Matchday Five thoughts: Dortmund the star of the Champions League
Six teams confirmed their places in the Round of 16 in an enthralling round of Matchday Five action, but the champions of England, Russia, France and Greece were not among them. This was the night that Manchester City, Zenit St Petersburg, Montpellier and Olympiakos were all eliminated, while Borussia Dortmund confirmed its status as a potential winner of this year's competition. Here are the highlights from Matchday Five's action:
Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp admitted last week that his name last summer was on the wanted-list at Chelsea and Liverpool "me, Jurgen Klopp, the guy from the Black Forest, that's kind of nice," he said, endearingly and has spoken of a dynasty that he wants to build in Germany. Only two of Dortmund's outfield starters in Holland were over 25, and he thinks that the likes of Mats Hummels, 23, Mario Gotze, 20, Marco Reus, 23, can spearhead a period of dominance for the 1997 Champions League winner.
"We have 80,000 spectators for home matches and take 15,000 fans for away games," Klopp told France Football magazine. "Many of our young players grew up together. The team spirit is fantastic. And, frankly, the guys don't get paid so badly. No player dies of hunger here. They could earn more money elsewhere, but they don't seem too bothered by it. It's cool if [most of the squad] can spend the next four years here, and we continue to progress, I can't tell you what we might achieve."
The clash of the former Inter Milan coaches also went against another Italian, Roberto Mancini, whose Manchester City team is still bottom of Group D but not quite out of Europe entirely after a 1-1 draw with ten-man Real Madrid. While an early exit might help City regain its title as English champion, it was not in this season's masterplan: in truth, Madrid could have been out of sight within 20 minutes. After Karim Benzema put the visitors ahead, Cristiano Ronaldo (twice) and Sami Khedira (three times) squandered chances to double the lead.
Mancini made changes that improved City's performance retuning to a back four and, notably, bringing on Javi Garcia and pushing Yaya Toure upfield and his team drew level when Sergio Aguero converted a penalty following a foul for which Alvaro Arbeloa was shown a second yellow card (Aguero could have scored earlier but his point-blank volley was brilliantly stopped by Iker Casillas).
But City rarely threatened after that, and this game failed to ignite in the way its previous group matches had. City is not out with whimper, and though the second-half performance may have restored some pride, the result changes little. Put in the toughest of groups, City failed to win any of its three home matches, and has paid the price.
There was some let-up for two under-pressure Italians, Carlo Ancelotti and Massimiliano Allegri, whose sides both won away from home. Ancelotti admitted that Paris Saint-German was "in crisis" after losing to nine-man Rennes at the weekend, but two goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi secured a 2-0 win at Dynamo Kiev and ensured PSG's path to the next round. It could even top the group if it beats Porto on Matchday Six.
AC Milan, meanwhile, gave Allegri a break after goals from Stephan El-Shaarawy, Philippe Mexes, with an overhead kick from outside the area (not quite out of the Zlatan school, but still pretty impressive) and Alex Pato, earned a 3-1 win at Anderlecht. Milan qualifies from Group C in second place.
Giroud, once again, was one of the stars of Arsenal's 2-0 win over his former side, with two assists: the second, a beautiful chip over three defenders, setting up Lukas Podolski to volley home one of the best goals of the round. After a slow start to his Gunners career, the Frenchman is looking very much at home now. Arsenal has qualified, but Schalke's 1-0 win Olympiakos makes second place more likely.