The Borussia Dortmund manager, Jürgen Klopp, had described his team as the Cinderella of the last eight – this season they will not be going to the ball. Last year’s Champions League finalists were mauled by Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night with Gareth Bale and fellow expensive summer signing Isco getting first-half goals and Ronaldo scoring on his 100th Champions League appearance.
For all their failings in the league over recent weeks Madrid continue to show their more ruthless side in the European Cup. Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in this season’s competition. No one has ever scored 15 but it is surely only a matter of time as he leads the charge towards a fourth consecutive semi-final.
He hobbled off with 10 minutes of this quarter-final first leg left to wild applause from the same supporters who had jeered his extravagances in the league at the weekend – Madrid supporters like it that the team are finding their best form in this competition. He has now scored in his last eight matches in the Champions League.
Dortmund forced their first corner inside the first minute and it was Ronaldo who headed it clear. That was as good as the first half got for the German side. On three minutes Karim Benzema harried Erik Durm and fed Dani Carvajal. The young right-back played in Bale, who zipped past Sokratis Papastathopoulos and poked his shot beyond Roman Weidenfeller. It was his 17th goal of the season.
Real Madrid won their first free-kick in dangerous territory on 12 minutes and after his flying start Bale might have fancied his chances from 30 yards out. He stood over the ball as if shaping to shoot but Ronaldo stepped up and his effort was tipped over by Weidenfeller.
Dortmund’s awful start continued when Marco Reus mistakenly kicked his team-mate Weidenfeller as both tried to clear Pepe’s effort on goal. The goalkeeper looked in some discomfort for the next few minutes and Reus was then booked for a foul on Ronaldo.
The German team had torn Madrid apart in the first leg of their semi-final 11 months ago. The way the game had started a reversal of roles looked more than likely. It was 2-0 on 27 minutes. Xabi Alonso fed Isco, who controlled the ball tidily and shot through a crowd of yellow-shirted defenders and past an unsighted Weidenfeller.
Isco has struggled for starts this season but replacing Angel Di Maria – out with a stomach bug – he was enjoying himself against Dortmund’s fragile defence.
Bale had reasons to be cheerful too. This was why he held out so determinedly last summer for Real Madrid to meet Tottenham Hotspur’s asking price. A Champions League semi-final beckons in his first season and he was full of selfless running in midfield to complement his attacking threat. On the half-hour he won a free-kick and this time was allowed to step forward by Ronaldo, getting closer than the Portuguese had earlier but again seeing the effort tipped over by Weidenfeller.
Dortmund forced a rare breakaway and Iker Casillas had to save down to his left form Kevin Grosskreutz. Pepe then barged Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the ground in the penalty area, but the English referee Mark Clattenburg was unmoved.
Real looked convincing at the back, although you could not help wonder what Robert Lewandowski might have done against Pepe. Klopp will have to get used to coping without his talisman, stuck in Germany suspended, and understood to be looking at houses ready for his move to Bayern Munich in the summer.
Bale produced a Cruyff turn to get away from Durm and when he passed to Carvajal the full-back sent over a cross that Benzema headed wide. Bale’s show of skill drew one of those communal gulps from the Bernabeu reserved for players of Zinedine Zidane’s calibre down the years.
The visitors had the best of the later stages of the first half, with Reus forcing a corner off Carvajal and Ronaldo again being the man to head the ball clear. All that was missing was a goal from him in what had been the most complete of first-half performances from Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Ronaldo was the last man off the pitch, upset at not having been given a foul on the edge of the area with the last piece of action of the first half.
With the rain intensifying Dortmund’s support continued to make itself heard. But it was the Real Madrid fans who had most to sing about. Bale had them on their feet again at the start of the second half with a shot that Weidenfeller turned away for a corner. Real’s only enemy was their own complacency: should they stick on the comfortable two-goal cushion? Ronaldo was the perfect antidote to such thoughts and his driving run ended with a cross that Benzema somehow failed to turn in on the line.
Moments later Ronaldo became only the third player to score 14 goals in one Champions League season. Luka Modric cut through the heart of Dortmund’s defence, sliding the ball through to Real’s No 7, who dispatched the ball past Weidenfeller. Benzema almost made it four with a shot that was tipped over for yet another Madrid corner.
Dortmund broke away and Pepe had to concede a corner with Mkhitaryan threatening but the forward forays were becoming increasingly desperate.
Bale raced clear with six minutes left but somehow shot wide. It did little to change the feeling that he and Madrid will be in the semi-final draw as the side no one wants to face.Reuse content