A much-changed Tottenham side proved no match for a Borussia Dortmund team in full flow, as the Bundesliga side took a commanding grip on the teams’ Europa League Round-of-16 tie with a 3-0 first-leg victory at the Westfalenstadion.
As they chase their first league title in more than 50 years, Tottenham made seven changes to the lineup that drew 2-2 with Arsenal on Saturday. And they paid the price as a Dortmund team pushing Bayern Munich for the title in Germany all-but sealed their place in the Europa League quarterfinals, even with 90 minutes still to play at White Hart Lane in a week’s time, thanks to a first-half strike from top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a second-half double from Marco Reus.
Such was the intensity and quality with which Dortmund operated it is debatable whether even a full-strength Tottenham side would have been able to live with the hosts. But the absence from the starting XI of the likes of Harry Kane, Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele certainly didn’t help matters.
Tottenham were particularly outclassed in the center of midfield, where Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll proved a long way short of the task going up against Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Julian Weigl and Gonzalo Castro, among others.
In a meeting of two sides that favor a high-pressing style, it was Dortmund that were able to impose their philosophy on their opponents from the off. Erik Durm and Aubameyang both had early chances, while the latter also had an effort chalked off for offside. But the Gabon striker did not have to wait long to get his 33rd goal of the season. After Tottenham failed to clear a corner on the half-hour mark, Marcel Schmelzer put in a fine cross from the left and Aubameyang rose above Ben Davies to direct a perfect header down into the corner of the net past an unmoved Hugo Lloris.
The lead should have been doubled five minutes after halftime. Aubameyang was clean through on goal and dinked over Lloris but his effort was heading wide when Castro arrived to turn it in from the angle yet could only strike the outside of the post.
It was a glaring miss, but it is unlikely to prove costly in this eagerly anticipated tie between the second-placed teams in Germany and England. That’s because Reus scored twice in 10 minutes. Dortmund's crucial second goal arrived on the hour mark and came from another corner, this time with recently arrived substitute Neven Subotic heading on for Reus to smash into the roof of the net at the far post.
And Reus’ finishing was unwavering again minutes later. This time he put the icing on a fine team move involving Aubameyang and Castro when striking a first-time half-volley past Lloris. With manager Mauricio Pochettino already clearly prioritizing the Premier League, he is likely to do so to an even greater extent with his side facing an unenviable task to claw back a three-goal deficit at White Hart Lane next week.