In his pre-match press conference, Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini stressed the importance of achieving a positive result to take with them to Germany next week (via Marca).
Keeping a clean sheet and preventing Borussia Dortmund from getting one of those treasured away goals was No. 1 on his list of priorities.
Reality suggested that this ambition was perhaps unrealistic.
Only two sides had stopped Die Schwarzgelben from registering this season: Stuttgart back in November in the Bundesliga and Bayern Munich in the German Cup in February.
And when faced with stopping Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, it seemed a thankless task for Los Boquerones—although they'll have sought solace in the absence of Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Pellegrini's been around the block though. He took Villarreal to the semi-finals when they were debutantes in the competition, so what was his plan on Wednesday night?
His back four was predictable: Jesus Gamez, Martin Demichelis, Weligton and Vitorino Antunes.
A glance at the average positions reveals (via whoscored.com) it was far from a rigid quartet. While Weligton and Demichelis retained their line fairly deep, the full-backs—Gamez and Antunes—were quite advanced.
In fact, they were so advanced they were even further forward than both of Malaga's two holding midfielders—Manuel Iturra and Jeremy Toulalan.
It proved effective because a look at Dortmund's average player positions reveal they were actually quite narrow at La Rosaleda. Reus, deployed on the right, drifted in, while Kevin Grosskreutz on the left was similarly narrow.
The middle became congested. With Lewandowski playing centrally and Gotze just behind him, coupled up with Malaga's quartet of central defenders and holding midfielders, the last thing Dortmund needed was their wide men restricting their width.
This could have been provided by their full-backs. However, without Blaszczykowski to combine with, Lukasz Piszczek wasn't as effective as he can be and, together with Marcel Schmelzer, was actually pinned farther back than the Malaga fullbacks.
More than just tactics and shapes played a part in Dortmund failing to score, though. Those intricacies can only do so much. You sometimes have to rely on a mix of luck, determination, strength and goalkeeping—Malaga certainly did on Wednesday night.
Demichelis was a rock at the back, but, as on many occasions this season, it was Willy Caballero who kept everything hanging in the balance heading into next week's meeting at the Westfalenstadion.
Gotze twice should have scored in the first half, and twice he was denied by the Malaga stopper—once when he was clean through. Willy made six saves in total and will likely need to replicate that in the return leg (via whoscored.com).
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Malaga (FT): Shots (on target) 10(3) - 13(6), Possession 50% - 50%, MotM Demichellis - 8.9 http://t.co/RBl9KLITlN4/3/2013, 8:42:15 PM
And then there was the luck. Everyone needs a bit of luck in this competition, and Chelsea certainly had plenty last season.
Dortmund's was best summed up by Robert Lewandowski's miss early in the second half. The ball was pulled back to him on the penalty spot, but he slipped, made a dud connection and the ball bobbled comically wide
Logic suggests Dortmund won't be so forgiving next time out, although a Malaga away goal will certainly make things interesting.
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