Dortmund: name on the cup?
Tommy Docherty, the former Manchester United manager, once said, “If your name is on the cup, you will win it; if not forget it”. I recalled those words when Liverpool won the Uefa Champions League in 2005 and when Chelsea won it in 2012. I wonder if the words apply to Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund scored twice in stoppage time – the second of which was clearly offside – to defeat Malaga of Spain on Tuesday to reach the Champions League semi-finals. Malaga were sailing into the last four, in their debut Champions League season, but they lost their composure right at the end. Goals from Marco Reus and Felipe Santana in the four minutes of added time sent the Germans through in dramatic fashion.
After a goalless first leg in Malaga, the Spaniards were leading 2-1 in Dortmund when the match went into stoppage time. Dortmund needed to score twice to survive. Somehow, against all expectations, they did just that.
Santana's winner was controversial. When the ball entered the penalty area, four players appeared offside. When the Brazil defender turned the ball over the goal line in the dying seconds, he, too, appeared to be offside.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, the Malaga owner, saw his sense of humour evaporate at the end. “Thank you very much for the team you have been champions on the pitch I'm sorry to go out this way injustice and racism," he said on social media. "I hope to open a thorough investigation Uefa regarding the Spanish club out this way . . . Which does not affect the spirit of sport”. Racism? Provide the evidence and let the authorities intervene.
Manuel Pellegrini, the Malaga coach, was more temperate in his language - but only just. "After we went up 2-1, there was no refereeing," Pellegrini said. "They pushed us into our area with shoves and elbows. They had two players who should have been sent off, and two offside violations during the third goal that shouldn't have counted. We are leaving with a very bitter feeling."
Marca, the Spanish daily, led its website edition with, "Off … sides!" in giant lettering, while ABC newspaper wrote about Málaga's "cruel farewell" from the Champions League due to "a clear offside" goal.
Dortmund were fortunate. They did not play well and only poor decisions by the officials enabled them to qualify for the semi-finals. But Champions Leagues are not won by beautiful football alone. You need luck. And even Barcelona had fortunate refereeing decisions in their favour in their triumphant campaign in 2010-11.
"I have never experienced anything like this. We were already dead," the Dortmund chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said. The Dortmund sports director, Michael Zorc, added: "It is difficult to put this into words. We were lucky tonight. The team missed so many chances but kept on believing."
Malaga stunned the 66,000 crowd Dortmund when Joaquín shook off his markers and drilled in a low shot for the lead midway through the first half. Robert Lewandowski, the Poland international striker, equalised just before half-time. Dortmund then proceeded to miss chance after chance.
Eliseu appeared to seal Dortmund's fate when scored for Malaga with eight minutes remaining, although, to be fair, he, too, looked offside. And then came the denouement – those two goals in stoppage time – that put Dortmund into the semi-final.
Can the Germans win it? They will surely be the weakest of the semi-finalists in the tournament – just as Liverpool were in 2005 and Chelsea were in 2012. The truth is, the best team in Europe rarely win the Champions League. The team that win are usually the team that had their name on the cup from the beginning of the season.