As soon as the draw was made most pundits agreed that Group D was this season's Champions League "Group of Death." They were split over who was likely to come out on top - with some favoring Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid , and others Premier League champions Manchester City . The draw was seen as hard on Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund , who allegedly lacked both experience and big name players to overcome their more illustrious opponents.
Few in Madrid or Manchester will think that way anymore.
Dortmund added a battling 2-2 draw at Real Madrid's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to their victory over Jose Mourinho's men in Dortmund last month Tuesday night. With their impressive road draw at Etihad Stadium, Jurgen Klopp's young and talented side now top Group D after four games and remain unbeaten. Must believe Dortmund are unlucky not to have already sealed qualification for the next round.
Klopp out-thought Roberto Mancini in Manchester, and he almost bested Jose Mourinho in Madrid. And those who thought the Bundesliga wasn't up to snuff have to be eating a bit of crow.
Both Dortmund's goals came from clever moves, well-constructed to take advantage of weaknesses in Madrid's defense. For the first, Robert Lewandowski's header put Marco Reus into space behind left back Alvaro Arbeloa; the winger, 23, gleefully lashed the ball to the net. After Pepe had equalized with a bullet header, 20-year-old Mario Götze got his side's second when he ghosted into a gap in the home defense and had the composure and technique to convert.
"It is relatively difficult to plan a game against Madrid beforehand," Klopp said afterwards. "Our intention was to have good control of the ball, and, if possible, to hurt them. I believe we achieved this and we played very well."
A rueful Mourinho admitted to reporters that his team could have conceded more than two goals in the first half.
"They could have scored another goal," said the so-called Special One. "They were winning all the loose balls and able to transition quickly into attack. They did that very well."
Real were hampered by a first half injury to forward Gonzalo Higuaín. With Karim Benzema unavailable, Mourinho had to change formation for the second half, bringing on Jose Callejón up front and swapping in Michael Essien for Luka Modric in midfield.
"We do not have another center-forward on the bench and we needed to come back," the Portuguese coach said. "We did not have many attacking options, but we managed to do it. Callejón played his part, as did all four attackers we had on, changing positions and moving to find space behind the defense."
Madrid did play with a lot more urgency and passion in the second half, but even allowing Callejón's correctly disallowed goal, they were finding it difficult to create chances. Their attacks looked frantic compared to Dortmund's surgical first half moves. Klopp shifted his defense, and Dortmund, after a rocky spell, looked relatively comfortable.
With time running out a Bernabeu public announcement instructed visiting fans what to do on the final whistle: it began "Achtung, Achtung." Even the non-German speakers recognized these words of warning, and a flutter of nervous laughter moved around the stands. But Dortmund's valiant defense was finally broken with just a minute remaining, when Mesut Özil floated a delicate free-kick past Roman Weidenfeller's despairing dive.
Mourinho put a characteristically bullish slant on Madrid's position.
"This is the most difficult group," he said. "If we finish second, it is a problem for the first-place teams we might meet next. The two times I won the Champions League I finished second in my group."
With Ajax to come at home Dortmund already looks certain to reach the knockout stage, and given their performances here and at Eastlands, they seem set for their most serious run in this competition since they won it in 1997.
"People always say we do not have much experience, but in the last two years we have gained a lot," Klopp said. "It was a great game against a great opponent and a wonderful atmosphere. A draw is a good score and we are very proud. In ten years time, I am sure we will remember this day."
The clever tactician was being modest. The facts in the stadium were plain: while Madrid's relieved fans rushed for the exits on the final whistle, the German supporters obeyed the tannoy, and stayed to cheer their players, singing long after everyone else had gone.