By Enis Koylu
They were awful. Fresh from their sensational Bundesliga title win in 2011, Dortmund made their way into Europe and looked thoroughly out of their depth. They failed to put away an Arsenal team that had shipped four goals against Blackburn just four days earlier, they were humbled by Marseille at the Velodrome and torn apart by Olympiakos.
Matters were compounded in December when BVB hosted the French side at Signal Iduna Park, still hoping to secure a place in the Europa League. They cruised into a 2-0 lead, but in a calamitous final few minutes, went on to lose 3-2. For the German champions to finish fourth in a modest group was simply unthinkable. There was no way that Jurgen Klopp's young charges were ready for the rigours of the continental game.
An uninspiring performance against Ajax, which featured a missed penalty from Mats Hummels at home a fortnight ago did little to allay concerns about the Schwarzgelben's suitability for Champions League football, despite Robert Lewandowski's late winner.
But, on Wednesday night, they looked to be an entirely different beast. The Etihad Stadium is a fearsome venue for anyone to visit - despite Manchester City's poor European campaign last season, they were unbeaten at home, and Arsenal, Manchester United and even Bayern have all lost on their trips there. Yet Dortmund looked entirely at home.
Marcel Schmelzer, so often a liability at international level for Germany, tore up and down the left wing, Sven Bender, despite not starting a game this season, was tireless in midfield, Ilkay Gundogan sprayed balls about from his station in midfield, while Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels marshalled their opponents' start-studded attack impressively.
|MATCH FACTS | City 1-1 Dortmund
Marco Reus and Gotze were at their brilliant best and Roman Weidenfeller, wearing the captain's armband in Sebastian Kehl's absence, pulled of some fine saves.
But there was a fatal flaw. Dortmund crafted enough chances to beat the Citizens four or five times over. Joe Hart made a string of stunning stops in the first period to deny the likes of Gotze and Gundogan, and the Germans can blame their own bad fortune for the numerous shots that hit the woodwork. But, the bottom line is that Dortmund's finishing was simply not good enough.
Reus, who grabbed his side's goal, could have killed off the game minutes later with a one-on-one, but shot straight at the England keeper, while Lewandowski's most notable contribution was an inexplicable miss 15 minutes from time.
Real Madrid are up next for the German champions in Europe, and while there are enough gaps in Jose Mourinho's side's defence to suggest that BVB can trouble them at Signal Iduna Park in three weeks' time, they simply cannot afford to be so wasteful again.
One thing is for certain, though. Klopp & Co. are more than worthy of their place among Europe's elite, and, should they get out of the group, who knows how far they could go.
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