Champions League Recap: Germany 8, Spain 1

It’s that simple isn’t it? Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund stormed through their more heralded Spanish opponents in what will go down as the most shocking two days in Champions League history. Ever since the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo migrated to Madrid from Manchester, Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated European soccer behind the world’s two best players, its best rivalry and the core of its best national team.

In a 24-hour period, Germany destroyed that paradigm. This is a club tournament, but it sure felt nationalistic. Spain has won the last three major international tournaments. Germany has reached the semis in four straight. The World Cup is one year away. Muller, Gomez, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Neuer, Boateng 4, Xavi, Pique, Pedro, Iniesta, Busquets, Villa, Alba 0. Reus, Gotze, Hummels, 4, Ramos and Alonso, 1. Germany 8, Spain 1. It’s only the first leg, but I get the feeling that the winds of change might finally be upon us.

“Sated by success, we have different expectations, and the motivation and feelings we get from a game have changed with them … We have set a standard we cannot match, so, competing against ourselves, we lose.” - Ken Dryden, "The Game"

Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich - It dawned on me yesterday that there is a comparison to be made between the great Montreal Canadiens teams of the 1970s, whom Dryden tended goal for, and the current Barcelona team. Forget the obvious cultural ties for a minute - the Catalans for Barca, the Quebecois for Montreal - and think of the shared success. Dryden’s Habs won six Stanley Cups in nine seasons. He wrote "The Game" in the midst of the 1978-79 season, his last in the NHL.

Barcelona is on a similar roll as those legendary Canadiens teams: three Champions League titles in seven years, six straight trips to the semifinals, not to mention countless domestic trophies. One wonders when complacency will set in, when the 11 in the lineup can’t possibly maintain the standard they’ve set.

Well, the Catalans have looked vulnerable all season long in European competition. They were stunned by Celtic in the group stage and fell 2-0 to AC Milan in the round of 16 before rallying at the Camp Nou. Barca advanced past Paris-St. Germain in the quarters by virtue of the away goal rule. A 2-2 draw on the road wiped out the 1-1 draw at home.

In hindsight, maybe we should have seen Tuesday’s loss coming. It doesn’t make the score line any less shocking, though. Bayern came in with a Bundesliga title already in hand and eyes on capturing a trophy that has painfully eluded them the past three seasons. They dominated Barcelona like no one before. In years past, you didn’t beat Barca, you survived them. On Tuesday, Bayern thoroughly controlled the full 90 minutes.

They out-muscled the diminutive Spaniards all over the field. Thomas Muller scored twice from inside the six and assisted on a third from a similar position. When Arjen Robben outfoxed Jordi Alba on Bayern’s third goal, it was Muller who flattened the defender with a hip check that Larry Robinson would be proud of.

All game long, Bastian Schweinsteiger ranged the midfield, winning the ball and feeding his speedy wingers on the flanks. Bayern masterfully capitalized on their size advantage, sending crosses past the far post to take the lone Barca big man, center back Gerard Pique, away from aerial challenges.

It was a truly brilliant performance from the Germans, one we’ll remember for a long time. To be fair, Lio Messi is still nursing his injured hamstring, and two goals should probably have been called back - one for offside and one for the aforementioned hip check. But let’s taking nothing away from Bayern. Barca now needs at least five goals at home to win the tie, a tall order for a short team.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid - Robert Lewandowski. Do I need to say anything more? Probably not, but I will anyway because I have control of the keyboard and you don’t. A day after their bitter rivals dismantled Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund nearly matched the feat in a 4-1 trouncing of Real Madrid. Lewandowski bagged all four goals* for the German side in a textbook display of center forward play.

Goal 1: Lewandowski fights through a 10-yard holding penalty on Pepe to nick in a Mario Gotze cross with his right foot.

Goal 2: Lewandowski capitalizes on some sloppy Madrid defending by beating the offside line, turning cleverly in the area and slotting the ball past keeper Diego Lopez with a quick toe poke.

Goal 3: Lewandowski creates space with a nifty pullback before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.

Goal 4: Lewandowski hammers a penalty right down the middle of the goal. Lopez wants no part of the ball.

Good attackers create space. The best attackers can work in small amounts of it. This is true across sports. On Wednesday, Lewandowski put on a clinic on how to execute in very little space. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Bundesliga’s top scorer.

Although the big Pole stole the headlines, Dortmund impressed top to bottom. They play an attractive, positive brand of soccer that effuses from jovial manager Jurgen Klopp. Every touch goes forward. Their attacking players, specifically Marco Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski, look to take on defenders every time they receive the ball at their feet.

And Madrid had no answer. Midway through the second half they spent more energy whining to the officials than mounting a comeback. Ronaldo scored, but Ronaldo always scores. Now they return to the Bernabeu with their proverbial tails tucked between their legs. Three goals will ensure a trip to the finals - that is, if they can hold Dortmund scoreless. After Wednesday, I’m not sure they can.

There’s more to be said about the team wearing yellow, though. Rumors have Lewandowski heading to Manchester United during the summer, and coveted midfielder Mario Gotze has already agreed to a move to Bayern Munich. In other words, this may be it for Dortmund. They started their campaign by topping a group that included Madrid, English champions Manchester City and Dutch winners Ajax. In the quarters they squeaked by a pesky Malaga side to reach these semis. Now Dortmund stands just 90 minutes away from an unlikely, but well deserved, place in the Champions League final.

Is this a good time to mention that the final will be played in London ... by two German clubs? We'll save that thought for later.

It’s been quite a ride. Enjoy it while it lasts. The crowd in Dortmund sure did.

*S0me are calling Lewandowski's hat trick the most spectacular ever given the circumstances. I still like this one from Rivaldo.

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