Somehow, Real Madrid didn’t come out too disappointed from a home draw in the Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo had a very off night, curiously trying to pass almost every ball that fell at his feet and never really finding a good shot at goal, feeling lost in the first half and out of sorts as a striker in the second.
In all fairness, Real Madrid were outclassed by Dortumnd in the first half because A) Once again showed that they find it very hard to cope with a team trying to take the initiative against them and B) Came out with the wrong lineup.
I’m not sure if Gonzalo Higuain was injured prior to the match and the injury worsened during the first 45 minutes, but he looked static and unhelpful for the entire first half. Jose Maria Callejon, finally getting some forward minutes instead of some tactical position on the right side of the midfield, showed his speed and talent, including a goal that I’m pretty sure wasn’t an offside like the officiating crew called it.
And how about Luka Modric? Not the kind of player you want as your DM against a team you know are going to attack you. Modric simply couldn’t provide the defensive help or the physical stature to be the dam in the middle of the field and stop Dortmund’s counter attacking, with Reus and Gotze swarming through the middle while Pepe couldn’t handle Robert Lewandowski in the air and Sergio Ramos & Alvaro Arbeloa were caught venturing far too high twice.
Jose Mourinho kept talking about how dangerous Dortmund are, but didn’t make the proper adjustments before the match. Xabi Alonso never had the luxury of moving forward because of the defensive problems, while Mesut Ozil, who saved the match for Real with his clever free kick (although it was also bad goalkeeping from the usually reliable Roman Weidenfeller), was too far away from the forwards, as Real struggled to do anything but send long balls to Ronaldo and Higuain, which nothing really came out of.
In the second half a lot of that changed. Dortmund decided that a 2-1 lead is enough for them and started making all the wrong substitutions, but for Real, the entrance of Callejon and Michael Essien (for Modric) brought the match back to a pace they control, with their defense looking less and less awkward, Essien proving he’s the man Real should start with. Callejon moved to the left, Cristiano Ronaldo to the middle. Angel di Maria was a tad less involved than you might have wanted him to, but Xabi Alonso could move up higher, player closer to Ozil and later Kaka and Real Madrid simply became a much more dangerous team.
But winning didn’t look like an option, despite the late pressure. When Cristiano Ronaldo is so off the mark on almost every action, chances are Real Madrid won’t win. He hasn’t played in the centre of an attack except for an random play here and there in quite some time. Even when he had the chance to take Subotic or Mats Hummels one on one, he preferred to pass, instead of doing what his instincts usually tell him, which is blast it at goal.
Hard to see Real Madrid not making it out of this group, simply because Manchester City are simply not good enough to somehow change the course of things; Ajax as well. But Real Madrid aren’t playing well for a few weeks now after what looked like an improvement. The defensive problems are effecting the shape of the entire team, and every time a side doesn’t bow down and just wait for Real to finish the job, they struggle to execute their game plan. Not the recipe for winning the Champions League or chasing down Barcelona.