Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

April 25, 2013

The starting line-ups

Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals as Dortmund thrashed Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp used right-winger Jakub Blaszczykowski rather than left-winger Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left.

Jose Mourinho decided to play Luka Modric, with Angel Di Maria on the bench. The birth of Di Maria’s baby girl was supposedly a factor, but considering how Real lost last year’s semi-final to Bayernwhich was part of the reason for recruiting Modric – the selection made sense tactically too. Mesut Ozil moved right.

Dortmund were dominant for the majority of the game, constantly winning the ball quickly and putting pressure upon the Real back four.


This was a battle about tempo, with Dortmund keen for a quick, all-action game based around swift transitions, and Real attempting to make the game more patient with the use of an extra ball-playing midfielder. Modric played significantly deeper than Ozil would have in that role, with Real often more 4-3-3 than 4-2-3-1 – Xabi Alonso was the primary holder.

But Dortmund started this match excellently, disturbing Real’s passing from the outset. Within the first minute, Cristiano Ronaldo had dribbled the ball over the left touchline as he was pressured by two opponents, Modric had been tackled and lost possession, and Alonso spooned the ball out of play. Already, Dortmund had imposed their style of play upon the contest with their midfield pressing.

Even before the first goal, Mourinho could be seen gesturing for his players to calm down and be less hurried on the ball. With their midfielders closed down quickly, Real hit wayward forward passes in the vague direction of Gonzalo Higuain, so the Dortmund pressure kept coming.

Gotze outOzils Ozil

The direct battle between Mario Gotze and Alonso was interesting throughout the game. Alonso had been told to pick up Gotze when Dortmund had possession, but Gotze responded by cleverly drifting either side into pockets of space Alonso was afraid to venture into.

If the question before the game was what role Gotze would play in comparison to Ozil, the answer was simple – Gotze played the role of Ozil, always overloading the flanks from a central starting position, while Ozil was out wide on the right, unable to influence the play. Ozil showed a couple of neat touches but must have been envious of Gotze’s role – this was a great example of (a) how important lateral movement is to Ozil’s game, and (b) how effective it can be, asGotze demonstrated.

Gotze and Reus had teamed up excellently to overload Real in the left-back zone in Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Real earlier in the season, but here they combined on both flanks, with Blaszczykowski also playing a useful role on the right. In the build-up to Dortmund’s first three goals, Gotze could be found on the flank – he provided the cross for Lewandowski’s opener, and was positioned wide on the right for the other two Dortmund goals scored in open play.

Wide zones

Another problem for Real was the lack of tracking from their wide players, which was another downside of using Ozil wide. Ronaldo’s lack of defensive work has been discussed many times before – it’s become such an established part of Real’s game that the question is about whether he can compensate for it with attacking play. The answer was probably ‘no’ – his goal actually came from a rare moment he was positioned deeper than Lukazs Piszczek, and he rarely received possession on the run.

Ozil is clearly a less willing runner than Di Maria, so Real had problems in both full-back positions. Constant overloads out wide meant Real came under sustained pressure throughout the game. “Pressure” was the key – for all Dortmund’s dominance, they actually created few clear-cut goalscoring chances with incisive passing, while both sides’ crossing was unsuccessful, aside from the opening goal.

Lewandowski’s second and third goals were simply about brilliant, instinctive poaching in scrappy situations – he actually received the ball very rarely in (or close to) the box.


Real will be particularly disappointed that they fared so poorly in simple battles in the centre of the pitch. Dortmund won more tackles, and were more successful with dribbles (clearly, the two are related).

Of course, when Mourinho’s Real were at their best, they specialised in this area – their win at Valencia being a particularly memorable example. Here, they were simply outfought.

Real spell

However, Real did have a good spell towards the end of the first half. Here, Dortmund were guilty of being too content with the early 1-0 advantage – their pressing was always likely to involve leaving Real’s centre-backs free, but Pepe and Raphael Varane were able to grow into the game following a very nervous start.

Gotze and Lewandowski had started the match ensuring Alonso was always nullified, but they became less disciplined as the first half went on. Alonso was given more time on the ball to command the midfield zone, and while Real depended on an inexplicable Hummels error for the goal, they’d been gradually building pressure with a succession of free-kicks inside the Dortmund half.

Second half burst

It felt like Dortmund needed a quick revision session at half-time, and that Klopp had to outline what their gameplan was, and why they’d dominated the opening ten minutes. Having reacted badly to both the first half goals (after their opener Dortmund’s tempo dropped, after the equaliser they still seemed upset by a non-penalty award moments beforehand), the interval came at an excellent time for Dortmund.

The home side emerged for the second half with renewed energy, and effectively won the tie in the third ‘quarter’ of the game – Lewandowski completed the scoring by the 67th minute.

A key player during this period – and in the game overall – was Ilkay Gundogan. In the opening stages of the game he dropped deep to play reliable passes and move Dortmund up the pitch gradually, but as the game went on he was powerful with his forward running, replicating the role Javi Martinez played against Barcelona last night.


Mourinho inevitably made attacking changes – Karim Benzema on for Higuain, and Di Maria for Modric – pushing Real back to something like the familiar 4-2-3-1, although Real’s possession play and attacking didn’t improve significantly, with the front four often getting in each other’s way. Kaka replaced Alonso later on, with Khedira and Ozil becoming the midfield duo.

Klopp’s move to 4-5-1, with Sebastian Kehl on for Blaszczykowski to provide more strength in central midfield, was a defensive response to Mourinho’s switches, but it wasn’t as if Dortmund were forced to withstand long spells of pressure – although Ronaldo had a decent chance late on, as Real enjoyed possession in the Dortmund half.


The managers analysed the game perfectly. Klopp said: “It was an unbelievable display from my team. Madrid are very strong and it was never going to be an easy game. For the first 25 minutes we were great, then we lost our way a bit and let them back into the match. At half-time we spoke and I urged the players to start playing the way we had early on, which we did, and we were much better.”

Mourinho said: “They were the better side by far, they won their individual battles. They were better organised than us, better physically and better mentally. The game went from 1-1 to 4-1 in such a short space of time…we lost possession easily and couldn’t cope with their transitions and speed on the break.”

Klopp describes the flow of the game, Mourinho explains the specifics. Add in Gotze’s positional play, and that’s the tactical battle summarised neatly.

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