In what was expected to be a hard-fought tie between two Champions League caliber teams, Dortmund eased their way to the Europa League round of 16, beating an unimpressive and seemingly unmotivated Porto side by an aggregate score of 3-0. In the first leg, Dortmund were just plain dominant, earning a 2-0 win. In the second leg, Porto rested some important players, and basically threw in the towel, which led Dortmund to an unentertaining 1-0 win.
The Dortmund side that Thomas Tuchel sent out was as strong as possible and was meant to do the business, with all our typical starters in the line-up, except Lukasz Piszczek, who strained a muscle in the final training session. With second place in the league all but wrapped up, it makes sense for Tuchel to go all out for the Europa League trophy. Substitutes were introduced at halftime as our chances of advancing were very strong, giving Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gündoğan a needed rest after both players picked up small knocks towards the end of the first half. Before you worry, both should be available for Sunday.
Dortmund were in a strong position to advance from the start of the game, but an away goal would certainly put the icing on the cake. The tie was basically over once Dortmund scored that away goal, making it 3-0 on aggregate, meaning Porto would have to score four goals to advance. The goal came via an impressive counter-attack once again, with Mkhitaryan crossing to Reus, whose volley was wonderfully saved by Iker Casillas, but Aubameyang was there to hit the rebound off the post and off Casillas, for an own goal. It was an ugly goal, but an important one nonetheless, as Dortmund could afford to not do much for the rest of the match.
Porto now need four and I can't foresee Dortmund crumbling like some team from Gelsenkirchen. #FCPBVB— Pöhlenmeister (@FussballKevin) February 25, 2016
Photo by Octavio Passos/Bongarts/Getty Images
We've managed to keep a clean sheet in this one somehow, despite numerous sloppy passes in our own half that could have, and should have, been punished by the Porto attack. I can remember at least four cheap giveaways near our own penalty box, but an unmotivated Porto side was unable to capitalize on any of our mistakes. Roman Burki made two or three impressive saves that preserved our fifth clean sheet in a row, and our sixth in our last eight matches. Goals have always been easy to come by for us this season, but we're a much more dangerous side when we're not leaking goals out the back, and the five clean sheets in a row make us look like an even stronger side than before.
Sven Bender looked very strong replacing Sokratis in the center back position, and confirming my opinion that Bender should be one of our first choice center backs. He led the way with 120 touches and 10 clearances, earning himself my personal man of the match award. We saw another strong performance from Matthias Ginter in place of Lukasz Piszczek, who was out with a slight injury. While it remains a mystery as to where Ginter's best position is, he's been effective wherever he's been on the pitch this season, a really good sign for his future at the club.
Neven Subotic and Nuri Sahin came on at halftime just for caution purposes, as Hummels and Gündoğan could both have carried on if we weren't already in such a strong position to advance. Hummels had played every minute of every game since the start of the Ruckrunde, so a rest might not be such a bad thing for him. A scary moment occurred in the 59th minute when Nuri Sahin stuck his boot up and clattered into a Porto player, and was lucky to receive only a yellow card. It was unintentional from Nuri, yet reckless, and he'll have to be more careful in the future. Subotic played well once again, showing Tuchel and the rest of the Dortmund staff that he's a very capable defender, which could earn him a lot more playing time in the absence of Sokratis.
In the end, our performance today did exactly what was needed to ensure our advancement to the round of 16. The draw will take place Friday at 7am Eastern time, so when you wake up in the morning and see that we've drawn Spurs, go back to sleep and hope it's just a dream.