to do with Malaga’s resistance and a lot more to their wastefulness in front of goal.

dortmund 1

  • Robert Lewandowski probably missed the game’s best chance just two minutes into the second half when Gotze carved open the Malaga defence and laid a cross on a plate for the Pole, only to see him badly miskick his shot.
  • With Blaszczykowski injured, Reus was deployed on the right and although the German star had a decent game with his movement and defensive responsibilities he, like his fellow forwards, struggled finding his team-mates in key moments. Many times this season Reus and Gotze have had a special chemistry together, often knowing where one another is without looking, but today they struggled in that department, connecting only eight times together up until Reus was removed after 69 minutes.

dortmund 2

  • Blaszczykowski’s overall decisiveness and ability to run at the byline was missed but what Reus does offer on that side is some excellent off-the-ball movement, in particular with clever runs across the back four, staying onside and forcing full backs to go inside with him.
  • Malaga’s back four deserve credit, however, for improving as the game wore on. Weligton picked up an early booking and four times inside the opening 25 minutes the visitors got in behind them and were denied by the excellent Willy Caballaro in net. It would have been easy to panic, drop deeper and invite Dortmund to play in the space in between the lines but the home side’s back four stayed structured and consistent.
  • That being said, it is hard to not imagining Dortmund not scoring in another game if these two were forced to play nine more matches. Gotze alone could have had a hat-trick. He broke clean through on 14 minutes but hit a tame shot at Caballaro and midway through the second half had equally an excellent chance when he broke in between centre back and full back on the left only to pull the shot wide.
  • His chance had been created by the outstanding Ilkay Gundogan who was the game’s best player. With many other top class players at the club, it is hard for the 22-year-old to get the recognition he deserves but he was magnificent in this match. His distribution stats show how involved he was but only tell part of the story as the central midfielder put on a clinic with his movement and always being available as a key outlet for either his defenders or attackers.

Dortmund 3

  • Malaga now boast a very impressive record of 11 successive home matches in Europe in which they have not lost. They rarely looked like winning this match, Roman Weidenfeller’s excellent save on Isco was their best effort, but on one of the greatest nights in their history they will be thrilled to still be in this tie heading to the raucous Westfalenstadion on Tuesday night.
  • Dortmund will of course be massive favourites but Malaga will dream of getting a goal and not allowing more than one. Should Klopp’s men by as poor in front of goal as they were in Spain then a shock could be on the cards.