x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Real Madrid do just enough to advance despite Reus double

Injury-hit Dortmund fall one goal short of forcing extra time

Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund tackles Luka Modric of Real Madrid during their Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg at Signal Iduna Park on April 8, 2014, in Dortmund, Germany.  Dennis Grombkowski / Getty Images
Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund tackles Luka Modric of Real Madrid during their Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg at Signal Iduna Park on April 8, 2014, in Dortmund, Germany. Dennis Grombkowski / Getty Images

Real Madrid’s quest for their holy grail rumbles on, although it really should have been more straightforward.

The nine-time winners of Europe’s premier club competition have for long suffered plenty and spent heavy in the chase for the “decima”, a 10th seizing of that famous trophy.

Having convincingly beaten a depleted Borussia Dortmund side in the first leg in Spain last week, Madrid seemed set to coast closer to their most coveted prize.

A three-goal deficit had been overturned only once in Uefa Champions League history, almost 10 years ago to the day. As unlikely as it appeared, Carlo Ancelotti, the Madrid coach, would have not needed reminding: it was he who had been in charge of a shell-shocked AC Milan who crumpled before Deportivo La Coruna a decade ago.

At times last night at the Westfalenstadion, Ancelotti would have thought he had been thrust back to the fateful evening in northern Spain. In truth, it should never have occupied his thoughts.

As if their first-leg superiority was not enough, Madrid were provided the perfect opportunity to make the tie safe when awarded a penalty early on – Lukasz Piszczek, the Dortmund right-back, harshly adjudged to have handled Fabio Coentrao’s cross.

Yet, with Cristiano Ronaldo, the tournament’s top scorer this season, watching from the bench, Angel Di Maria assumed spot-kick duties, only to see Roman Weidenfeller claw away his effort.

Revitalised, a previously sluggish Dortmund sparked to life and within 20 minutes their improbable comeback was given genuine hope. Marco Reus, the live-wire German international, contributed two goals, each one a product of Madrid mistakes.

The first, on 23 minutes, came from Pepe’s poor header, which allowed Reus to poke around the advancing Iker Casillas and score.

With the Yellow Wall willing them on, Dortmund doubled their lead nine minutes before half-time, when Reus thrashed home after Robert Lewandowski had found the post via Casillas’s glove. Asier Illarramendi’s misplaced pass had set the move in motion.

It was enough to lift a visibly concerned Ronaldo from his seat, the Portuguese urging his teammates to respond. While they did not quite resume their usual swagger, Madrid did enough to repel Dortmund throughout the second half.

The Germans will be left to rue Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s inaccuracy, though, as the Armenian midfielder sent his shot off the post with Casillas beaten and the Madrid goal at his mercy.

So the Spaniards held on to scrape through to the semi-finals 3-2 on aggregate, although they will realise their defence needs significant tightening if they are to finally notch a 10th European Cup.

With Ronaldo fit to return, Madrid certainly have the attacking prowess to prosper, but that old Achilles’ heel could still come back to haunt them. They may deem themselves fortunate to be in Friday’s draw, despite arguably doing most of the hard work in the initial encounter last week.

Their quest rumbles on, but there could well be a few bumps on the road ahead.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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