Dortmund in command as Spurs keep eye on title charge
Borussia Dortmund 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Published 11/03/2016 | 02:30
This was the game in which Mauricio Pochettino showed beyond any doubt that he is willing to sacrifice European glory for a shot at the Premier League title.
Against a team as good as Borussia Dortmund, even Tottenham's strongest side would find it tough. When you take out several key men, there really is nowhere to hide.
For his 100th competitive game in charge, Pochettino made seven changes to his starting XI, sending Harry Kane, Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembélé to the bench and leaving Eric Dier in London, while Dele Alli was suspended.
Players like Nacer Chadli, Kieran Trippier and Tom Carroll are simply not in the same class, and were always going to be exposed against blue-chip opposition.
So it was that in front of nearly 66,000 fans, Dortmund did exactly that. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring in the first half and Marco Reus struck twice after the break.
Son Heung-min wasted Spurs' best chances, but the result could have been much worse for the visitors as Dortmund squandered several gilt-edged opportunities.
Tottenham could not cope with the width offered by Dortmund's 3-5-2 formation as Erik Durm and Marcel Schmelzer caused havoc on the flanks.
Just as Tottenham had started to get their shape and composure, Schmelzer again escaped on the left and delivered a precise cross that produced the finish it deserved. Climbing above Ben Davies, Aubameyang guided his header into the bottom left corner of the net.
Though they were more cautious than usual, Spurs simply could not hold back the yellow tide.
Soon, they were 2-0 down. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's corner from the left was flicked on by substitute Neven Subotic for Reus, who volleyed the ball home at the far post.
The understanding between Mkhitaryan, Reus and Aubameyang was a delight to watch - unless you were Pochettino.
With 20 minutes remaining, Aubameyang drifted past challenges and slipped the ball wide to Gonzalo Castro. The midfielder's chipped pass caught the Spurs defence out of position again, with Reus once more supplying the finish.
Kane was brought on for Son after 76 minutes but the game was up. It will take a huge effort to rescue the tie - though if Tottenham do claim their first domestic title since 1961 this season, Pochettino will feel utterly vindicated.