Real Madrid’s record in Germany was maintained on Wednesday night as José Mourinho’s side was defeated 2-1 by Borussia Dortmund in the Westfalenstadion. Real had not won in Germany for 12 years and the historically unsurprising result was largely born of the visitor’s makeshift defense. The loss of Sami Khedira to a hamstring injury early in the first half further weakened Real’s resistance and Dortmund, sensing it would be fertile ground with Michael Essien patrolling it, targeted Real’s left flank.
After the loss, Mourinho noted that as both sides play a counter-attacking style, there was little room for Real to burst forward. Despite equaling the record for consecutive away goals scored in the competition — 17 — the Portuguese coach said the key to the game was the second goal: “It was a very even game, with neither side managing to be superior to the other. The team that scored the second goal was going to win. If it had been us, I’m sure the same thing would have happened.”
Mourinho also spoke about the strength of Real’s opposition — “some groups are a joke, but this one is very tough” — but the rise of the German game was in evidence across the continent in match week three. Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern Munich all won and the former two top their groups, while Bayern is level with Valencia and Bate Borisov on points but not as blessed in the goal difference stakes.
The continental power shift toward Germany has been made possible by the paucity of Italian finances and the resulting talent drain from Serie A. The days when Italian teams struck fear into the heart of European opponents are long gone, especially in the case of the once-mighty AC Milan. The seven-time European champion is a pale imitation of its former self and was deservedly beaten by debutant Málaga at La Rosaleda on Wednesday night. Italian football has always carried a reputation, and a mostly fair one, for erring on the side of defensive caution — but for a team of Milan’s stature to set up such a negative formation added insult to the injury to come.
When Pellegrini took the job at Málaga, Mourinho scoffed that he would never manage a “small team”
Joaquín, who is having his finest season since his days flying down the flanks at Betis, repeated a rare occurrence in the game; for the second match running the number 7 missed a penalty but still scored the winning goal. Against Milan, his lone strike was enough to seal the win and Málaga’s perfect record in Europe, with scant attacking ambition evident from its opponent. Manuel Pellegrini’s team has not been breached in this year’s competition and remains the only side with a perfect goals-against record.
It is true that the lottery of the group stage draw presents some teams with tougher paths than others. Considering the gulf in resources of Real and Málaga, a group containing big-spending Zenit and Milan is just as imposing. Both have been swatted aside by the less-storied club. It would be instructive to receive Mourinho’s opinion of Málaga today. When his predecessor at the Bernabéu took the job at La Rosaleda, the Portuguese scoffed that he would never manage such a “small team.”
A day earlier, Valencia continued its recent revival with a thumping 3-0 away victory at Bate Borisov to go top of its group on goal difference courtesy of a Roberto Soldado hat-trick. The striker’s deadly display lifted him to the top of the club’s all-time scoring chart in the Champions League and the former Real player also became the first Spaniard to score two hat-tricks in the history of the competition, having also knocked a treble past Racing Genk last season.
Also on Tuesday, a late Jordi Alba goal maintained Barça’s 100-percent record against a dogged Celtic side that deserved at least a point for its well-executed game plan.