If this was one of the final matches for Jose Mourinho as a Real Madrid manager, it will be an arrogant display that shows the Portuguese manager doesn’t always learn from past mistakes, while giving Cristiano Ronaldo hardly any help to try and do something against an opponent he knew he’d struggle with, relying too much on his ability to win matches on his own.
It was pretty clear that after being outplayed by Dortmund earlier in the season, Mourinho was going to play even more cautiously than usual in these type of matches, and hope his team’s counter attacking abilities will be enough to get them an away goal, while also being pretty sure they’re not good enough to prevent Dortmund from scoring one or two. It ended being four, from the same player, while Real’s only goal came from a fluke mistake by the German defense.
Cristiano Ronaldo has matches when he helps the defense, and there are the matches when he doesn’t even bother. Against Dortmund, who kept overloading the wings with Mario Gotze escaping the poor coverage of Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso by drifting wide, what Real needed more than anything was a little more sacrifice from Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil on the other wing, but all they got was two players left frustrated by being too isolated for most of the match, hardly getting influential touches on the ball or shots at goal.
Maybe playing with Callejon on the right would have been the right thing to do, but everyone is smarter in hindsight. When you put it beyond tactics and the Mourinho mistakes, his players didn’t give enough of themselves as the yellow waves of Dortmund’s press-moments washed over them to a devastating effect. Gonzalo Higuain had to chase long balls all match long against a defense that’s a lot better than that silly mistake and goal they gave away just before half time.
Ronaldo didn’t pull a disappearing act, but there are ways to take him out of the game. It’s just that very few teams have that ability, with Dortmund being one of them. Real Madrid had too much space between its players, not really finding it plausible to go on counter attack after counter attack with Dortmund’s defense set up so well after turning over the ball. Meanwhile, Luka Modric didn’t really add anything, offensively and defensively, to merit his inclusion in the lineup. Angel Di Maria came on later, changing nothing when all seemed lost anyway.
And there was the defense, that crumbled underneath the physical pressure. Lewandowski might be one of the strongest centre forwards in the world, but he shouldn’t be shaking off both Pepe and Raphael Varane like they were kids trying to mark him, even when Pepe grabbed on to his shirt. Like a man among boys, sometimes it seemed, while Marco Reus and Mario Gotze were untouchable at times, being too much for Sergio Ramos or Fabio Coentrao.
Not for the first time this season, Jose Mourinho failed in preparing his team for a match, but didn’t have the luck for the referee to bail him out. Cristiano Ronaldo might be a unique football specimen, but even he can’t do miracles when so many mistakes are done on the drawing board.