Robert Lewandowski inflicted the Bundesliga’s second brutal felling of a Spanish giant in two days with a performance of astonishing dominance, scoring all of Borussia Dortmund’s goals in a 4-1 home win over Real Madrid.
Maybe this is the proof that the balance of power in European football has moved from Spain to Germany, coming the day after Bayern Munich routed Barcelona 4-0. Or maybe it was just one very good player performing at his best, something which lay beyond the Madrid forwards. The one goal the visitors scored was a gift.
Dortmund were the better team, taking an early lead, blowing it with an error just before the break but responding with a three-goal assault in 16 minutes early in the second half.
The fourth was a penalty but the first three of Lewandowski’s haul were all brilliant striker’s goals, showing the awareness, touch and technique of a striker very close to the top of the European game. He may well follow Mario Götze to Bayern Munich this summer but his Dortmund career is not over yet. He will most likely face his suitors at Wembley next month, as the Bundesliga looks set to come to London for the Champions League final.
Götze was whistled beforehand by a slim minority, but this game was to be all about his Polish team-mate. It was already a very special evening at the Westfalenstadion, the first time Dortmund had been in the European Cup semi-finals since 1998, when they were knocked out by, quite naturally, Real Madrid. It was also just a fortnight on from their remarkable last-chance defeat of Malaga, when Marco Reus and Felipe Santana scored in added time to send them into the last four.
Madrid might have felt nearly as blessed to be here. Jose Mourinho admitted his side were second best over two legs to Manchester United in the last 16, but for their instant exploitation of Nani’s surprise dismissal at Old Trafford. It was the supreme intelligence of Luka Modric which turned that game, and so his controlling nuances were preferred in a 4-1-4-1 system to the occasional fireworks of Angel di Maria.
Mourinho hoped to gain control of the game but his midfield looked confused and his defence was soon struggling. Dortmund went ahead after eight minutes but it could have been even sooner, Reus charging forward on the break and drawing a save from Diego Lopez which did not quite fall to Lewandowski.
That ought to have been a warning but seemingly it was not, and the goal came two minutes later. Götze, playing like a man keen to prove his continued commitment, found space on the left and curled over a perfect cross. Lewandowski knew what to do before anyone else, evaded Pepe and scored at the far post.
Dortmund had Madrid well pushed back, with Ilkay Gündogan proving more influential than Modric or Xabi Alonso. Madrid’s supply lines were blocked, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil were starved of possession and the only threats were from occasional free-kicks.
Madrid were fighting to stay in the game. Gonzalo Higuain had to chase Jakub Blaszczykowski all the way back to his six-yard box to make a tackle. Dortmund were obliging Madrid’s defence to stay fully concentrated, and when Raphaël Varane allowed Reus to beat him and then pulled him down, referee Bjorn Kuipers might well have awarded a penalty.
But he did not and a distracted Dortmund defence made a costly error. Mats Hummels underhit a backpass, Higuain pounced, broke forward and crossed to Ronaldo, who finished. With their first chance, and a gift at that, Madrid were level at the break.
It must have been infuriating for Dortmund to play so well for so long and have nothing to show for it, such was the vigour with which they came out in the second half desperate to make amends. They did so within five minutes, and then again five minutes later and then again 11 minutes after that, Lewandowski completing and then exceeding a hat-trick of wonderful nerve and ruthlessness.
First, an attacking move led to Reus shooting from the edge of the box and, out of character, he skewed it. Lewandowski, again showing off his poacher’s nose, stayed onside, received the ball, span and stabbed it past Lopez. Madrid thought he was offside, he was confident he was not and Dortmund had the lead again.
How Madrid were still unaware of the quality of the opponent they were facing is a mystery, but five minutes later Lewandowski was allowed to complete one of the great recent European Cup hat-tricks. Another flowing attack ended with Marcel Schmelzer shooting, again the ball fell to Lewandowski and again his touch and timing were perfect, making enough space before rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
The famous Sudtribune, witnessing the game turn around in front of them, were ecstatic and there was nearly something even better to celebrate, Gündogan skipping past two tackles and being denied only by a Lopez save from one of the goals of the season.
The fourth came soon after. Another direct run from the electric Reus led to Alonso, almost never flappable, clumsily bringing him down. Kuipers gave this penalty, Lewandowski stepped up and sent the ball to the place he knows best, the roof of the net. Dortmund were 4-1 up.
Mourinho threw on Di Maria and Karim Benzema, knowing that a 4-2 loss would be almost palatable in the circumstances. Kaka soon followed. Madrid attacked but still could not create, and when Roman Weidenfeller blocked from Ronaldo with one minute of normal time left, that was the embarrassingly meagre extent of his evening’s work. He will be worked harder in the Santiago Bernabeu and, most probably, at Wembley.