Two injury time goals took the home side through to the semis in the most dramatic of circumstances. In what will go down as a classic, neither team deserved to go out
The ending could not have been more dramatic, and cruel. Two late goals put paid to Malaga’s magic as the Andalusians bowed out in the most bitter of circumstances. Over the course of the two legs, Dortmund deserve their progress, yet Malaga made this competition magical. They may have lost tonight, but Manuel Pellegrini’s men have won many friends along the way.
Pellegrini had taken Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Champions League as a debutant and the Chilean coach was within seconds of sealing an identical feat for Malaga. On a night of heroes on both sides, the 59-year-old stands above all others. On Saturday afternoon, he received the saddest news imaginable: his father had passed away. But instead of telling his club and asking for immediate leave, El Ingeniero sat on the bench for his team’s 4-2 defeat at Real Sociedad, before flying home to grieve with his family and returning rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, via Santiago, Madrid and Dusseldorf, to lead out Malaga in Dortmund.
Malaga thanked their coach with a moving message on their website on Tuesday. And Pellegrini, instead of appearing tired or distracted, came within a whisker of steering his side to the semi-finals. His tactics were spot on as Dortmund lacked ideas in the first half. Indeed, when Joaquin’s lovely goal gave the Spanish side the lead, the Germans needed to score twice. The miracle was on.
And the miracle was on – but for Dortmund. BVB levelled with a well-worked goal when Marco Reus’ outrageous flick set up Robert Lewandowski for 1-1, but the home side looked like losers as Eliseu made it 2-1 late in the game, albeit from an offside position when the ball may have been going in anyway. Again, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed two. But they got them, right at the end, to seal a semi-final spot in the most dramatic of circumstances.
First, Reus made it 2-2 in stoppage time. Still, Malaga just needed to hold on, but they couldn’t as Felipe Santana bundled home two minutes later in another offside effort. One for each side had evened it out, but there have been too many offside goals in these knockout games, with PSG also scoring one against Barcelona and Bayern Munich benefiting versus Juventus. Officiating should be superior at this level, as ties are decided by the slightest of margins.
And so it was that Malaga were eliminated – by the skin of their teeth. Pellegrini had been the one grieving at the weekend; tonight, everyone associated with this special club will be feeling the pain.
Malaga are currently appealing against a European ban imposed for financial irregularities in the summer, when player bonuses were not paid and the club was in disarray economically, being forced to sell their finest footballer (Santi Cazorla) and operate on much more of a tight budget. Currently sixth in La Liga and possibly without European football next season, the Andalusians may not live nights like these again any time soon. Just like in the summer, their future is now uncertain once more.
Dormund, meanwhile, march on. BVB remain the only side who have yet to taste defeat in this competition and a loss would have been harsh on the German side, too. Chances came and went at La Rosaleda, with Mario Gotze uncharacteristically wasteful, and Tuesday’s performance lacked all their usual high tempo and intensity. This was a subdued showing salvaged by necessity as the home side pressed and pushed late on for their reward. They had probably deserved to win, but Malaga had not merited losing – not like that. Klopp and co. continue as the team en vogue this term, while Pellegrini and his men can hold their heads high in Malaga and all around Europe. There can be no losers on a night like this.
Today: Borussia Dortmud vs. FC Malaga
These two sides played out a 0-0 draw when they met a week ago in Spain meaning there is everything to play for at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night.
Borussia Dortmund are set to receive a fitness boost in the form of Mats Hummels, who failed a fitness test to face Augsburg on Saturday but is likely to have recovered for the Malaga game to replace Felipe Santana in defence.
Sven Bender may get the nod ahead of Sebastian Kehl alongside Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, while Jakub Blaszczykowski is in a race to recover in time to replace Kevin Grosskreutz.
Malaga, meanwhile, will be without Weligton and Manuel Iturra, who both picked up costly yellow cards in the first leg of their meeting with Dortmund.