By Enis Koylu
It started as a dream. After their disastrous Champions League campaign last season, nobody - perhaps even the most the most optimistic fans - would have hoped that Borussia Dortmund would reach the final of Europe's top competition, not least after a brutal group stage draw with Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.
And yet, after a dramatic night at the Santiago Bernabeu and the closest of shaves, Dortmund can look forward to a date at Wembley on May 25.
And, in truth, they have arguably been the best team in the competition. After delivering some gutsy and surprising performances in the first phase, they have made remarkable progress, seeing off the challenge of Shakhtar Donetsk, a plucky Malaga team and los Blancos once more.
|THE ROAD TO THE FINAL
|Man City (A)||Oct 3||1-1|
|Real Madrid (H)||Oct 24||2-1|
|Real Madrid (A)||Nov 6||2-2|
|Ajax (A)||Nov 21||4-1|
|Man City (H)||Dec 4||1-0|
|Shakhtar (A)||Feb 13||2-2|
|Shakhtar (H)||Mar 5||3-0|
|Malaga (A)||Apr 3||0-0|
|Malaga (H)||Apr 9||3-2|
|Real Madrid (H)||Apr 24||4-1|
|Real Madrid (A)||Apr 30||0-2|
But their crowning achievement was the semi-final performances where a fantastic 4-1 win over Madrid at the Westfalenstadion, which saw them limit the Spanish champions to just a handful of chances, was followed by a spirited showing against rampant opponents in the return leg.
Madrid went out hoping for a miraculous comeback, buoyed by Cristiano Ronaldo's breakaway strike in Germany, and subjected their opponents to a veritable barrage. Roman Weidenfeller stood firm between the sticks, though, with Mats Hummels atoning for his first-leg error with a fine performance.
As time wore on, BVB grew into the game and looked more than at home in the big surroundings, carving out chances which were ultimately squandered, but it was to matter little. Despite the hosts' late heroics securing a 2-0 win on the night, Jurgen Klopp's side did enough on home soil.
And there will be few who can truly say that they don't deserve their place in the final. They've really been a breath of fresh air, boasting a charismatic coach whose passion has taken the continent by storm and a young team intent on playing exciting football.
The two teams in the other semi-final, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, have ridden their luck at times, with the Bavarians slumping to embarrassing defeats to Arsenal and (more shockingly) BATE Borisov, while the Catalans lost to Celtic and Milan in limp fashion and scraped past Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight.
Beyond BVB's performances on the pitch, it's refreshing to see a team outside the game's established aristocracy reach this stage. Their meagre finances stand as proof that anyone can make it at the top, with the €17.1 million they spent on Marco Reus - their most expensive player - not enough to buy a bench-warmer for many of the competition's big guns.
Hummels, one of the key men in the run, could barely consume what happened. "I cannot believe it. It's what everyone dreamed of as a child. Some of us are still children! Now we're looking forward to Wembley."
There are worries on the horizon - their failure to score at the Bernabeu despite a wealth of chances is troubling, but not half as much as the impending exit of star men Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, but for now they can dream on.
All eyes will be on Europe's most romantic club come the end of May and even if they lose, they will have captured the hearts of everyone.
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