Madrid (AP) – At first, the pros from Borussia Mönchengladbach fell tired to the ground after the 0: 2 (0: 2) at Real Madrid, then gathered to watch anxiously on the tablet, and eventually erupted in euphoric cheers.
For the first time in 43 years, Borussia is back in the second round of the European premier class, although coach Marco Rose’s team lost to Real Madrid. With the help of Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk, who played 0-0 at the same time, Gladbach made it to the knockout round for the first time in his third Champions League appearance, second in Group B behind Real.
In the previous competition, the European Champions Cup, the five-time German champion had always reached the eighth finals in the seventies. “Wahnsinn, Wahnsinn”, Captain Lars Stindl cheered at DAZN. “It was actually our weakest game in the preliminary round and we are still going. We deserved it earlier with our strong performance. Excellent.”
This time, after strong performances in the preliminary round, at least in the last group match there was luck with the record winner in the premier class. Due to the draw of the group opponents in Milan, Gladbach remained second behind Real (10) after six games with eight points, despite the defeats in the previous week against Inter (2: 3) and now in Madrid. French star striker Karim Benzema’s goals (9th minute / 32nd) ended up being just as painful as unusual attacking weaknesses. After 14 league games in a row with at least one goal, the eleven from the Lower Rhine were left empty-handed this time.
Nevertheless, Borussia will be in the round of 16 pots on Monday and can look forward to further income of 9.5 million euros in addition to the approximately 32 million euros earned so far. Rose and his players would have liked to have earned this with a brave performance by the 13-time “Henkelpott” winner. But the Gladbach people were too nervous for that.
Before kick-off, Rose wanted to set an example with his setup. In Stindl, Champions League top scorer Alassane Plea, Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo summoned his concentrated attack power and thus determined the direction. In addition, he promised stability for the final defensive defense of starting XI returnees Nico Elvedi. After a ten-day injury break, the Swiss central defender was back in the starting eleven in the preliminary round, but didn’t seem really fit and allowed Rodrygo to cross Rodrygo for Benzema’s second goal. In general, the Gladbachers were too passive and hesitant in crucial situations.
Captain Stindl made a bad pass after less than ten minutes with heavy consequences, which led to the far too easy lead for Real from striker Benzema. “We need top performance. We need to keep Real busy and capture tasks,” said Rose. This didn’t work. Instead, the nerves often failed, for example when Plea, who was so accurate in the end, launched a detached counterattack next to the target (25th).
However, with the returned captain Sergio Ramos, Real could not be compared to the team that recently received so much criticism and had put itself under pressure in the Champions League. This time, the premier class record winner performed exactly as the 34-time Spanish champion had previously announced. “For us, only victory counts,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane, who should have feared for his job if Real missed the Champions League round of 16 for the first time.
However, the weakened Gladbach defense came to him and Real. After half an hour Benzema was too free to go. The striker did not miss this.
After the change, Rose made another tactical change, bringing in Valentino Lazaro and Denis Zakaria for Oscar Wendt and the disappointing Embolo. Gladbach got stronger, but was unhappy in the attack. That did not matter after the frightening last minutes and the view of Milan at the end. The win also spared Real a historic shame. Coach Zinedine Zidane’s team threatened to end the preliminary round for the first time in their 25th Champions League participation.