By Enis Koylu
When Mats Hummels powered home a header in the 87th minute of the Champions League round of 16 tie between Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Donbass Arena, not only had he given his side a second away goal and a 2-2 draw, but handed one of the competition's best games this season a fitting ending.
On the backdrop of a tragic plane crash in the city which is believed to have claimed the lives of a number of football fans, the champions of Ukraine and Germany exemplified what modern football is all about throughout the 90 minutes. They attacked relentlessly, constantly looking for an opening, both using their trademark quick passing game to create a brilliantly entertaining spectacle.
It was only appropriate for two teams whose stories have, in a way, defined the competition thus far. Both played their way out of seemingly impossible groups, with Shakhtar helping to make Chelsea the first team to crash out of the first phase as holders and Dortmund outplaying and outsmarting one of the pre-tournament favourites, Real Madrid.
|MATCH FACTS | Shakhtar 2-2 Dortmund
They conjured up four completely different goals, each of their own quality. Darijo Srna bent in a lovely free kick past Roman Weidenfeller, Robert Lewandowski equalised with a neat finish, a magnificent bit of control from Douglas Costa put the hosts back ahead, and Hummels showcased his leadership qualities with a dramatic equaliser.
When the two teams are set against some of the other sides that will make up the field of the last eight, the difference is plain for all to see.
Paris Saint-Germain and Valencia served up a drab affair on Tuesday, the main talking point of which was not the football either side played, but the red card Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up at the end. Juventus' tie with Celtic was depressingly one-sided, with the Bianconeri coming out 3-0 winners despite never really having to exert themselves; even Real Madrid and Manchester United's tie was blighted by los Blancos' out-of-sorts attackers and Sir Alex Ferguson's side's reticence to leave their own half for much of the contest.
The weakest tie of all comes next week. Schalke have nosedived down the Bundesliga, and are a shadow of the team who overcame Arsenal at the Emirates and Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park back in October, and, without a recognised coach, have been picked apart by teams who could never dream of reaching the Champions League such as Greuther Furth. Their opponents, Galatasaray, have bolstered their squad from a bygone era and only got out of their group by virtue of their head-to-head record with Cluj.
Even the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan, regulars in the Champions League, have fallen behind Dortmund and Shakhtar, who, with their forward-thinking coaches, have embedded themselves among Europe's elite.
And so the Ukrainian champions may well come to regret their home loss to Juventus on matchday 6. Short of Real Madrid, they could have overcome any of the second-placed teams. Dortmund, meanwhile, look likely to progress, and take up a deserved place in the last eight. It's just a shame that their opponents will not be able to join them.
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