Dortmund and Schalke win to top groups | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.10.2012
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Dortmund and Schalke win to top groups

Borussia Dortmund and Schalke emerged victorious in European competition, both facing down sides with impressive Champions League pedigrees. Both now top their groups.

Despite a disappointing Bundesliga season so far, Dortmund has every reason to be jubilant today following their surprising win over Spanish champions Real Madrid 2-1 in front of a home crowd in their third Champions League match of the season.

Having managed a win against Ajax Amsterdam and a draw with Manchester City, though, multiple European champions Real Madrid were always going to be the true test, even if Wednesday's game was at home.

Real - featuring Germany's Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira - looked smoother in the first spell of the match, and Dortmund's efforts to upset their composure did not seem to be paying off.

Indeed, Real seemed to be growing more assured but - with the lion's share of the possession - they simply weren't making the most of it. To make matters worse, Khedira was substituted with an injury - thought to be a possible torn hamstring - after 20 minutes.

Dortmund were soon carving out their own chances - captain Sebastian Kehl's long range efforts forcing some desperate blocks from Real keeper Iker Casillas.

With such an outstanding attacking line-up, defense was always likely to be the Achilles heel for Real. Dortmund managed to expose the cracks on 36 minutes when a sloppy pass by Real's Portuguese defender Pepe allowed Kehl to set Robert Lewandowski free. The Pole found himself one-on-one with Casillas, finishing clinically between the keeper and near post.

Any elation felt by Dortmund was quickly snuffed out though, as Real roared back at the Germans to score within two minutes. A beautifully placed long ball from Özil beat Sven Bender and bounced for Cristiano Ronaldo, who clipped the rising ball with trademark serenity past Roman Weidenfeller.

Crunch time after break

After half time, both sides looked evenly matched, with Dortmund now enjoying more possession than previously. Angel Di Maria came close for the Spaniard on 57 minutes - a crucial stage in the match.

The breakthrough, when it came, was for Dortmund. Marcel Schmelzer took advantage as Casillas punched the ball away on 64 minutes, but not far enough. Schmelzer caught the ball on a half-volley, slicing it cleanly to the right of Casillas and into goal.

Despite a nervy end to the match, Real's undoubted quality seemed to elude them and it finished 2-1. Dortmund held on to make a giant step to the knock-out stages - topping Group D on seven points.

"It was a sensational Champions League evening," said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp. "It's something better than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. It was a plucky performance from my team."

Schalke find courage in London with 2-0 victory

While two Germans had lined up against Dortmund, another pair were on the team list of Schalke at London's Emirates Stadium; Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski both finding their way onto coach Arsene Wenger's team sheet.

Klass-Jan Huntelaar of FC Schalke 04 (C) vies for the ball with Arsenal's Francis Coquelin (Photo: dpa)

Arsenal, like Real, did not make the most of early superiority

Arsenal - so often Champions League contenders in the past decade - had some 80 percent of possession in the first ten minutes, but weren't really pressing as much as they could. Schalke were not tested too much, though, and the spectacle was not much to behold at first.

Before long, the Germans began to lurk on the edge of a successful counter attack - Schalke got a little braver, pressing especially down the outside. Thanks to the agility of Jefferson Farfan, they started to craft some good opportunities down the right.

The second half started much more eventfully than the first, with Lewis Holtby having a shot blocked early on. Benedikt Höwedes had a clear chance thanks to Farfan on 50 minutes, but fired off target.

Schalke now looked the most likely to score and did so on 76 minutes when Ibrahim Afellay headed a high loose ball down into the Arsenal back line for an opportunistic Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to put the Germans ahead.

With Arsenal now having to go forward there was room for Schalke to counter. It was Farfan, who along with Japan's Atsuto Uchida was the scourge of Arsenal for much of the night, who was able to open up a sluggish looking Arsenal rearguard.

With the home side's defense caught out fatally, Farfan squared it low across the Arsenal goal for Afellay to finish with ease.

Task proves too great

Arsenal were not ready to give up, coming close through Spaniard Santi Cazorla and German youth player Serge Gnabry - who, having come on as sub, was now taking Arsenal's corners. In the end though, it was too big a task for the Londoners.

"I am not satisfied with the first half; we played well for 10 minutes and with far too much fear for 35 minutes," said Schalke coach Huub Stevens. "We could have gone behind. In the second half, though, we played really well.

The 2-0 result provides an enormous boost to Schalke, who sit above their rivals in Group B, on seven points. Bayern are third in Group F - on equal points with the top two but with an inferior goal difference - after a 1-0 away victory at French side Lille on Tuesday.

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