Iker Casillas is under no illusions as to how Real Madrid got through. After a 2-0 loss on Tuesday at the Westfalenstadion, the Merengues are into their fourth straight semifinal, but not before being handed some lessons along the way.
“Maybe it’s good for us to receive a wake-up call like that from time to time,” Casillas said after his team advanced with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund. “It’s better that it came tonight and not in the upcoming games we have.”
Given Real Madrid’s mid-March slip, it may be hard to convince Madridistas today was an isolated circumstance. Though the team wasn’t blown out in recent losses to Barcelona and Sevilla, it still displayed the same shortcomings that were on display in Westfalia.
With mistakes from Pepe and Aiser Irrallemendi, Real Madrid proved as mistake-prone as ever, while the same mental frailty wasted the momentum the team carried into the last Clasico was on evident again in Dortmund.
“The first goal we conceded was from our mistake and the second came from another error in midfield,” Casillas conceded. “We also missed a penalty. The good thing was that we then knew how to deal with being under pressure.”
It’s a generous assessment, and had Real Madrid stopped conceding chances after Marco Reus’s second goal, it would have been an accurate one. Yet second half opportunities for Hanrikh Mkhitarayan and Kevin Großkreutz exposed a Real Madrid that did little to stop its hosts.
While the match’s final 15 minutes saw a more stable team see out its quarterfinal victory, the game could have easily gone the other way. Real Madrid did not deal with the pressure very well.
The only player that seemed to raise his game was Casillas. In the second half, particularly with his late stop on Grosskreutz, the Real Madrid veteran responded to the stakes, with his intensity standing in stark contrast to the performance he got from his defense. Whatever weak links los Blancos carried to Dortmund, Casillas was not among them.
Against a injury-riddled side, it was a surprisingly poor performance, yet the team still lives to play another day. The dream of a decima is still alive.
But having reached the point where the club has been eliminated in each of the last three years, Real Madrid will have to improve. If Tuesday doesn’t prove to be a wakeup call, the Merengues will miss out on another final.