In the final match of group play, Borussia Dortmund won Group F and set a new Champions League record of scoring 21 goals in an exciting match against Real Madrid at the famed Bernebéu. The 2-2 draw felt doubly like a win for Dortmund as they overturned a 2-0 deficit late in the second half. Who else but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus collected the goals negating a brace from Karim Benzema.
Dortmund set up in a classic 4-2-3-1 with Tuchel stating prior to the match that he wanted again to control the middle. Castro and Weigl took the central midfield positions with Gonzalo bombing forward when in possession. Dortmund seemed mildly, but pleasantly confused while they were given complete control of the ball in their own half for the first five or so minutes of the match, but when Madrid turned on the pressure, Dortmund cracked like a walnut. Wave after wave of counterattacks sprung by Casemiro, Modric, and Ronaldo brutally exposed BVB’s left side. Marcel Schmelzer had a woeful first half being caught up the pitch frequently. Bartra seemed completely confused on how to handle defensive assignments and was also guilty of venturing too far up field risking turnover. Brilliant goalkeeping from number two Roman Weidenfeller kept Dortmund in the match for the first third. Inevitably, though a turnover by Gonzalo Castro, a frequent committer of said violation on the night, sprung yet another counter-attack that had stranded Schmelzer whilst still in overlap mode. Bartra hesitated far too long to close down Carvajal and his perfect ball on the ground to Benzema was tapped away on 28 minutes.
Dortmund, meanwhile spurned their chances in the first half with Schürrle, Castro, Pulisic, and Dembélé guilty of fluffing their attempts. Dortmund’s midfield in the first half looked completely disjointed. Castro seemed to be wearing rubber boots as he could not string together a pass and had wild touches all night. Pulisic was stranded on the right with Piszczek staying back during the attack. This left the American with frequently only one option to pass, Dembélé, allowing Casemiro, Marcello, and Sergio Ramos to devour Pulisic whenever he had the ball. The Frenchman too, had a fairly dismal outing, frequently slipping, making poor decisions, and running into traps. It seems evident Ousmane is more comfortable, knows his role better, and makes better decisions on the wing rather than the number ten role.
The second half started out much like the first with Dortmund sharp for once on the attack and Madrid allowing them to come at them, but, also like the first half, Bartra fell asleep in the 53rd minute, allowing Benzema to drift behind him and making the Frenchman’s headed goal an easy conversion off a beautiful James cross. Down 2-0, Tuchel decided to make some changes, but before the substitutions came on, Weigl spotted Schmelzer making a run behind Carvajal. The struggling Weigl lobbed a beautiful pass that dropped perfectly for Schmelzer who one-touched it across goal to Auba for an easy tap-in. A beautiful prototypical Dortmund goal and one that punished Madrid. Immediately following the goal, Emre Mor and Marco Reus came on for Pulisic and Schürrle respectively. They had an immediate impact creating chance after chance and providing some freshness and aggressiveness in the press. With a few key Weidenfeller saves and comical Ronaldo misses, BVB stayed in the match until the very end. In the 88th minute, Emre Mor picked Marcello’s pocket deep in Dortmund’s end and sprinted up the field before sending in a perfect leading pass to Aubameyang. Auba easily outpaced Sergio Ramos to the right flank and sent an inch perfect pass to Marco Reus who slotted home for the draw, the group win, and the Champions League record.