Real Madrid look destined to suffer a third Champions League semi-final defeat in three seasons after conceding four goals to Robert Lewandowski in a remarkable 4-1 first-leg defeat away at Borussia Dortmund.
Mario Goetze's imminent record transfer to Bayern Munich had dominated the build-up to the contest and, it was feared, would distract Dortmund from the task at hand. But Lewandowski produced one of the most destructive performances ever seen in the latter stages of the competition, slaying Madrid in a compelling demonstration of centre-forward play.
The Poland international put Dortmund in front with a close-range finish from an inch-perfect Goetze cross on eight minutes, but a hugely impressive first half from the Bundesliga side was ruined somewhat when a mistake from Mats Hummels allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to tap home for Madrid.
Still, Lewandowski laid waste to the nine-time European Cup winners after the break. The striker showed great poise to toe-poke home when Madrid were appealing for offside after 50 minutes; lashed home a sensational effort after a glorious drag-back on 55 minutes; and belted home a fierce penalty after Xabi Alonso had fouled Marco Reus on 67 minutes to become the first player to score four goals against Madrid in Europe.
The stunning defeat, coming 24 hours after Bayern Munich slayed another Liga giant with their seminal 4-0 win over Barcelona, means a likely all-German final at Wembley on May 25 - with Jose Mourinho having a monumental task on his hands to avoid a fifth career defeat in seven Champions League semi-finals.
Goetze was named in Dortmund's starting XI and the only real surprise selection was the inclusion of Luka Modric at the expense of Angel Di Maria, Mourinho's thinking presumably being that fielding the Croatian would leave his side less open to Dortmund's rapid attacks. With a record of just one win in 24 away games in Germany, and facing the only unbeaten side left in the competition, Madrid had no use for over-confidence.
The deployment of Modric meant a more negative Madrid and the tactical switch appeared to gift Dortmund the initiative, with a combative performance from Ilkay Gundogan helping them dominate midfield and Goetze and Reus supplying invention and movement further upfield to unsettle the Madrid defence.
Dortmund's enthusiastic pressing was also key to establishing their early supremacy and Gundogan won the ball back in midfield to create the first chance of the contest. Reus, ostensibly stationed on the left but with freedom to roam, took up the ball in the centre circle and went on a dangerous run, scything to the right of the box before seeing his low effort palmed out by Diego Lopez. Lewandowski was lurking but proved unable to reach the ball to tap it home.
After only eight minutes, though, the Poland international was to claim his seventh Champions League goal of the season. Goetze was the creator as he cut onto his right before delivering a sensational cross from the left that found the perfect trajectory to bisect the Madrid backline and drop in at the back post for Lewandowski, who met the ball with a side-foot volley from five yards.
Madrid, hoping to avoid a third consecutive elimination at the semi-final stage, had no answer to Dortmund's superior work ethic and found their chances limited, with Ronaldo strangely subdued. The forward had to wait until a 24th-minute free-kick for his first effort on goal as a viciously swerving effort from 35 yards was punched away by Roman Weidenfeller.
But for all Dortmund's laudable effort, they were undone by 40 hectic seconds. After 42 minutes, Signal Iduna Park was howling for a penalty when Reus drove into the box, only to be caught on his trailing leg by Raphael Varane. The German forward exaggerated the contact though and referee Bjorn Kuipers waved play on.
Still distracted by the apparent injustice, Dortmund were suddenly exposed on their left flank and Mats Hummels, under pressure from Sami Khedira, was guilty of a horrendous attempt at a back-pass that allowed Gonzalo Higuain to nip in. He squared for Ronaldo, who was left with a tap-in for his 12th goal in the competition this season.
However, the home side regained their composure at half-time and Lewandowski emerged to wreak fresh havoc, scoring three in 17 minutes. The first appeared to be tinged with controversy as Madrid were certain the Pole had strayed offside when collecting a quick pass from Reus, controlling neatly and toe-poking the ball past Lopez. However, replays showed he was level with Varane when practicing the poacher's art to perfection.
After 55 minutes, he made it 3-1. Marcel Schmelzer delivered a rather unconvincing cross from the left but it bobbled through to the striker, who took a touch to stun the ball, lost Varane with a gorgeous drag-back and absolutely hammered an unstoppable shot out of the reach of Lopez and into the roof of the net.
Dortmund were rampant and Madrid, who had had their supply line to Ronaldo cut, were suddenly overwhelmed. On 67 minutes Reus darted into the box once more and this time did earn a penalty when Alonso collided into him from behind. The ball was Lewandowski's, and he thumped the ball down the middle as Lopez dived for a barely believable fourth, and a three-goal lead.
It could have been more. As Madrid struggled to find any kind of cohesion in their disjointed midfield, Lewandowksi pounced on another chance, his rifled effort from 25 yards being tipped over the bar by Lopez.
A three-goal margin felt decisive, but Varane flashed a shot just wide in injury time when a goal would have given the two-legged tie a different complexion. Still, Dortmund recorded one of the most impressive results in their history to take one step towards the final at Wembley.
Nothing, it appears, can stand in the way of German football at present.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund) - No one scores four goals against Real Madrid. No one. Quite simply unplayable, the striker demolished Madrid in the second half in one of the finest centre-forward performances you will ever see.
DORTMUND: Weidenfeller 7, Piszczek 8, Subotic 7, Hummels 5, Schmelzer 7, Bender 8, Gundogan 9, Blaszczykowski 7, Goetze 7, Reus 9, Lewandowski 10. Subs: Kehl 6, Grosskreutz 6, Schieber N/A.
MADRID: Lopez 6, Ramos 5, Varane 5, Pepe 5, Coentrao 6, Alonso 5, Khedira 6, Modric 5, Ozil 6, Ronaldo 6, Higuain 5. Subs: Benzema 6, Di Maria 5, Kaka 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Robert Lewandowski
- Real Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund