By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Spain stands in Germany's significant shadow. Ravaged by a fierce financial crisis, high unemployment and diminishing social conditions, the Iberian nation faces an uncertain future as Deutschland dictates the European economy, with continental control centred in Berlin these days and certainly not in Madrid or Barcelona. Football had always been different. Not now.
When the draw for the Champions League semi-finals was made earlier this month, it was quickly noted how the two Spanish sides could meet in a high-profile Clasico clash at Wembley in May. Few, it seemed, held out much hope for an all-German Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Even less expected what followed on Tuesday and Wednesday as the Bundesliga bullied La Liga and smashed eight goals past the two teams considered to be Europe's finest, with just one in reply: Germany 8-1 Spain.
The combined final score in those two first-leg fixtures tells a tale of German greatness, Spanish stagnation and a significant shift in power among Europe's elite on the football field. The Bundesliga handed a harsh lesson to the Primera Division this week and it is now Bayern and Dortmund who look set to rule on the continent, not Barca or Madrid.
|GERMANS ON TOP: THE STORY SO FAR
|Champions League semi-final first legs
April 23: Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona
(Muller 2, Gomez, Robben)
April 24: Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid
(Lewandowski 4; Ronaldo)
Champions League semi-final second legs
April 30: Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund
May 1: Barcelona vs Bayern Munich
And exactly 24 hours later, Dortmund did precisely the same to Real Madrid with a stunning show of their own. "What Bayern are doing to Barcelona, we will do to Real Madrid," Robert Lewandowski had written on social media during the clash between Bavarians and Catalans on Tuesday. And he was true to his word.
Lewandowski scored all four goals for a devastating Dortmund side as Madrid fell apart alarmingly in tne type of beating suffered so rarely by a Jose Mourinho team. "There is hope for the second leg," the Portuguese claimed afterwards. Not very much, however.
With Angel Di Maria left out after attending the birth of his daughter before rushing back to Germany and having barely slept, Mourinho's men lacked width in midfield and, like Barca the previous night, simply couldn't cope with the Germans' incredible intensity.
Like Bayern, Dortmund pressed powerfully and even though Cristiano Ronaldo's 43rd-minute leveller looked to have given Madrid a psychological edge just before the break, it proved to be anything but the case as Lewandowski added three more in the 50th, 55th and 66th minutes.
There were problems all over the pitch for Madrid. Pepe was at fault for two or even three of the goals, full-backs Fabio Coentrao and Sergio Ramos were unable to push forward and aid the midfield, Xabi Alonso was uncharacteristically poor and conceded a penalty with a clumsy challenge. Luka Modric was overrun in the middle, Mesut Ozil imprecise, Gonzalo Higuain ineffective and Ronaldo unable to exert his influence in dangerous areas apart from the goal and one late effort which was smothered by Roman Weidenfeller.
Before the game, Mourinho had said he hoped "justice would be done" for his players after they were defeated in the 2011 and 2012 semi-finals. But justice was done on Wednesday - and Dortmund deserved their wonderful win, with Jurgen Klopp later claiming the triumph for his €29 million team over €345m Madrid was "like Robin Hood taking from the rich".
Madrid have failed to reach the final of Europe's premier club competition since their last continental crown, in 2002, while Barcelona have not featured in the showpiece since their 2011 success. And barring huge surprises, neither will be in it this time. Last term, Madrid were edged out by Bayern on penalties in the semi-finals, while Barca suffered a freak loss to Chelsea in the last four.
Then, it seemed the best two teams had lost. Not now. This time, Spain's sides were overwhelmingly outclassed by the brilliance of two great German teams. So as Pep Guardiola takes over at the Allianz Arena and seeks to build a dynasty at Bayern, while Klopp stays to continue his wonderful work at Dortmund, it is the Bundesliga and not the Primera Division which now houses Europe's elite. Mourinho, meanwhile, moves a step closer to the exit door at the Bernabeu, under pressure from this latest loss (the club's 10th of the season) amid reports from Bild late last night that he will rejoin Chelsea this summer. Not the happy ending, or La Decima, that anyone at Madrid had been hoping for.
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