Borussia Dortmund are poised for the Champions League’s quarter-finals after Robert Lewandowski scored twice in Tuesday’s 4-2 win at Zenit St Petersburg in their last 16, first-leg clash.
Dortmund raced to a 2-0 lead after only five minutes at Zenit’s Petrovsky Stadium as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and then Marco Reus scored to leave the Russians reeling.
The hosts pulled two goals back after the break as midfielder Oleg Shatov scored, then Brazil’s Hulk converted a penalty.
On both occasions, Dortmund gave the perfect response, with Lewandowski scoring just seconds later, as the Germans take a commanding lead home for the second leg scheduled for March 19.
“We steered the game in the right direction with the early goals,” Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl said. “We dominated well after that. It was clear Zenit would come back at us.”
Zenit got off to a nightmare start as Reus’ first two touches led to goals.
With barely four minutes gone, the Germany winger muscled through the Zenit defense and on to a Lewandowski pass.
When he went to ground, central midfielder Mkhitaryan fired home to put last season’s Champions League finalists ahead.
Just 70 seconds later, Mkhitaryan crossed from the right for left winger Kevin Grosskreutz to lay off to Reus, who fired a right-footed shot past Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin.
Zenit leaked nine goals in the group stages and their back four were woeful for the first two goals in the Dortmund match.
The hosts’ coach, Luciano Spalletti, responded by replacing former Russia captain Andrei Arshavin, who looked to have injured a hamstring, with former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Dortmund struggled to maintain the lightning tempo after the initial goals, while Zenit were left subdued.
The score was 2-0 at the break, but the hosts pulled one back on 57 minutes after a goalmouth scramble.
New signing Jose Rondon’s shot was cleared by Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer, the Venezuelan hit the post with the rebound before Shatov rifled his shot home.
The goal sparked Dortmund’s attack as Lewandowski scored twice to maintain their two-goal advantage.
Lewandowski exchanged passes with Poland teammate Lukasz Piszczek then slotted the ball past Lodygin on 61 minutes.
Piszczek then conceded a penalty when he blocked Viktor Fayzulin’s run into the area and Brazilian right winger Hulk stepped up and smashed home the 69th-minute penalty.
It took Dortmund just 90 seconds to reply when Lewandowski snapped up Reus’ pass and fired his 71st-minute shot past Lodygin for his second of the game.
Spalletti’s Zenit looked rusty, having played their last competitive game in December, and face an uphill task in Germany in three weeks.
In contrast, Dortmund can start planning for the last eight in Europe having given the perfect response to Saturday’s shock 3-0 loss at relegation-threatened Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga.
“It was clear to me that my team would produce a reaction,” Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp said.
“My team can never be accused of going about their business without showing some character, but we still have work to do in the second leg,” he said.
“That was close to an optimal performance,” Klopp said.
“In terms of pressing and counter pressing, that was a copybook performance from us against a dangerous team,” he said.
“We didn’t give 100 percent against Hamburg and played too little football,” he said of Saturday’s game. “We conceded goals at the wrong moments and didn’t get a result.”