Robert Lewandowski’s late goal gave Borussia Dortmund a crucial 1-0 victory at home over Ajax in their Champions League Group D opener.
After Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer had stopped Mats Hummels’ spot-kick in the 58th minute, Lewandowsi provided the German champions with the winner in the 87th minute.
“It was a strong game. It was the game we wanted to play. They didn’t give us much space in the first half, but we improved in the second half, and we defended well and didn’t give them many chances,” Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp said.
Hummels was very happy about Lewandowski picking up the team after he had failed to get the job done.
“It was a really weak penalty. I wanted to shoot up in the middle, but decided to go into the lower left. I guess you shouldn’t change your mind in the last second,” Hummels said.
Lewandowski added: “It doesn’t matter how it worked. The main thing is that it worked. A goal is a goal.”
It was the fifth time that 1997 Champions League winners Dortmund were facing Dutch opposition at home and the Germans finally won. Among their losses were Ajax winning both legs in the 1995-1996 quarter-finals — a team that included Ajax coach Frank de Boer.
Knowing he needed a victory at home against Ajax, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp started both offensive midfielders Mario Gotze and Marco Reus in a 4-2-3-1 lineup and De Boer placed new acquisition Ryan Babel automatically in his 4-3-3 system.
Dortmund controlled the ball in the early going, but nearly paid for a mistake as Dutch striker Babel snatched the ball from Ilay Gundogan and fed Christian Erikson, whose shot was parried away in the 12th minute.
The Germans struggled to find a way through the Ajax defense, but had a chance in the 31st minute when Champions League debutant Reus fed Marcel Schmelzer, who forced Vermeer into a fine save.
Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was forced to come well outside his box to block a through ball to Derk Boerrigter in the 35th minute and Weidenfeller again saved his team three minutes after the restart, stopping a blast from Siem de Jong.
Dortmund’s top chance came just a minute later, but Lewandowski shot well over the bar after turning and gaining space for an attempt.
Vermeer did a good job saving Reus’ counterattack shot in the 52nd minute and Gundogan’s blast in the 56th.
The Germans had a golden chance to take the lead in the 58th minute, but Dortmund defender Hummels watched Vermeer dive to his left to collect the poorly-taken penalty after Gotze was felled by Ricardo van Rhijn in the box.
Dortmund remained the more offensive team and finally broke through with three minutes left.
Gundogan played a high ball to Lukasz Piszczek for a header to his fellow Polish international Lewandowski, who chested the ball down and then finally beat Vermeer.