Group D of the UEFA Champions League clearly deserves the title “Group of Death.” It is compromised of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Ajax, all of whom won their respective leagues in the 2011-12 season. No one could have predicted that the 3rd fixture of Group D would end up as it did on Wednesday. The results were Ajax 3-1 Manchester City, and Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid.
Manchester City, who were crowned champions of the Premier League just a few months back, suffered a terrible loss in Amsterdam Arena at their 3rd game in Group D. Ajax managed to put a stop to their losing streak in the group after beating City 3-1 in a match that was nothing short of a thriller.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, who was clearly frustrated during the game, continually changed his defensive lineup. The squad had absolutely no shape or hope by the end of the match, and they did not present a single plan to top of the Eredivisie champions. On the other hand, Ajax looked organized and focused, doing a good job stopping City in the defensive end and making nice shots in the offensive. Both squads were nothing short of desperate for a victory, hoping to get themselves closer to the top of the group and be able to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage.
City applied lots of pressure on Ajax during the first half hour of the match. Samir Nasri finally awarded City the lead after striking home on the 22nd minute. James Milner knocked the ball toward the midfielder, who scored a powerful shot from about 10 yards away that Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Varmeer could not reach. But unfortunately, the fact that City could not slot in another in their next 15 minutes of dominance had cost them the game. Right before half time, Siem De Jong of Ajax scored the equalizer after firing a beautiful shot past Hart.
When City walked on to the pitch after the break, it was as if a completely new team had entered. They had a few decent shots in the beginning of the second half, but Ajax began pounding the offensive half and testing City’s defenses every chance they had. On the 57th minute, Niklas Moisander made it 2-1 for Ajax after receiving a cross from Erikson, slotting it right past the goalkeeper. But for City, the worst was yet to come. Erikson recovered the ball at half field 11 minutes later and ran toward the opposition’s goal, with virtually no defenders trying to stop him. He made a shot, which was deflected off of Richards and Clichy but eventually made its way into the goal, ending the game at 3-1.
Ajax now has a total of 3 points in Group D, while Manchester City was able to obtain only 1 so far. The Blues’ hopes of reaching the knockout stage are now fairly slim after their 2 losses and 1 draw, and they must win 2 or even all 3 of the next games if they even want to have a chance at doing that.
At the same time, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid were battling it out at Signal Iduna Park in Germany. Dortmund managed to top the Spanish Giants after an unexpected 2-1 win in their first face-off in Group D, which clearly came as a shock to Madrid and Dortmund fans alike.
Madrid has lost 17 of its 24 games in Germany, and won only once against Bayer Leverkusen in 2000. This time, Madrid once again did not break their “curse.” Los Blancos had clearly dominated the first half, in terms of both possession and shots taken. Despite that, Dortmund was the first to score. On the 36th minute, Kehl was able to intercepts Pepe’s inaccurate pass and gave the ball to Robert Lewandowski, who made a powerful shot that just skimmed the inside of the right post. Dortmund wasn’t able to enjoy their lead for long, though, for Ronaldo managed to equalize just before the 40 minute mark. For his 5th goal in Champions League this season, Ronaldo timed Özil’s pass perfectly, which he let bounce once and then chipped right into the net.
There was clearly a change in the game once the second half began. Dortmund staged attack after attack, with some really close calls by Reus and Götze. Iker Casillas, the Madrid goalkeeper, was the one that finally made one of Dortmund’s attacks successful on the 64th minute. He punched Götze’s cross, which landed conveniently at Marcel Schmelzer’s feet, who’s shot flew just by the post and into the goal, making it 2-1. Not much action had taken place from that moment until the end of the game, finishing it off with a deserved win for Borussia Dortmund.
This game awarded 3 points to Die Borussen, who have a total of 7 points and are currently on top of the group. Real Madrid remains with 6 points, but moves down to second place, just 1 point behind the German club. After their first win, Ajax now stands in 3rd with a total of 3 points, while Manchester City drops to last with 1. Only half of the group stage games have been played so far, but it is unlikely for either Ajax or Manchester City to qualify for the knockout round. The only changes in standings will possibly occur between Dortmund and Madrid and/or Ajax and City.