It would have been excusable for Jurgen Klopp to point out that his first-choice central defenders and first-choice central midfielders were out of action in the event of any adverse result. Nonetheless, his weary troops had enough left in the tank to deal with a woefully inadequate Zenit St. Petersburg and instead of lament the missing, Klopp can laud those who stood up.
|MARCO REUS | Zenit 2-4 Dortmund
After such a poor first half, Zenit was always likely to come out fighting after the break and when it threatened to claw its way back into the game it was Reus who robbed Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in midfield to play in Robert Lewandowski for his brace. Game over. Again.
The Pole, in his own right, has endured a difficult season. The Dortmund fans may have thrown him from their affections but there is no doubting his appetite. Two goals here kept the breathing space between the sides and at crucial times too.
Dortmund's backline is in such disarray that it is more effective for their forwards to score as a means of keeping scorelines in their favor rather than rely on Manuel Friedrich and Co. to hold steady at the back. And so it proved again in Russia. The goals Dortmund conceded will worry Klopp but at the same time he will be grateful for two powerful presences up top in Reus and Lewandowski.
In a supporting role, Kevin Grosskreutz and Nuri Sahin were diligent. Grosskreutz kept Hulk in his sights and doubled up on the Brazilian with Marcel Schmelzer. He even popped up in the opposition penalty area to supply the pass for Reus's goal.
Sahin was efficient in midfield alongside Sebastian Kehl. He snapped into challenges and set Klopp's side on its way time and again.
Those jobs were not the pretty ones but they were integral in giving Dortmund this platform for victory. But the plaudits, rightly, will go to Reus. Dortmund's hometown hero did what Andrei Arshavin couldn't. He dragged the club he loves through a moment of adversity and brought it cleanly to the other side.
If Zenit was a better team there might be a chance it could fight its way back into the tie at the Westfalenstadion given the current trouble in the Dortmund ranks. But the paucity of the Russian side, in almost every position, means that the tough work is done.
Zenit had closed 2013 in ignominy and the club has picked up where it left off. It is hard to see how Luciano Spalletti is going to turn this one around. One competitive win from its last nine games of the year, including a 4-1 thrashing at Austria Vienna in the Champions League, suggested that Spalletti's side was neither technically nor mentally equipped for football at this level.
Ahead of this match, Zenit was without Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Danny and Roman Shirokov - arguably its three most important players. The squad fielded Salomon Rondon from the outset in his first competitive outing for Zenit. Without those key performers, Zenit had even less to its game than usual.
Still, it needed to be vanquished. Dortmund's season has been as much about the players off the field as those on it. This one was all about its supreme playmaking talent.
There is something in Reus's heart that cannot be bought.