Real Madrid took a massive step toward avenging their semifinal loss of last season with a 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at the Bernabeu.
The match wholly reinforced the pre-match feeling that while Real Madrid have improved this season under Carlo Ancelotti, a Dortmund side riddled with injuries would be unable to repeat their superb run to last year’s final.
It took just three minutes for Madrid’s superiority to show on the pitch. Gareth Bale put his side in front after some slick control. Dortmund rarely threatened Iker Casillas in the Real Madrid goal and the home side doubled their lead through Isco before the break. Cristiano Ronaldo then made it 3-0 after the interval with a goal that now surely makes the second leg a mere formality. The only negative spot on a comfortable night for Madrid was an injury that later forced Ronaldo’s withdrawal, although Ancelotti later said that the knee problem was nothing serious.
Dortmund were without seven players from their 4-1 victory over Madrid in the first leg of last year’s semifinal. And it showed. Beset by injuries throughout the season, Dortmund’s hopes were further dashed beforehand by a suspension that ruled out the man who scored all four of their goals on that famous night 12 months ago, Robert Lewandowski.
In contrast, Madrid have an enviable amount of firepower. And Madrid quickly cut through a much-changed Dortmund backline. Karim Benzema’s pass inside was matched by its recipient, Daniel Carvajal, to find Bale breaking forward. The Welshman’s fine first touch took him past Sokratis before he got there just ahead of Roman Weidenfeller and prodded it past him into the net.
The Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper continued to be heavily involved, first in acrobatically helping over a free-kick from Ronaldo. But he was let down by those in front of him as Madrid doubled their lead in the 27th minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan carelessly lost the ball just outside his own area, it fell to Isco on the edge of the box and he placed a shot expertly into the bottom corner. The strike was only the second goal of 2014 for the young former Malaga man, who lost his place in the side when Carlo Ancelotti switched to a 4-3-3 but was making the most of starting in place of the unwell Angel di Maria.
Bale came close to adding to his and his team’s tally before the break, but a trademark free-kick that moved all over the place was impressively turned over the bar by Weidenfeller.
Dortmund finally had a spell of threatening the Madrid goal early in the second half. But Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to take advantage, first when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shot wide from Marco Reus’s pass and then when Henrikh Mkhitaryan did likewise from an even better opportunity after a rare example of a trademark incisive break from the Bundesliga outfit.
And that could well prove to be the last moment of hope for Dortmund in the tie. Three minutes before the hour mark, Luka Modric went on a fine forward run before slipping in a superb pass to Ronaldo who controlled effortlessly and finished with ease to put Madrid in total control.