The very definition of a game of two halves. The first forty-five minutes contained enough scares, close shaves and buttock clenchingly near misses to last a life time, the second, thanks mostly to Harry’s clinical finish from Sissoko’s first time and perfect pass, was a far more serene affair.
Dortmund’s attacking line-up and aggressive press meant that we had barely a moment on the ball during the first twenty minutes. Harry, Eriksen, Winks and Son were all crowded out within a second or two of receiving possession, the home side’s progression towards our goal, especially down their left where Reus seemed to find space at will, was as relentless the sodding German drummers. Even through the television it made you want to reach for the paracetemol.
Any thoughts of gaining time and interrupting the flow of traffic coming from Goetze and Witsel by earning free-kicks from the Dutch referee were misplaced as he disdainfully waved play on after any contact no matter how rudely a player was brought to the floor.
So, no possession and no profit from the ‘dark arts’, what to do? Well, rely on your goalkeeper of course. Hugo and Vertonghen were called upon once more to make game-changing saves and tackles and once more, they were up for the challenge. They’d already made several crucial interventions before after half an or so Dortmund spent a five-minute spell camped seemingly in our six-yard box. It seemed inevitable that they would score and the avalanche would begin, but no, we held firm and, though no-one knew it at the time, this was as bad as it was going to get.
Pochettino had seen enough and made a tactical adjustment moving Son back to help out the midfield and Eriksen over to the right to help out Sissoko and Aurier. All of a sudden, the press was not quite so suffocating, the Germans not quite so much in our faces and our possession stats took a steep and much needed upturn.
The half ended as we were enjoying our best spell of the game. The players would’ve entered the changing room with a spring in their step knowing that they were halfway there.
We only created one opportunity in the first half, Son being impeded in the act of shooting when clean through – this ref would’ve only given a pen if a machete was involved – but it didn’t matter, the clean sheet was the goal.
Dortmund, through the excellent Reus, got behind our full-backs twice at the start of the second half and it looked initially like the halftime rest had re-energised the pressing and the pressure but it was a false alarm. We continued the progress made at the end of the first half by gaining and keeping possession and in the 48th minute Eriksen had the chance to free Kane but his pass was intercepted. It fell to the quick thinking Sissoko who put Kane in and thanks very much. Woo-hoo!
The visibly deflated Germans went through the motions for the remainder of the second half but we were now in control and survived with Hugo being forced in to just one more save. We had several opportunities to increase our lead including one superb attempt to chip the keeper from 50 yards but one goal was enough to inflict Dortmund’s first home defeat of the season on them.
The loss of Winks to injury was a blow, it’s hard to imagine him ready for the weekend. He’s got three weeks to get ready for Anfield. Fingers crossed he, Dele and Dier will all be in full working order by the time that comes around.
The draw for the quarter-finals is on Friday 15th March.
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