Borussia Dortmund advanced to the UEFA Europa League last 16 thanks to a 1-0 win over FC Porto in the mythical Estadio do Dragao on Thursday.
Once the Black and Yellows went in front, there was little doubt they’d make it to the next round, too comfortable was their position after last week’s brilliant 2-0 win at home.
Sven Bender won the race against Neven Subotic and replaced the injured Sokratis Papastathopoulos at centre-back. Julian Weigl played in Iron Manni‘s spot in defensive midfield. After Lukasz Piszczek picked up a slight muscle injury in the leadup to the game, Matthias Ginter moved to right-back.
Ilkay Gündogan returned to the starting XI after missing two games with an illness, while Roman Weidenfeller, who, Tuchel had confirmed last week, was supposed to start, only made the bench because of his illness from last week.
The Black and Yellows lined up in a pretty straightforward 4-2-3-1 formation with Shinji Kagawa as the No. 10, Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right and Marco Reus on the left wing.
In buildup play, Hummels, Bender and Ginter formed a three-man line, much like BVB had done in the first leg against Porto. Marcel Schmelzer again pushed forward early and often.
In the first 15 minutes or so, Dortmund were incredibly inaccurate inside their own half, which led to a number of dangerous situations Porto could’ve done better from. Gündogan looked especially sloppy, giving the ball away needlessly a number of times in the opening minutes.
Once they settled down a bit, Dortmund didn’t look quite as dominant as they did last week, but still fairly comfortable.
They scored the opener from the proverbial nothing following a great team move on the counter in the 23rd minute. Bender won the ball deep in his own territory, controlling it with his chest before playing the ball to Gündogan with the outside of his boot.
The Germany international drove the ball into Porto’s half before finding Mkhitaryan on the right wing. Dortmund’s No. 10 whipped in a great first-time cross, which Reus tried to fire into the net with a volley.
Iker Casillas miraculously kept his shot out, but looked pretty foolish when Aubameyang’s rebound fired off the crossbar and onto his knee. His initial save merited much better, but it will go down as Casillas’ first ever own goal in professional football.
The goal shouldn’t have stood, by the way, as Aubameyang was clearly offside when Reus took his shot.
With Porto needing to score four after Dortmund’s opener, the tie was basically decided in the visitors’ favour. The Dragons still had a few good chances in the first half, with Evandro coming close and Silvestre Varela forcing Roman Bürki into a brilliant save, an even better one than San Iker had made.
Thomas Tuchel took the opportunity to give Hummels and Gündogan a rest, with Subotic and Nuri Sahin coming on for the second half. Hummels told the media after the game that he had suffered a minor hip injury he “would’ve played through if it was the final.”
With Sahin sitting deeper than Gündogan, the team’s shape changed a bit. Kagawa dropped a bit deeper himself to be available for passes, for example, and Schmelzer didn’t position himself quite as high as before.
Dortmund were in cruise control for the entire second half, which left Porto with the upper hand. The hosts could’ve and should’ve scored at least an equaliser, but Bürki, the crossbar and their own ineptitude in front of goal didn’t allow it.
The Black and Yellows only occasionally appeared with a number of players in Porto’s half, mustering two goals rightly disallowed for offside in the 63rd and 77th minute.
20 minutes from time, Adrian Ramos replaced Reus, but it was Aubameyang who moved to the wing. The Colombian striker tried his best to get something done, but his team-mates were largely only interested in making it out of the game without an injury, it seemed.
After Yacine Brahimi’s thunderous effort clanged off the crossbar in the 87th minutes, Mkhitaryan almost doubled Dortmund’s lead, but he also only hit the woodwork.
The game was more or less over the second Dortmund scored their goal. Porto, who didn’t approach the game full of conviction, judging by their lineup, knew they wouldn’t score four goals against this BVB side.
Dortmund’s second-half performance made good economic sense, but was hardly convincing – it didn’t need to be, of course.
Brilliant performances from both Roman Bürki and Sven Bender had a lot to do with Dortmund keeping a fifth straight clean sheet (now six in eight games in 2016), but, on the balance of this game, they were lucky to emerge victorious.
Not only was their goal clearly scored from an offside position, they also could’ve, perhaps should’ve, been down to 10 men after Sahin lost his bearings a bit and hit Danilo Pereira with his cleats in the stomach.
It wasn’t malicious by any means, rather he just didn’t see his opponent, but it was still an offence that many referees would’ve shown a red card for.
All in all, however, Dortmund’s advancing to the last 16 was never in doubt on the day. The draw will take place on Friday, February 26, at 1 pm CET.
Follow this space for reactions to BVB’s draw on Friday.