By Kris Voakes
Jose Mourinho came so close in the end, but he was ultimately so far away. Real Madrid put up a gallant late fight, but their 2-0 victory was not enough to stop Borussia Dortmund reaching their first Champions League final in 16 years.
The fact that it is now 11 straight seasons without a visit to the showpiece occasion for Madrid speaks volumes about how Mourinho’s reign will be viewed when he moves on this summer. He had the luxury of an expensively assembled squad, just not the togetherness of a team unit. Whereas at Porto, Chelsea and Inter he was able to give it his all thanks to a group of players who offered exactly the same, the Blancos didn’t have it in them to give him what he wanted; what he had been brought to the club to do.
He hinted after the game that he won't be in the same job next season. "Maybe not. I like to be where I'm liked," he said when asked if he had another dig at the Champions League with Madrid in him. And it's clear to see that he hasn't forged the relationships in the Spanish capital that he had elsewhere.
When he needed his players to perform for him, they just didn’t have it in them. But for 20 minutes at the start of the game, they rarely looked like threatening until that manic final few moments after Sergio Ramos put them within one goal of a miracle.
Cristiano Ronaldo got in behind the Dortmund defence but could only send his volley straight at Roman Weidenfeller. Mesut Ozil was given acres of space down the right but dragged his shot wide of the near post. Gonzalo Higuain was beaten to a Ronaldo cross by Weidenfeller. Ronaldo blazed a free-kick well over. It initially looked promising, but soon became increasingly ragged and desperate.
|MOURINHO AT MADRID|
By the time the second half kicked off it was Dortmund who were making all the moves goalwards. Madrid looked just as likely to concede three as score three. Robert Lewandowski alone could have bagged another four-goal haul. Last Wednesday was when almost all of the damage was done, but the first 80 minutes on Tuesday were just as damaging. When there needed to be greater heart and cooler heads, there were none. Ronaldo went missing, but so did Madrid’s gameplan after failing to get an early goal.
Karim Benzema side-footed home the first strike of the night to get the crowd on their feet for the last 10 minutes, and Sergio Ramos found the roof of the net two minutes from time to leave BVB on their nerves, but the right team went through in the end. Dortmund were worthy winners, and for the majority of Tuesday night were at least the equal of the Spanish giants. Even a 2-0 scoreline was harsh on them. Elimination would have been a scandal.
Jurgen Klopp had undone Mourinho with his tactics and his team’s pressing game, but the Portuguese nearly got away with it. His ability to throw everything in his might at his opponents almost got him through, and it is an attribute that he will always have in his locker. But there was only one of these two teams that deserved a ticket to Wembley and it was not the one coached by Mourinho.
One Liga title, a Supercopa and one Copa del Rey (potentially two) are a reasonable return, but Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster and others have managed similar domestic successes. Mourinho was meant to be different, he was meant to be the Special One. And it was in the Champions League that he was expected to prove it. But while he’s taken them on from perennial last-16 failures to perennial semi-finalists, this is Real Madrid. Semi-final defeats remain failures all the same.
It is nailed on that he will leave in the summer, and he will do so without a Champions League title with Real Madrid. No longer is he the Special One. He kept us entertained right down to the last, but that is not what he was hired to do. Success in Europe has eluded him, as has a wresting of the supremacy in Spain.
He will leave Madrid with the club playing second fiddle to Barcelona, just as they were three years ago. He also departs with the capital club still searching for that elusive Decima. The long, long wait goes on.