Four goals from Robert Lewandowski spearheaded an enthralling performance from Borussia Dortmund to give them a stunning 4-1 victory over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
While Dortmund had the better of the first half, it would have been Madrid that went in the happier at the break as Cristiano Ronaldo struck seconds after Dortmund were denied a penalty to cancel out Lewandowski’s early opener.
But the home side went up another level in the second half and stunned Madrid with two quick goals from the Poland international before he added a fourth from the penalty spot to put Dortmund within touching distance of a place in the final at Wembley next month.
A night at England’s famous arena will struggle to match this classic night at the Westfalenstadfion, though as, cheered on by the famous wall of noise, Dortmund came out like a freight train, playing at a ferocious pace both on and off the ball that Madrid simply couldn’t handle.
In just the seventh minute Marco Reus went on a terrific run from inside his own half after Sami Khedira was dispossessed and breezed past Raphael Varane into the box before being let down by a shot that lacked conviction and allowed Lopez to make a good low save.
But Dortmund’s early pressure would tell on the scoresheet just a minute later courtesy of their continued overwhelming of their opponents by the shear pace of their play.
Mario Gotze, who encountered only the odd whistle following the announcement of his move to Bayern Munich, created the goal with a stunning in-swinging cross from the left. With Lopez staying rooted to his line, Lewandowski stole ahead of Pepe to stretch and expertly turn the ball into the net from inside the six yard box.
After the goal, the game settled down as Madrid began to have plenty of possession but with little forward threat. In truth they were only truly looking dangerous from set pieces, with Ronaldo forcing Roman Weidenfeller into a smart save with a long-range free-kick.
Indeed, it was Dortmund that were still looking the more likely to find the net. The home side were instantly closing down as soon as Madrid entered their half before breaking at pace through the combination of Reus and Gotze playing off Lewandowski.
But in the space of a minute just before the interval the match and the tie was briefly turned on its head.
At one end it could have been penalty to Dortmund when Varane tangled legs with Reus in the area. A matter of second later, with Dortmund still protesting, Madrid took full advantage of their opponents’ loss of focus as Hummels played a woefully short back pass allowing Gonzalo Higuain to take over and square for Ronaldo to knock home.
The whole atmosphere had changed both on and off the pitch. Dortmund were reeling and would have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
Jurgen Klopp appeared to have a tough job on at the break, but he must have produced some team talk judging by how his players came out with the same vigor with which they began the opening period. Within 10 minutes of the restart Dortmund had assumed control of the tie with Lewandowski giving a scintillating demonstration of why he is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world.
First, in the 50th minute, with Madrid unable to clear a cross, Reus struck the ball low back into area where Lewandowski received it and, with Madrid players appealing in vain for an offside flag, he turned expertly before prodding the ball low into the corner.
And Lewandowski was soon at it again with another sensational touch to control a blasted low cross and then instantly drag the ball away from a defender with little space in the box before thundering an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
While Lewandowski was grabbing the headlines, Ilkay Gundogan’s contribution was also prominent. The gifted midfielder’s workrate embodied that espoused by the entire Dortmund team and Gundogan almost put his side 4-1 up with a fine run and fierce left-footed shot that was only denied by a superb flying save from Lopez to tip it over the bar.
Dortmund, though, kept coming and Madrid were well and truly rattled. Xabi Alonso summed up their discomfort as he clumsily bundled Reus down in the box from behind and this time Dortmund were awarded a penalty.
Full of confidence, Lewandowski never looked likely to miss from the spot and duly smashed the ball high down the middle of the net.
Madrid tried to respond by bringing both Karim Benzema and Kaka off the bench, but Dortmund weren’t hanging back either and Lopez had to react smartly to stop Lewandowski getting a fifth with a long-range effort.
A second goal for Madrid would have given the Spaniards plenty of hope for the second leg and they had two good chances to get it in the final minutes. Yet, Dortmund would stand firm as first Weidenfeller was off his line in a flash to deny Ronaldo and then Hummels made a stunning block to send Varane’s shot inches wide to ensure Klopp's young side are overwhelming favorites to make it an all-German final.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.