Real Madrid still looks vulnerable at the back, and many will argue that the Blancos are yet to face a significant challenge in this season's competition, but they took a giant step toward the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday night and must now be considered serious contenders to finally lift a coveted 10th European crown in May.
A 3-0 win over a threadbare Borussia Dortmund outfit might not look all that on paper, but the way they went about it suggested they know all about peaking at the right time. They picked their moments, rode their luck, and took apart Jurgen Klopp's men at will when necessary.
There was little early pretense of a Dortmund challenge. Instead, Madrid hit the ground running with Gareth Bale poking home in the third minute following poor defending by Erik Durm which had allowed Karim Benzema to turn easily and feed a ball in for Dani Carvajal.
|MATCH FACTS | Madrid 3-0 BVB
Isco doubled the lead after Henrikh Mkhitaryan failed to hold on to possession 30 yards from his own goal and Xabi Alonso fed the young Spaniard, who drilled the ball low past Roman Weidenfeller.
BVB was always going to have half-chances, but it lacked any real composure when they arrived. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang blazed one effort over from the edge of the box late in the first half, then slid an excellent opportunity wide just after the break. Marco Reus was then guilty of over-hitting a pass for the Gabon international when a well-weighted ball would likely have led to a precious away goal.
The tie was over within minutes when Luka Modric teed up Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese used quick feet to make himself space before slotting home. The impact of his record-equaling 14th Champions League goal of the season was consolidated by Pepe's magnificent challenge to prevent Mkhitaryan from putting the Germans back in the contest.
Whenever the Blancos looked to be under threat, they responded. Dortmund may have only been able to field four players from the starting XI in last year's final, but Madrid was not at full pace either. It didn't have to be.
One had the feeling that had the visitors nicked a goal, Carlo Ancelotti's men would have responded with another of their own. They needed to send a statement after last year's semifinal exit to a Robert Lewandowski-inspired BVB, and they did so with plenty to spare.
Madrid won by three goals without looking even 80 percent interested. Even Ronaldo – well known for his reticence for being substituted – walked off without a complaint after being replaced by Casemiro to avoid any unwanted injury. This was a game Madrid had in its pocket from the first minute to the last.
The Blancos will undoubtedly have to play better to win the Decima next month, but they have been the most convincing team on show in this week's quarterfinals and have the firepower to raise their game when needed.
Just as national teams line up friendlies with continental rivals of future opponents in major competitions, Madrid has been handed a decent run-up to the big challenge that may lie ahead in Bayern Munich. And while Pep Guardiola's men are still favorites to back up last season's triumph, Madrid looks better placed than most to stop them from making history.
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