Real fail to repair the damage done

It is highly unlikely that Mourinho will grace the Madrid bench next season.

Despite scoring two late goals to give themselves a 2-0 win on the night it was not enough for Mourinho’s men to steal the tie from a tenacious, vibrant young Dortmund team who now proceed to the Champions League final 4-3 on aggregate. On the basis of the two legs it was undoubtably the German side who deserved to go through after dominating the first leg and spurning several good opportunities in the second. That is not to say that Real Madrid did not have their chances. Had their misfiring strikers been a little more accurate or actually offered anything more than a few lazy runs and sloppy passes things might have been different. In the end it was a Benzema tap in and a Sergio Ramos beauty that won them the game but several tactical and personnel errors that cost them the tie.

The weak link: Lewandowski must have thought it was Christmas  with the amount of space he was given by Pepe. 

It was in the first leg that the damage was truly done. Mourinho had included combative Portuguese defender Pepe in his side, slotting silky Spanish defender Sergio Ramos out to the right. The move was to prove calamitous as Pepe, like a clumsy drunk elephant proceeded to allow Polish striker Lewandowski a free rein in the middle to score four goals. His lazy marking, poor reading of the game and sloppy ball control helped contribute to an overall instability to his side which inevitably shipped four goals. By the time the second leg arrived, Mourinho had fixed his mistake. Pepe was given the vital task of keeping the Bernabeu seats warm, while Sergio Ramos was moved into the centre to partner young Frenchman Rafael Varane. Ramos’ replacement on the right was former Chelsea favourite Michael Essien. Despite a clear attacking impetus the defence took on a much more stable feel. Essien provided power and drive down the right, preventing Dortmund livewires Reus and Götze from wrecking too much havoc down his wing. In the centre the partnership of Varane and Ramos halted almost all of the German attacking thrusts, providing the platform for the rest of the team to push for the essential goals.

Although offering very little going forward, Essian (right) kept a tight lid on Dortmund’s attack

The second leg also saw another key tactical inclusion which nearly saw the tie turn in Madrid’s favour. The introduction of the much maligned Kaka provided Madrid with the attacking spark that they had previously lacked. Madrid’s dribblers and widemen  had offered a direct threat but they had not been able to provide the incisive pass or movement that would  beat the defence. Kaka offered something different. His movement, close control but importantly, eye for a pass took Madrid’s attack on a different direction and gave the overworked German defense something new to think about. With his introduction the team appeared much more fluid in attack and more likely to score, which they eventually did, primarily through his excellent ball into space. One can only imagine what a force Madrid would have been had his form, confidence and drive not been compromised by a combination of form, injuries and transfers that undermined his position.

Kaka’s inclusion sparked Real Madrid to life. His contribution to Benzema’s opener was vital.

Finally, one other area proved not quite up to the standard required of such a prestigious club, the striking department. Despite possessing some of the best playmaking midfielders, wingers and defenders Madrid’s attackers have simply failed to pull their weight. Both Higuin and Benzema come with big reputations but both have failed to provide the kind of consistent quality that one expects from a Madrid striker. Perhaps it is the challenge of competing with Ronaldo is too much for the two but one must think that had Madrid possessed a top striker, like Ibrahimovic, van Persie or Aguero things would have been quite different. Unfortunately for Mourinho he will probably not have the opportunity to fix these areas and win the Champions League with the most successful club in Europe’s top table.

Gonzalo Higuin tries but is not the world class striker Real Madrid need.


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