Kagawa's brilliance not enough as Dortmund exit UCL with loss in Madrid
The 73,323 spectators at the Bernabeu became witness to something historic on Wednesday, as Real Madrid defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in the Champions League. The German club completed a historically poor group stage, becoming the first team to ever qualify for the Europe League by finishing third in their Champions League group with a meagre two points.
After 12 minutes it looked as though the Black and Yellows were in for a beating. Borja Mayoral scored the opener against passive Dortmund in the eighth minute, chipping Roman Burki. Four minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo scored a screamer from the edge of the box, punishing the guests once again for their lax defending.
But Dortmund picked themselves up and equalised with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netting shortly before and after half-time. BVB, however, once again succumbed to Real's pressure in the second half, finding little relief to keep the ball away from Los Blancos. Lucas Vazquez's tidy finish in the 81st minute sealed the fate for Dortmund, who exit the Champions League without a win.
The German outfit did not entirely collapse after Madrid made football look very easy in the opening 15 minutes. Dortmund's temporary comeback has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the hosts shifted down a few gears but nevertheless the Black and Yellows had some encouraging moments going forward. Taking a point away from the Bernabeu after trailing by two might have been a boost for Dortmund's confidence but now they will have to pull themselves up with the 35 minutes in which they actually looked competitive.
Borussia Dortmund haven't registered a win since late October against third-tier side Magdeburg and it did not look like there was any conviction to change that from the get go, as 11 yellow shirts were sleepwalking across the pitch at the start of the game, allowing the hosts to do their thing without much of a bother. In the end, BVB have to send a thank you card to North London as Tottenham took care of APOEL in the parallel match. Otherwise, they may as well have finished last in Group H.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Maybe Peter Bosz needs to hire a motivational speaker for his players so they come out ready to play.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Not much he could have done about Real Madrid's first two goals but his punch to clear the ball ahead of Vazquez's winner was the wrong decision in hindsight.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- Was caught ball watching a couple of times early on and looked out of tune with his teammates but made up for it after a poor opening.
DF Neven Subotic, 5 -- Had a vital intervention on Ronaldo in the second half, denying the Ballon d'Or winner a second goal from close range. After either being injured or left out of the squad in recent seasons, Subotic seems to have won a spot over €12 million signing Omer Toprak.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 7 -- Schmelzer was leading the match with four interceptions after 90 minutes. In the 42nd minute, he barged in between Vazquez and Marco Asensio to pick up the ball and send a pinpoint cross into the path of Aubameyang. It was one of the captain's better performances this season.
MF Marc Bartra, 4 -- Fielded as right wing-back, the Spaniard looked out of place. He won only one of his three tackles, while failing to close down opponents to hinder them from crossing into the box consistently. He was brought off with 10 minutes to spare, clearly unhappy with himself.
MF Nuri Sahin, 6 -- Like the rest of his teammates, the former Real Madrid player was too passive in the first 20 minutes. Though, Dortmund's resurgence had much to do with Sahin finding his feet and playing some intelligent passes.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 6 -- The profiteur of Gonzalo Castro and Mario Gotze suffering injuries and Julian Weigl being out of form, showed his coach that he can be an asset. Though he nearly set up a goal for the hosts, sloppily losing the ball to Isco.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 5 -- Failed to track Isco's run into the box in the eighth minute, who proceeded to play the assist for Mayoral.
FW Christian Pulisic, 6 -- Once again showed his irresistible burst of pace and created promising opportunities for himself and his team. The 19-year-old also showed that he needs to work on his decision making still to use his incredible pace to greater effect.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 -- A brace for the Gabonese striker, who joined the exclusive circle of players who have scored five goals or more against Real in the Champions League, next to Robert Lewandowski and Alessandro Del Piero. His performance should give BVB's fans hope for three-points against Werder Bremen come Saturday.
FW Shinji Kagawa, 8 -- Fielded in a more advanced position, the Japanese shined at the Bernabeu. His back-heel to set up Aubameyang's second goal was an absolute peach. He could have made it 3-3 late in the game after elegantly moving past Casemiro with a body feint but placed the ball well over Keylor Navas' goal.
MF Julian Weigl, 4 -- Replaced a tired Sahin after 65 minutes. In his 25 minutes on the field, Weigl's display again provided a grim look. The 22-year-old is yet to find his old form since returning from injury.
DF Omer Toprak, NR -- Came on for Bartra in the final 10 minutes and sure enough, the ball was in the net about 20 seconds later with Toprak starring as a bystander in two plays. If there were any questions why Subotic returned to the starting XI, Toprak answered them in no time.
FW Andriy Yarmolenko, NR -- Earned his Champions League appearance bonus check with a stoppage-time substitution.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.