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Immediate Reaction: Borussia Dortmund 1 - 3 Real Madrid

Another big game, another win, another great performance

Real Madrid go into Dortmund and look like themselves again. They beat Borussia 1-3 (Aubamayeng; Bale, Ronaldo x2), and take command of the group. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, post-game podcast, and more.

Real Madrid headed into this away match against Borussia Dortmund almost the same way as they did early last season — on the backs of some unconvincing performances, and replying with a convincing display to take advantage of Dortmund’s curiously high line.

In tough games, away from home, in hostile atmospheres, Zidane’s men step up, and no one at this point should be surprised to see Real walk into enemy territory with a cold-blooded mentality. Tonight, against a Dortmund side that kept Julian Weigl, Christian Pulisic, and Mahmoud Dahoud on the bench to start, Real Madrid continually took advantage of Peter Bosz’s high-line by unleashing through-balls to Ronaldo and Bale who acted as interchangeable spearheads — taking turns running down the flank and crossing to each other.

And when it wasn’t Ronaldo or Bale; it was Isco, Carvajal, or Modric getting in advanced positions to feed their gunslingers. Before Real Madrid eventually scored their first goal through a Gareth Bale special, they had knocked on the door. Most notably, a brilliant pass out of the back-line from Casemiro found Carvajal in open water on the right flank, high up the pitch. Had Dani played a quick, squared pass to either Ronaldo or Bale, the goal would’ve come even sooner.

In the second half, after Real Madrid patiently passed the ball in tight spaces, Toni Kroos found a darting Gareth Bale with an incisive through-ball, who played a one-time, perfectly weighted ball (seriously, the manner that Bale consistently gets this exact pass in is becoming one of my favourite things), to Ronaldo who gave Real Madrid a 2-0 lead.

What ensued was an Aubamayeng (more on this below) goal to cut the lead; before Ronaldo put the game away with his second goal thanks to a great vertical assist from Luka Modric.

Here are some things from Kiyan’s notebook...

  • Dani Carvajal has been under some (deserved) heat this season. Tonight, most of my Twitter feed took issue with a couple misplaced passes, and most notably, his decision to not pass to an open Bale or Ronaldo in the opening stages of the game. Apart from those miscues, he worked tremendously hard (as he has been all season), and made two crucial, back-to-back, goal-saving challenges in the first half during a key spell from Dortmund. His ball-retention was great.
  • (Another) great performance from Gareth Bale. He’s been more involved in goals than any other Real Madrid player this season. He gave us all some anxiety after leaving the pitch with what appeared to be some calf issues (maybe just a cramp?) in the 84th minute. Hoping it’s just a precaution. It would be a devastating blow to go through this again.
  • The near-post marking has been a concern lately. Apart from Aubamayeng’s goal (some suggested it was Ronaldo who was beat, but Varane was closer to mark that space), Real Madrid had left that area unmarked a couple occassions. I’ll go through this more thoroughly in my column on Thursday.
  • Just an incredible performance by Nacho all around. I lost count at how many times I applauded him for retaining possession, and low-key just knowing where to be to snuff out a counter attack.
  • I say this every game and Imma say it again — Luka Modric was incredible. He was a binding agent, a workhorse, an calculated passer, a wizard in tight spaces, and a goal creator. I don’t like the idea that he has to retire one day.

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