A game of two halves, and stoppage time (like every other game, ever).
I wasn’t going to watch it, but a rerun of a missed episode of ‘Suits’ (which by the way is ridiculously good) spilled over into game time and I thought what the heck, maybe ill catch just ten minutes of the game before going to bed. I know, it was stupid to think I could watch *just* ten minutes, but my shameless lack of self-control is a discussion for another day.
Malaga started well, putting pressure on the ball and restricting Dortmund’s natural style of play. With 25 minutes gone, the tree trunk that is Julio Baptista chested down a ball to Joaquin who played what seemed like an accidental one two with Isco, who among other things, was bald. Schmelzer (the guy with the catwoman mask) slid in to block the shot but by the time his slide ended in row F, the ball was nestling in the bottom corner of the net with Malaga fans in raptures. Away goal. As good as 0-2.
But Dortmund rarely fail to score at the Signal Iduna Park and five minutes from half-time, they leveled the score on the night. Retrieving the ball inside their own half, the ball was played neatly to Goetze who found Reus in an awkward position, with the ball being played slightly behind his run. What ensued what obscenely brilliant. A mid-air back-heel flick on (I told you, it was quite good) played into the path of Lewandowski who rounded the ‘keeper cleverly before finishing. 1-1.
The second half saw some great saves pulled off by Willy Caballero to deny Goetze and Reus, and Dortmund really started to look like they believed they were going out. Each passing second saw writers (except this one) beginning to bring to life the amazing story of this Andalucian club who seemingly picked the short straw in the draw for filthy rich Arab owners. They got the looney tune, who isn’t sure what he wants to do with his new toy. Months of unpaid wages, having to sell their best players and amidst it all stood Manuel Pellegrini like Russell Crowe in the Gladiator, rallying his men and fighting off the circling assassins. Malaga stood firm as Dortmund failed to build any sort of momentum or rhythm to play their usually exhilarating football. Then with eight minutes of normal time remaining, it was over. Eliseu tapped the ball into the net after quick break from what looked like an offside position and the celebrations began. The debutantes were going through! Jurgen Klopp looked visibly shaken as did his young team. Two away goals. The home side now needed to score twice in about ten minutes. Something they hadn’t done over the last 170.
Matts Hummels came on and Klopp’s boys poured forward, piling on the pressure. This was no holds barred, as draining physically as mentally for the players.
4 added minutes. Demichelis had had a very good game up to this point. Hummels played the ball into the box and the Argentine smashed a huge chunk of air out of the penalty area. The ball, however fell to Subotic, who true to his name managed to sabotage the move from six yards out before Reus took charge of things and made it 2-2. A final flicker before being extinguished, perhaps. Turns out, it was a simple three step plan. Step 1 – Score. Step 2 – Score again. Step 3 – Create the most awesome and painful human pile-up ever seen. The third goal came from one third of the team being offside, but since that rule’s being treated as more of general guideline by referees these days it was no biggie. Reus poked the ball to Santana who proceeded to blow the roof off the stadium. 66,000 fans had almost literally willed the ball into the net. 3-2! 4 exhilarating minutes for Dortmund, 4 spine chilling minutes for Malaga.
Happily ever after… Sort of
This was an outstanding game. Brutally cruel on the men from the south of Spain, but with time, the anguish will give way to immense pride and joy over what they’ve achieved in their first season in Europe’s premier competition (Yes, yes, even better than the Premier League). No one gave them a chance in a group containing AC Milan. No one gave them a chance against Porto in the round of 16 and no one gave them a chance against the (then) German champions Borussia Dortmund. Had it not been for human error (and nothing else) on the referee’s part, they would have shown up everyone to be complete fools.
As for Dortmund, once Jurgen Klopp has returned to Earth from his supercharged state of excitement he and the players will realize what they’ve done. They’ve booked a place in the semi finals of the Champions League where they will come up against some traditional European powerhouses, the heavyweights of the game (or of course PSG). But the real achievement is that while they may not be favorites against any of those teams, they will most certainly not be the underdogs.