All is left to play for in next week’s return leg at the Signal Iduna Park as Málaga and Borussia Dortmund played out a goalless draw at La Rosaleda on this warm Wednesday night. However, despite being the away side, it will be Dortmund who will be going home the most disappointed as it was them who had the most and clearest chances to tilt the tie in their favour.
Jürgen Klopp was forced to field an XI without Polish winger Jakub Błaszczykowski who was ruled out with a groin strain, with Kevin Großkreutz predictably coming in for him. Sebastian Kehl also made a surprise start for the first time in a month since the 3-1 home win against Hannover, replacing Nuri Şahin in the starting XI. Perhaps the reasoning behind this choice was to limit Isco’s space in front of the defence as the young Málaga player has rightly been dubbed as the Andalucians biggest threat.
If anyone expected Málaga to impose their ball domination on Dortmund and the away team to try and hit them on the break, they were in for a surprise. Throughout the first half, it was the Málaga hearts that were beating the fastest as Dortmund tested goalkeeper Willy Caballero time after time. Mario Götze had two clear early chances in which he should have done better with and which Caballero gathered easily, as Javier Saviola also squandered a chance inside the area when a square pass seemed easier. However, Dortmund’s slick passing and triangulations combined with Málaga’s inability to string passes together made life very difficult for the Spanish side. Isco was nowhere to be seen for the first half and it was the Dortmund front 3 (Großkreutz excluded) that were producing chances.
Dortmund were lacking the killer instinct in the final third. The chances came regularly through crosses from Reus or clever footplay by Lewandowski but they were unable to put the final touch to finally beat Caballero. Even Sebastian Kehl had a pop from long range, which was excellently saved once again by the Argentinian goalkeeper. Málaga’s Weligton was lucky to foul Lewandowski inches outside the area as the Polish striker seemed ready to rifle the ball into the net, although the play ended with a yellow for Weligton and a wide free kick from Reus. Málaga’s first chance came from a Weligton header and then another header from Toulalan that Götze cleared from what seemed off the line, although replays suggested that the ball was going out.
It would have seemed logic that Dortmund would be left to rue the missed chances in the second half as Málaga had been fairly harmless in the first 45 minutes and had ended on a high but the second half brought more of the same. With Júlio Baptista pushing further up alongside Saviola, Málaga were left in inferiority in midfield, which allowed Dortmund to control the ball. Added to Málaga’s wasteful passing, Dortmund were in control. Far from wanting to keep possession and work their plays, Klopp’s men went all forward with both full backs pushing up and widening play, often falling into the same mistake as their counterparts. Seconds after the restart, Götze once again tested Caballero and Lewandowski had a couple of chances which also saw him denied by the home keeper, although the referee chose not to see Demichelis’ hold on the Pole’s shirt inside the area.
It wasn’t until just after the hour mark that Caballero was beaten – although this time Götze couldn’t get his shot on target. Thread through by Gündogan, Götze was alone inside the area but managed to pull his shot inches wide of the far post. This seemed to wake Málaga up as seconds later, Isco made Weidenfeller make his first real save of the game with a venomous shot from the corner of the area.
It seemed that both managers had seen enough and the subs came on, as Saviola and Baptista exited for Portillo and former Bayern München striker Roque Santa Cruz, as Klopp took off Reus for Julian Schieber and a tired-looking Sebastian Kehl for Lars Bender to bring more intensity to the midfield. With Götze now pushed wide, Dortmund’s most active player now was seeing less of the ball and Dortmund’s attacking threat suffered from it. Both teams are wasteful with the ball and the intensity had definitely lowered right until the final whistle.
In conclusion, Dortmund will be disappointed with the result, not so much with the performance. An excellent Cabellero denied them the all-important away goal and possibly the win, which would have brought them closer the semi-finals. Dortmund’s attack combined well and Lewandowski showed glimpses of supreme skill with his feet but wasn’t really able to properly test Caballero. Partly responsible for that was Martín Demichelis, who put in a much better performance than the last one that German fans will have seen him in, a certain night in Madrid in 2010. Gündogan combined excellently in midfield and Isco was not to be seen until 20 minutes from the end. With all the hype he had created before the game, many fans who saw him for the first time tonight will be wondering what all the fuss was about.
This leaves Dortmund in a tricky situation as a Málaga goal in the away leg will mean that they will be forced to go one better. Málaga’s defending today was solid and despite all the chances created by Dortmund, they were never close enough to pose a point-blank threat (Götze’s chance the only exception). On the other hand, Dortmund’s defence handled Saviola and Baptista very well, keeping them quiet for almost the whole game, something which Klopp should be happy about going into the return leg.
Whereas the leg was even in terms of possession (50-50), Dortmund created the most with the ball and despite the shot count (10-13) not being too far apart, Dortmund’s chances were definitely the most dangerous.
This was going to be the game of Isco vs Götze but the real star of it was Willy Caballero, a little-known Argentinian goalkeeper who showed today that he is capable of handling the much-feared Dortmund attacking trio with a performance of the highest standard. Still, Dortmund remain unbeaten in this year’s Champions League but draws will do no longer. Klopp’s men need goals so we can expect an even more attacking duel in six days time.
Málaga: Caballero, Gámez, Weligton, Demichelis, Antunes; Iturra, Toulalan; Joaquín, Baptista, Isco; Saviola
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Santana, Subotić, Schmelzer; Kehl, Gündoğan; Großkreutz, Götze, Reus; Lewandowski.
Venue: Estadio La Rosaleda (Málaga)
Header courtesy of dpa