Borussia Dortmund Make the Big Leap Forward
Borussia Dortmund have reached the quarterfinal round of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 1997/1998 season following an emphatic 3-0 win Tuesday night over Shakhtar Donetsk at Signal Iduna Park. Despite their recent domestic success, Dortmund made a big leap forward in advancing to the quarterfinals following two previous seasons of not advancing from European group stages.
While the Ukrainian side held off Dortmund for the first 30 minutes of the match, the uneasy feeling for Dortmund supporters of a result going awry was dispensed with Felipe Santana’s powerful header in the 31st minute, as the Germans went on to create what Coach Jurgen Klopp deemed “an extraordinary moment.”
Certainly there was nothing to take for granted for Dortmund Coach Jurgen Klopp going into the second fixture against Shakhtar Donetsk. Dortmund had to come back twice in the Ukraine first leg to salvage a 2-2 tie on February 13, while in the weeks following Dortmund had been held to another draw, in league play against Borussia Mönchengladbach while six days ago suffering elimination in the DFB Pokal by Bayern München. Coach Mircea Lucescu’s Shakhtar side had beaten Chelsea and drawn Juventus during the fall in Champions League Group Stage action, while re-starting their domestic league schedule in style over the weekend, downing Volyn Lutsk 4-1.
Dortmund started off well in front of a sea of yellow and black at their home stadium. Earning two corner kicks in the first five minutes of play, Dortmund looked to be off to the races. But despite their good play, no reward came, as crosses from the right sailed two far, tight-knit passing attempts were broken up and passing lanes closed by alert Shakhtar players. Dortmund began running more of its attack down the left flank, and found openings, but were unable to cash in. Robert Lewandowski had a fine opportunity in the 12th minute nullified by Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, while Sven Bender took a shot from distance five minutes later that sailed over goal. Klopp’s men continued to search and probe, keeping most of possession, but a feeling of uneasiness began to settle in. Not only were BvB unable to find that breakthrough goal, but the visitor’s pacy counters, while not directly dangerous yet, showed the danger they could eventually create.
But it was up to one of the most unlikely Dortmund players to crack the game open. Defender Felipe Santana, deputizing for the sidelined Mats Hummels, thundered in a header from a Mario Götze corner kick, not only marking his first-ever Champions League goal but giving Klopp’s men the boost they needed Santana was marked, but still got up and hit the shot with such force that the defender guarding the post could do nothing.
The Westfalenstadion crowd had even more to celebrate six minutes later. This time Robert Lewandowski played provider, as he chested down a ball, run down the right and sent a low cross that bounced to an oncoming Götze. The 20 year-old attacker managed a bunnyhop to catch Lewa’s cross on the bounce and netted from close range to give Dortmund a 2-0 lead. Although Shakhtar had a late chance on a rifled shot from Fernandinho, the previously unbothered Roman Weidenfeller took good care of the shot and Dortmund headed to intermission with a 2-0 lead.
Although few probably thought that Shakhtar had a chance to come back after surrendering two goals, Borussia nailed the door shut near the hour mark. Their continued determination to attack led to an on-target İlkay Gündoğan shot, which was spilled by Pyatov. Unfortunately for Shakhtar supporters, Jakub Błaszczykowski (Kuba) was right there to punish the goalkeeper’s fluff, handing Dortmund an insurmountable 3-0 lead. Weidenfeller was called on to make another good save on a 77th minute chance from close-range Yaroslav Rakitskiy shot as Dortmund’s opponents tried valiantly to come back, but Dortmund’s talent and will were too much for the visitors to match. Statistically, Dortmund led Shakhtar in possession with 54%, while attempting 15 shots to 12 for the Ukrainians. Lewandowski and Götze led Die Schwargelben with three shots apiece, while the Polish international also drew four fouls from Shakhtar.
While Dortmund will be unable to repeat their domestic double glory of last season due to the torrid pace Bayern München has set in league play, along with their ouster in the Cup by the Bavarians, Klopp and company nevertheless further established their European bonafides with their entrance to the Champions League quarterfinals. For a squad that couldn’t make it out of the Europa League group stages two seasons back, Klopp and his now-more Euro-experienced squad have grown considerably, learning how to work their magic in the toughest of tournaments. While Tuesday’s other Champions League match between Manchester United and Real Madrid drew much of the world’s attention, the significance of Dortmund’s entry among the last eight teams to the next stage of the competition also received considerable notice.
Indeed, talk of the Ruhr Valley club making the Champions League finals is trending. Klopp attempted to lower expectations after the match
We don’t have any influence on other people’s perception of whether or not we can reach the final. The other coaches have been quite clever in making us out to be the favourites. There are plenty of teams that have been eliminated despite having performed brilliantly before, and I can’t find any team that would be a dream draw for us. We are simply extremely happy about this victory and I’m very proud of my team.
Despite Klopp’s claims that there are no team remaining in the Champions League tournament that would be a dream draw, there isn’t any that is a nightmarish draw, either. With Dortmund relatively safe for another CL berth in the Bundesliga standings, it can be hoped that Dortmund will seize this rare opportunity and go forward with continued confidence and belief in their abilities. Having already beaten Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax in the Group of Death, it’s certainly not an unjustified extravagance for supporters to dream of a berth in the final for Kloppo and his boys…… perhaps even an all-German one.
Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Subotic, Felipe Santana, Schmelzer – S. Bender (Kehl 46′), Gündogan (Sahin 81′) – Blaszczykowski (Großkreutz 69′), M. Götze, Reus – Lewandowski
Shakhtar: Pyatov – Srna, Kucher, Rakytskyy, Rat – Fernandinho, Hübschman (Stepanenko 82′) – Alex Teixeira, G. Mkhitaryan, Taison (D. Costa 46′) – Luiz Adriano
Header courtesy of Reuters