The task at hand wasn’t easy but Germany got all of its teams through to the knockout stage of the Champions League. After Bayern München’s and Bayer Leverkusen found their way to the last 16 yesterday (Tuesday), Borussia Dortmund and Schalke managed to also book their places in the next round after wins against Olympique de Marseille and FC Basel respectively.
Olympique Marseille 1 Borussia Dortmund 2
Jürgen Klopp included 18-year-old central defender Marian Sarr in the starting XI in what was undoubtedly the most important match of the season so far, deputising for Manuel Friedrich who was not registered for the Champions League, and Nuri Şahin passed a late fitness test and slotted into central midfield. The game got off to an excellent start after Robert Lewandowski put the visitors ahead after just four minutes, beating Lucas Mendes for position and calmly chipping Steve Mandanda in the French goal. However, it didn’t take long for Marseille to get back on level terms. Ten minutes later, Roman Weidenfeller made a mess of coming out for a free-kick inside the area and Saber Khelifa flicked the ball onto the bar, only for Souleymane Diawara to follow it up and nod it into the goal, despite being in a clear offside position.
With Napoli dominating against Arsenal, qualifying seemed hard for Dortmund at this point but they were given a boost when Dimitri Payet received two yellow cards in as many minutes and left his side with ten men just after the half-hour mark. After the break, clear chances came to Reus, Lewandowski and Błaszczykowski but the post, side netting and a defender off the line respectively denied Dortmund the goal that would put them ahead. News came from Naples that Higuaín had put the locals ahead and the result left Dortmund out. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man. With a handful of minutes left and Klopp’s men staring elimination in the face, Julian Schieber laid the ball off for Kevin Großkreutz inside the area and Mr. Dortmund hit a clumsy-looking shot falling over that managed to find its way past Mandanda’s near post and into the back of the net. Ecstasy on the sidelines and on the pitch as Dortmund not only qualified but did so topping the group, as they won their head-to-head against second-placed Arsenal, with Napoli also finishing with 12 points but third in the triple tie.
FC Schalke 04 2 FC Basel 0
Needing a victory coming into the game, Schalke’s form didn’t suggest many causes for optimism. Schalke took hold of the match straight away but chances were not as clear as to warrant serious danger to Yann Sommer’s goal despite chances by Max Meyer and Jefferson Farfán in the first quarter of an hour. The first big moment of the game came just before the half-hour mark, when Benedikt Höwedes’ foul on Marco Streller as the last man was only adjudged to warrant a yellow card, when it seemed like it deserved a clear red. Höwedes came off injured minutes later and the game took another turn when Basel’s Bulgarian defender Ivan Ivanov brought down Ádám Szalai (who had come on for Höwedes) and was given a straight red.
This turned the game on its head for Basel, who were comfortable up to this point. Schalke stepped up a level and two more chances for Farfán and one for Sead Kolašinac before the break made the visitors nervous, who welcomed the half-time whistle. It didn’t take long in the second half for Schalke to take the lead and it was man-of-the-match Julian Draxler who received a cross from the right from Farfán and hit it first time into the far corner of the net. The coup de grâce for Basel came just five minutes later in a a comical display by the linesman; as the Swiss defence moved out to draw the offside, the Italian linesman failed to see five Schalke players yards offside and Joël Matip calmly slotted in front of Sommer to put die Königsblauen two up. A terrible decision by the linesman which buried Murat Yakin’s men, as there was no way back for them from here. Schalke won’t care one bit and they will be looking forward to being in the Champions League draw for the next round, offside or no offside.
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