Dortmund deliver fatal sting to Real’s Champions League dream

Story highlights

Borussia Dortmund crush Real Madrid 4-1 in first leg of Champions League semifinal

Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals for German side

Cristiano Ronaldo had made it 1-1 three minutes before halftime

Real host second leg at the Bernabeu next Tuesday

CNN  — 

It was Muhammad Ali who warned his opponents he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.

Now, perhaps Borussia Dortmund can claim similar after crushing Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg of its Champions League semifinal Wednesday.

Decked out in black and yellow, it swarmed around Real from the start with a buzz and infectious enthusiasm to be marveled at – but it was left to one man to administer the fatal sting.

Robert Lewandowski, the Poland striker, was already one of the most feared forwards in European football before his took the field.

Read: Goetze set to join Bayern Munich

He left with his reputation enhanced four-fold, his asking price at an all-time high and his team within touching distance of next month’s Champions League final.

His four goals lit up an extraordinary encounter in which Dortmund went from young pretenders to serious contenders.

Barring the prospect of miracles at Camp Nou and the Bernabeu next week, Dortmund will contest the first ever all-German Champions League final against Bayern Munich at Wembley on May 25.

“It was an unbelievable,” Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports.

“It was a great game by my team. It was so difficult today because they are so strong and fast and they are so brilliant on the counterattack.

“The first 25 minutes were great and then we lost a bit of our game. Not so much but enough to let them come up.

“They got (level) and at the break we told the players: ‘Maybe you think there was a wrong decision by the referee but in the last game we had a wrong decision from the referee and we had the winner. Go back to the strong first 25 minutes’.”

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Forget that Real, the nine-time winners and richest club in the world, was expected to qualify for the final.

Forget that Real, boasting the mercurial talent of Cristiano Ronaldo, failed to produce their normal level of performance.

Instead, focus on one of the most exciting and vibrant sides to have emerged in European competition for many a year.

The fresh faced innocence, the youthful zest, the unbounded energy, all these traits have helped shape a Dortmund side, which is quickly winning the hearts of football fans across the globe.

German football is enjoying a stellar spell in the spotlight with fan ownership, cheap tickets, high attendances and huge television audiences making the Bundesliga one of the most popular leagues in the world.

If Bayern’s 4-0 win over Barcelona on Tuesday night was supposedly the beginning of a power shift from Spain to Germany, then Dortmund’s dominance confirmed it.

Everywhere you looked on the field, Dortmund was in control. Lewandowski led the line, a lone warrior refusing to be tamed by a Real defense appearing more and more desperate as the night progressed.

The prodigiously talented Ilkay Gundogan, who shielded his defense with an authority and maturity way beyond his 22 years, ran the midfield.

Mario Goetze, playing just over 24 hours since his $48 million move to Bayern had been confirmed, showed just why incoming manager Pep Guardiola was so keen to lure the gifted playmaker to the Allianz Arena.

Alongside the fleet footed Marco Reus, the pair tore into a Real side which looked anemic inside the red hot atmosphere of the Westfalenstadion.

Read: Brilliant Bayern batters Barcelona

Real would have expected Dortmund to start at breakneck speed, but even it was taken aback by the pace, power and ferocity of the German side.

Just seven minutes had elapsed when the wonderfully talented Reus danced his way through the Real defense, before unleashing a rasping effort which was parried away by Diego Lopez.

That was a warning of what was to follow and less than 60 seconds later the home side forged ahead when Goetze produced a sublime cross from the left for Lewandowski to poke home.

The buzz and energy with which Dortmund played appeared to overwhelm the Spanish champion, which was swept away with consummate ease.

But while Dortmund dominated, it was unable to add to its advantage and was made to pay as Real struck back with just two minutes of the half remaining.

With the home players still appealing for a penalty for what they considered to be a foul on Reus, the visiting team took advantage in devastating fashion.

Read: Dortmund drama keeps Champions League hope alive

A long ball was misjudged by Mats Hummels and Gonzalo Higuain ran clear to square for Cristiano Ronaldo to roll the ball home.

Ronaldo’s strike, his sixth in six consecutive Champions League games, appeared to have left Dortmund in a daze.

But whatever Klopp said to his side at the break worked a treat as they produced one of the most enthralling second half displays in recent times.

It was Lewandowski who led the charge, firing home his second within five minutes of the restart after taking Reus’ deflected effort in his path.

His third followed soon after, and when it came, it was worth waiting for.

Marcel Schmelzer’s cross-cum-shot found the forward inside the penalty area and the striker produced an exquisite turn before sending an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net.

Read: Spanish giants kept apart

Dortmund were rampant and the hugely impressive Gundogan almost added a fourth when his fierce effort was brilliantly tipped away by Lopez in the Real goal.

That fourth goal was not far away, however, and when Xavi Alonso fouled Reus inside the penalty area, Lewandowski stood up to power home from 12-yards.

Not since the legendary Hungarian striker Ferenc Puskas in 1960 had anybody scored four times in a European Cup semfinal or final.

That tally could have been greater but Lopez produced another stunning save to push the Pole’s fierce effort over the crossbar.

Real did rally late on with Ronaldo and Raphael Varane both going close, but Jose Mourinho’s men must now hope for an incredible turnaround next Tuesday.

Only once has a team emerged victorious after conceding a three goal deficit in a Champions League knockout stage.

Read: Real Madrid usurp Man Utd as world’s most valuable club

On that occasion, Deportivo La Coruna came back from a 4-1 defeat at AC Milan to win 5-4 on aggregate courtesy of a 4-0 home win.

“I think Dortmund were the best team by far,” Real boss Mourinho told Sky Sports.

“They won every individual battle on the pitch, they were stronger physically and mentally so I think they deserve it. How did it go from 1-1 to 4-1? I don’t know.

“Everything happened in a short space of time. We lost easy possession and we couldn’t cope with their counter attack and their transition.

“We know everything about Robert Lewandowski, every detail possible and we lost him in three goals. It’s very disappointing.

“When we lose and we don’t deserve to lose, with me, it’s a drama, when I do deserve to lose I accept it. Of course the boy deserves credit for what he did but we gave him every support for man of the match.”

A 3-0 win would take Real through to the final and keep alive its hopes of winning “La Decima” – the club’s tenth trophy in the competition.

But the task looks nearly impossible following its abject showing in Dortmund.

“It will be very difficult in the return leg at home but we must remain confident and try to react,” Real captain Sergio Ramos told reporters.

“When the draw for the semifinals was made a lot of people thought this was going to be easy for us, but this is a German team we are talking about. They are a great side.”