Huge win for Madrid as both the Whites and Tottenham start to break away from the rest of the UCL group. It was another historic milestone for Zidane and his men as this was the first win ever at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park; the yellow wall has finally been pierced. It was a whirlwind of a game, where neither team nor fans had time to collect their thoughts. From both sides, it was wave of attack after wave of attack and counter after counter. Dortmund tactically played to Madrid’s advantage and took some major risks. They were not clinical enough to capitalize on those risks and Kroos, Modric, Ronaldo, and Bale had their way with Dortmund’s highline. There were moments of nice intricate football from the Madrid attack also coupled with blistering breaks and last minute defending on the opposite side of the pitch. The match had it all. It’s tough picking a man of the match as Ronaldo came through with two goals, Bale was immense- opening the scoring as well as setting up Ronaldo’s first, Modric dictated the flow of the game and fed Ronaldo for the final blow, and Kroos was cool as ever—never losing his composure and controlling the midfield with his Croatian partner.
Keylor Navas—6.5: Madrid’s backline was shaky throughout the night and Keylor was put in a number of difficult positions. Came out well to shut down Castro and force him into a bad touch as Dortmund broke through 3 on 1. The Costa Rican was very aggressive off his line and often times that was enough to throw Dortmund off. Aubameyang having a few chances coming centimeters from finding the back of the net.
Dani Carvajal—7.5: Best performance of the season so far. Broke free early in the first half with a golden opportunity to set Ronaldo or Bale up for the tap-in, but choose to go alone and ultimately made a poor decision. Made amends with a perfect lofted ball for Gareth Ball to blast home for the first goal of the match. Shut down young Phillip and made some crucial last minute tackles to stop Aubameyang from scoring. He was rampant down the right all evening and proved to be the Dani we all know and love. Looked to be visibly exhausted in 70th minute and was less impactful in the final moments of the game. He has played over 1000 minutes already and is due some rest soon.
Raphael Varane—7: Incredible goal saving tackle right at the start of the second half as Nacho fell asleep and lost track of Yarmolenko. The big Frenchman was imposing all game and won every header. There were a few moments where Aubameyang slipped through, but overall Ramos and Varane did a good job to keep him relatively quiet.
Sergio Ramos—8: Early in the first half, Ramos had a hand ball and was fortunate to stay on the field, but thank god he did. He was superb tonight. His 1v1 defending against Aubameyang was top class. He uses his experience so well and his positional sense makes it difficult for any offense to break Madrid down on a quick counter like Dortmund continually tried. Covered Nacho well, whenever Yarmolenko managed to get by the Canterano and of course, got himself involved in the attack whenever he saw the opportunity.
Nacho—8: What a player. He can do it all—left back, right back, center back—wherever he is put in the backline, no matter the venue or situation, he puts in a good shift. His speed is a huge asset that opposing teams seem to underestimate and he is able to get forward due to his engine, and again, that speed.
Casemiro—7: The Brazilian is putting in consistent performance after consistent performance. He is a steady rock that is essential to the balance of the Madrid team. As always, won important tackles and won the battles in the midfield. As often noted by the MM team, his game continues to evolve and he set Madrid off on a few counter attacks to release Cristiano. You can see he is always scanning the field and he now copes well with pressure.
Luka Modric—9.5: Positioned even further out on the right than usual today, similar to his role against Juventus in the final, but once again was brilliant. What a luxury Madrid fans have, who is the best midfielder in the world—Modric or Kroos? Modric was unplayable today and he did a great job of switching the field of play. The Croatian always looked to exploit the weak side of Dortmund’s defense. He released Bale and Ronaldo all night, and racked up an assist for Ronaldo’s second goal of the game which ultimately nailed the coffin for Dortmund. On top of his offensive contribution, he worked tirelessly all night to close down the Dortmund midfield and give Carvajal support.
Toni Kroos—9: Ice in his veins. The German is a machine and looks to be over any injury he may have had earlier in the week. He is always an outlet for Madrid’s defense to help relieve pressure. No matter the number of bodies he has harassing him, he keeps the ball and picks out the right pass. When Madrid first signed Kroos, Zidane had said the club brought someone who could lead the midfield for a decade, he could not have been more spot on.
Isco—6.5: Isco worked tremendously hard all game long. He had to be a bit more tactically disciplined as Zidane wanted him to defend the left flank as part of a four man midfield and a team block of eight. Despite the slightly restricted freedom, Isco was able to break down the left on a number of occasions and whip in a few dangerous crosses that almost found Ronaldo. He had two quality chances that, given his current form, he will be disappointed not to have found the back of the net.
Gareth Bale—9: Another top performance. Finished the game with a goal and an assist. Slowly but surely silencing his critics as he builds his fitness. Like Zidane has said, we still won’t see the very best of Bale for another two to three months, but he is certainly producing as he is the Madrid player with most involvement in goals this season. His goal was absolutely brilliant, rifled into the top corner via left footed instep volley. His assist to Ronaldo had it all—his movement and recognition of space was perfect and the weight of his in swinging low driven cross has become a consistent weapon. Bale worked hard all night to press the Dortmund backline. He and Ronaldo were both ready to be set loose on the break at any moment. Gareth was able to pull markers away and again his performances just continue to improve.
Cristiano Ronaldo—9: Like Carvajal, broke free pass Dortmund’s high line and instead of shooting (unlike Dani) chose to pass to Bale. In that instant, it may have been the wrong decision. But not to worry, it was only a matter of time until the Portuguese bulged the old onion bag. He played high looking to break through Dortmund’s line at any moment and led the team once again to a huge and historic victory with his two well taken goals.
Marco Asensio—6.5: Limited time to make much of an impact, but was able to capitalize on Dortmund’s change to a three-man backline and bursted through the middle using his break neck speed only to take too big of a final touch with Cristiano begging for the tap-in. Comes into this environment fearless and with more time surely would have made a bigger impact.
Lucas Vazquez—n/a: Came on in the 85th minute for what hopefully was just a cramping Gareth Bale. Had a few nice touches and knew exactly where he needed to be defensively on the left.
Dani Ceballos—n/a: Came on in the 91st minute for Luka Modric. Despite only have a few minutes to play, was active and saw the ball a number of times. Maneuvers his body so well to avoid tackles and retain possession. Excited to see more of Ceballos as the season progresses.
Zinedine Zidane—8.5: A historic win for Madrid and Zidane. Another big game and another big time performance and very important 3 points to boost the squad’s confidence. Dortmund’s tactics played right into Madrid’s hands with Ronaldo and Bale spearheading a lightning quick attack. Stuck to his guns and played the veterans throughout to help see out the match. It was the right call as Madrid secured the win, maybe only criticism was to put Asensio in earlier as Isco looked to be tiring.
Man of the Match: Luka Modric
Honorable Mentions: Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Toni Kroos