Borussia Dortmund surrendered a two-goal advantage in the second half of their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Anfield to head back to Germany out of the European competition.
Goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus should’ve been enough to send the black and yellows through on Thursday evening but Thomas Tuchel’s side capitulated and threw away the chance to play in the semi-finals.
Thomas Tuchel couldn’t put Ilkay Gündogan in the starting so lined up with Gonzalo Castro in midfield with Julian Weigl, both playing behind Shinji Kagawa.
Castro justified his selection almost instantly, superbly combining with Henrikh Mkhitaryan to set up Dortmund’s opener. The Armenian spun in his own half and raced away from Philippe Coutinho before Castro received the ball and played a wonderful lobbed pass to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Though the striker could only inspire a great save from Simon Mignolet, Mkhitaryan was on hand to smash home the rebound.
A perfect start was even better when, after just nine minutes, Aubameyang raced away and netted his 37th goal of the season. Marco Reus had done superbly in the build-up but it was to be the last time Dortmund looked so comfortable all evening.
Though their fans were silenced, Liverpool responded well and looked much more like the organised Jürgen Klopp-inspired outfit we faced in the first leg a week ago. Divock Origi and Adam Lallana fluffed chances but the warning signs were there.
As if Dortmund hadn’t been threatened enough, Origi managed to escape the attention of the defence and tuck the ball underneath Roman Weidenfeller just a few minutes after the break. Liverpool still needed two more but the game was back on and BVB, now shaking more than ever at the back between frequent professional fouls, knew it.
When Mats Hummels sent Marco Reus through and the vice-captain made it 3-1 on the night, the tie should have been over. Instead, Dortmund continued to shake.
Philippe Coutinho pulled one back and BVB, who still had a two-goal advantage thanks to the away goals rule, again started playing like a side up against the ropes. Liverpool took advantage of the shaky defending and edged closer to a special result through a Mamadou Sakho header. Not only had BVB been struggling at the back but Thomas Tuchel’s introduction of Matthias Ginter could do nothing to steady nerves.
Anfield was rocking, so were Dortmund.
The introductions of Ilkay Gündogan and Adrian Ramos suggested a change to 5-3-2 but, even with two strikers, Dortmund weren’t capable of stopping attacks from Liverpool’s defence or holding the ball up. Passes were long, rushed and panicked, giving the two strikers next to no chance of taking pressure off their defence. In injury time it proved crucial.
Dejan Lovren rose above Ramos at the back post to win the ball and head home. Liverpool lead 4-3 on the night, 5-4 on aggregate. A stunned Dortmund side tried to fight back in the moments remaining but an Ilkay Gündogan free-kick went wide of Simon Mignolet’s goal and the referee blew the final whistle.
It was, simply, a disastrous evening from the opening 10 minutes onwards. Thomas Tuchel’s first season as head coach has been almost flawless and that should never be forgotten but on Thursday, when it mattered most, the side collapsed.
An unforgettable night for all the wrong reasons; Dortmund still have the DFB Pokal to play for but such a collapse in a competition the team were expected to win will leave a bitter taste no matter how the season ends.