Record-breaking Ronaldo, unsung hero Vazquez lift Real past Dortmund
A late goal from Lucas Vazquez secured victory for Real Madrid in a frenetic clash with Borussia Dortmund. Borja Mayoral clipped the ball over Roman Burki to open the scoring from close range after eight minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo doubled the lead four minutes later with a whipped shot from the edge of the box. Yet the home side unravelled, and two smartly-taken goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang either side of half-time drew Peter Bosz' Bundesliga free-fallers level. With nine minutes remaining, Lucas Vazquez scuffed the ball in to the corner of the net to decide the match.
The result does not change the complexion of Champions League Group H. Real Madrid progress to the knockout stages in second place behind Tottenham. A full 11 points behind Los Blancos, Dortmund take third place and entry to the Europa League.
Cristiano Ronaldo broke a Champions League record with his emphatic strike into the corner, becoming the first player to score in all six matches in a single group stage. The Portugal international is also the leading scorer in the competition with nine goals.
Real Madrid were extremely quick out of the traps. Zinedine Zidane's team harried a Dortmund side woefully low on confidence after a run of seven Bundesliga matches without a win. Although it is difficult to isolate the start of a match from what comes later, a strong start was important.
Following on from the previous positive point, Madrid applied the brakes after 25 minutes and unravelled, granting the visitors the opportunity to gain a foothold in the match. Madrid are an experienced team, to whom the "they scored too early" cliche does not apply. They should have had the nous to chaperone Dortmund out of the match and claim a more comfortable victory.
Raphael Varane limped off in the first half and appears highly unlikely to return in time for Saturday's La Liga clash with Sevilla. With Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, and Casemiro suspended, and Jesus Vallejo injured, Zinedine Zidane is left with a scarcity of defenders. Nacho is the only fit centre-half and Marcos Llorente is the only candidate to partner him.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Zidane is fixed in his Laissez-faire commitment to allowing talented players to express themselves with freedom, despite the increasing perception that they need more direction and tactical clarity.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 6 -- The Costa Rica international had a relatively quiet night despite the scoreline. Apart from the two goals -- neither of which he could realistically have saved -- he had one other shot-on-target to deal with. An assured performance as he continues to return to full sharpness after a lengthy absence.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Guilty of tucking in too close to the centre-halves, which is not surprising for a central player deputising in a wide position. He appeared more comfortable when Varane's injury necessitated a shift inside, and showed an impressive rate of knots to chase down Aubameyang and halt the striker with a last-gasp block.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- A characteristically assured performance until he fell to the floor, with nobody around him, and left the pitch after 37 minutes. His role was approaching that of a "rush goalkeeper" as he blocked two balls inside the six-yard box before the clock had ticked past 30 minutes.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 -- Unmasked, in more ways than one. He was without the carbon fibre face protection, and was outmanoeuvred by the nippy Christian Pulisic on a few occasions. With a pass completion rate of 97.6 percent, it is fair to say that the captain was good with the ball, and shaky without it.
DF Theo Hernandez, 7 -- At times he had Marc Bartra cowering behind a cushion, hiding from flashbacks of his steamrolling by Gareth Bale in the 2014 Copa del Rey final. Theo oscillates between destructive directness and wastefulness, which is natural for a player of his age. But the Bernabeu saw more of the former this evening. Had 120 touches of the ball -- more than everyone apart from Sergio Ramos -- and it should not be forgotten that he has had to adapt to a style of play in which he is expected to be in possession a great deal.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 -- Switched seamlessly between Spanish and German in the pre-match news conference, and slotted in to the team in a similarly nonchalant fashion. Occupied Kroos' position, dictating play from the left of the midfield three. As the minutes passed it became clear that Kovacic is short of match fitness, and Dani Ceballos took his place just before the hour mark.
MF Casemiro, 6 -- As Real Madrid unravelled, he was unable to apply an adhesive touch to the midfield. Slotted into the centre of a back three in the closing stages, as Zidane tested out different formations with a view to the visit of Sevilla.
MF Isco, 6 -- If he meant the mid-pirouette assist for Mayoral's goal, it is conclusive proof that Isco's feet are lined with caramel. Yet he faded from the match quickly, and a momentary lapse of concentration allowed Marcel Schmelzer to nab the ball and cross for Dortmund's opening goal.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 7 -- His late goal was a just reward for a malleable performance in which he occupied positions at right-forward, right-back, and wing-back.
FW Borja Mayoral, 6 -- He displayed fox-in-the-box instincts to score the first goal. But outside of his natural habitat in the penalty area, he must begin to contribute more. He had 22 touches of the ball, less than any of his teammates, including the 'keeper Navas (26).
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 8 -- Roman Burki was rooted to the spot as the No. 7's record-breaking shot curled into the top corner. Five of his eight shots were on target, which is indicative that his profligacy in the earlier stages of the season could be melting away. He must now replicate this form in La Liga.
MF Marco Asensio, 7 -- Energetic display sprinkled with neat touches and flicks.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- Came on for the rapidly fading Kovacic and provided an injection of impetus.
MF Marcos Llorente, 7 -- Did not misplace a single pass in just over 20 minutes after replacing Isco. He may be forced to play at centre-half against Sevilla.
Matt McGinn is ESPN FC's Real Madrid blogger. Twitter: @McGinn93