After the 4-1 battering Borussia Dortmund handed out to Real Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal, it always looked likely that the Germans would make it to the final. They needed to draw out Madrid's sting at the Santiago Bernabeu, and did just that: For 83 minutes they held out fairly comfortably, and although the hosts ran riot after Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos got them within touching distance of advancing, they never really had enough to get to Wembley.
The early story was a slew of missed chances by the hosts. Real Madrid needed at least a 3-0 win; they could have scored that many by the 20th minute had their finishing not been plagued by equal doses of bad luck and incompetence. Gonzalo Higuaín should have put them ahead in the third minute after a feed from Mesut Ozil, but took too many touches and his scrambled shot was kicked clear by Roman Weidenfeller. Cristiano Ronaldo's vicious, point-blank volley then hit the goalkeeper square in the chest. And then Mesut Özil, behind the defence following Higuaín's through ball, fired wide of the post when he looked certain to score. Or at least pass across to Ronaldo.
Borussia Dortmund hadn't really got going, but they were still a threat on the counterattack. In the midst of the Madrid bombardment, Robert Lewandowski peeled clear of Sergio Ramos only to miscue his scissor kick and allow Diego Lopez to clear. But slowly, the visitors managed to recover their legs and come into the game. They did it despite losing Mario Götze early on to a hamstring pull -- the young star was forced off in the 14th minute, replaced by Kevin Großkreutz.
Madrid were still generally on top, but their frustration over wasting their early chances was starting to show. Fábio Coentrão found himself in Howard Webb's naughty books after clashing with Lewandowski, but it was Higuaín who seemed most effected. His play got steadily worse as the first half progressed, leaving the striker more or less useless. A tongue-lashing aimed at Xabi Alonso indicated that even Ronaldo was starting to lose his cool with the situation.
The Santiago Bernabeu crowd never really had its cool in the first place. Their anger was directed in particular towards Weidenfeller, who had drawn their ire for the twin sins of playing more or less perfectly and wasting as much time as he possibly could on every goal kick. They should probably have been aiming their scorn elsewhere -- after the promising start Madrid were looking both leggy and out of ideas.
Halftime came and went with the score at 0-0, which suited BVB just fine. They'd weathered the early storm and simply needed to avoid conceding three goals over the next 45 minutes to reach the final at Wembley. Knowing that Madrid would once again come out of the blocks flying turns out to be less terrifying when one has a three-goal cushion.
It could and should have been four in the 50th minute. Lewandowski had already blazed well over when presented with a cutback, but he had an even better chance seconds later when Marco Reus put him through on goal with a deft pass. The striker's shot was hit hard enough that it beat Lopez without giving him a chance to react, but rather than finding the back of the net the ball cannoned off the bottom of the crossbar before hitting the line and flying to safety.
Madrid had to change things up, and Jose Mourinho made his first chances before the hour mark. The disappointing Higuaín was withdrawn for Marim Benzema -- a straightforward enough swap -- and Coentrão was replaced by definitely-not-a-left-back Kaka. That put the hosts in a back three, with Ángel Di María and Özil as wing backs. Nothing if not inventive.
Despite the substitutions, it was BVB who looked most likely to score. Real had Lopez to thank for keeping the match at 0-0 after a Reus cross seemed to present Ilkay Gündogan with a goal on a platter. The sliding volley was hit well enough, but Lopez did superbly to get back in a position to beat the ball away. It was a good save, but with every passing minute it became more and more apparent that it wouldn't matter.
Ronaldo spurned another chance for the hosts to haul themselves back into contention with a poke over Weidenfeller's bar from the edge of the box before Kaka sent a flick just wide. Luka Modric then had a penalty claim turned down. It clearly wasn't going to be Madrid's day.
When the goal came, it seemed to be too late. Özil got in behind Marcel Schmelzer on the BVB left, and his cross found the outstretched leg of Benzema, who redirected it into the roof of the net. But scoring reinvigorated the hosts, and Weidenfeller was forced into further saves from Sergio Ramos and Benzema before Madrid poured forward and found another goal.
This one was far less straightforward than their first -- a scramble in the box eventually saw the ball pop out to Ramos. The defender went for pure power, roofing his shot past Weidenfeller to give Madrid real hope with just a few minutes left.
They needed one goal to get through and had five minutes of stoppage time to get it. Sven Bender was stretchered off with what looked like an achilles injury under a relatively innocuous challenge from Modric, although that wasn't all bad news for the hosts as it burned some time and allowed Jurgen Klopp to reinforce his discombobulated back line by throwing Felipe Santana into the fray.
Those five minutes saw Madrid continually bomb forward, even pushing Lopez up on a corner. But it was all to no avail. Their last, best hope was a penalty shout when Santana charged down Ronaldo in the box. Howard Webb turned it down, and, a few seconds later, blew his whistle. Dortmund had lost the battle but won the war -- they'll head to Wembley for a probable date with Bayern Munich on May 25th.