Robert Lewandowski marked his return to Borussia Dortmund action in the best possible fashion, netting twice as he came back from suspension to help BVB breeze past Hannover with a 3-1 victory. The Poland international hit his side's first two goals in the opening 45 minutes, and Julian Schieber made the result safe after the away side's hopes were briefly raised by Mohammed Abdellouae's close-range finish.
With the Bundesliga title already out of reach and Bayern Munich also denying them the chance to retain the DFB Pokal, Dortmund took the field on Saturday knowing that pride and confirming their place in the Champions League for the coming season was all that was left to play for domestically. Jurgen Klopp's charges, however, started the game with their customary intensity and dynamism, quickly setting the tempo against a Hannover side also hopeful of making the European competition.
Marco Reus was one of the first to threaten, breaking through the defence with a wonderful turn before his finish let him down, blazing high over the crossbar. It was a momentary diversion for BVB though. Kevin Grosskreutz did well to reach the byline, and fired a teasing cross low across the face of the goal. Robert Lewandowski was on hand, and the prolific Poland international barely broke stride as he stroked the ball into the net to give his side the advantage.
Hannover were unlucky to see a well-worked goal on the counter ruled out for offside, but in general their attacking play lacked direction, relying too heavily on long passes that were comfortably dealt with by the Dortmund backline. It was the home team who continued to look the most dangerous, and they did not dally in adding another to the scoresheet.
Grosskreutz was again heavily involved, releasing an awkward shot from the edge of the area. Ron-Robert Zieler was able to get a hand to the spinning ball, but the goalkeeper could only parry into the path of Lewandowski who had time to convert the rebound and record his 23rd goal in all competitions. The game threatened to spiral out of Hannover's control, but there was one boost for the visitors. Towards the end of the first half, Felipe Santana clumsily headed Sergio Pinto's free kick against his own crossbar, and with Roman Weidenfeller prostrate Mohammed Abdellouae had the easiest finish to cut the disadvantage back down to one goal and give his side a lifeline for the second 45 minutes.
Despite that boost for the visitors, it was Dortmund who looked most likely to trouble the score-keepers. Ilkay Gundogan provoked a collective gasp from the BVB support with a bullet-volley that went just wide of the post, before some individual class from Lewandowski almost provided his hat-trick. The striker chased down a long pass and breezed past Johann Djourou, but on the volley he also failed to hit the target.
The pressure continued throughout the half, with Mario Gotze also going close with a chipped effort cleared off the line by Djourou. Hannover's attacking forays were evermore sporadic, as the hosts tightened a defence that had looked less than watertight in the first period. The killer blow came just over 15 minutes from the end. Jakub Blaszczykowski did well to control an awkward high ball, and wriggled away from Djourou. The ball was escaping from the Pole, who left it for Julian Schieber to slam into the back of the net and put the game out of Hannover's reach.
There would be no hat-trick for Lewandowski, who went close again, but there were three well-deserved points for the home side as they bounced back from cup disappointment and received the perfect boost ahead of their European showdown. BVB return to action on March 5, when they will host Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of the clubs' Champions League last-16 tie.