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Dortmund beats Zenit, takes control in Champions League

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The Canadian Press
2/25/2014 3:32:42 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Robert Lewandowski scored twice as Borussia Dortmund took a big step toward the Champions League quarterfinals with a 4-2 victory at Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Losing finalists last year, Dortmund made a blistering start with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring in the fourth minute and Marco Reus doubling the visitors' lead a minute later.

Zenit, which hadn't played a competitive game since Dec. 11 due to the Russian winter break, looked rusty, but pulled one back through Oleg Shatov in the 57th.

Lewandowski replied four minutes later, after playing a one-two with Poland teammate Lukasz Piszczek.

Then Piszczek conceded a penalty and Hulk scored emphatically from the spot in the 69th.

Lewandowski responded by scoring his side's fourth away goal two minutes later to leave Dortmund firmly in control before the second-leg of the round-of-16 tie on March 19.

"We were close to optimal this evening," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. "It was a great game, no question."

After more than two months without competitive football, the home side buckled early on under the visitors' pressure and struggled to keep up with their quick passing game.

The tactics quickly paid off for Dortmund when Reus ran at the Zenit defence, staying on his feet when he might have been awarded a penalty, before Mkhitaryan swept the loose ball past Yuri Lodygin.

The visiting fans were still celebrating when Kevin Grosskreutz knocked Mkhitaryan's cross back for Reus to volley inside the right post.

"We stayed compact. We wanted to pressure them to win back the ball. That was very important," Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl said. "We brought the game in the right direction and made Zenit uncertain."

Zenit's attacking midfielder Andrey Arshavin went off with what looked a hamstring injury in the 15th minute, and last-gasp defending from its captain Nicolas Lombaerts prevented Lewandowski from getting Dortmund's third shortly afterward.

Zenit was let down by sloppy play and nervous defending, with Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who came on for the injured Arshavin, giving the ball away cheaply to highlight his side's travails.

Hulk was fired up but his shot failed to trouble Roman Weidenfeller and his only reward for taking on three Dortmund defenders was a corner, which came to nothing.

Lodygin pulled off a good save to deny Lewandowski three minutes after the interval, before Zenit responded with a period of pressure.

It finally paid off when Shatov scored in fortuitous fashion. Marcel Schmelzer cleared Hulk's effort off the line and Jose Rondon struck the post from the rebound, before the loose ball fell kindly for Shatov to blast home.

Dortmund soon replied, with Lewandowski playing a one-two with Poland teammate Lukasz Piszczek and firing beyond Lodygin, who got a touch to the ball.

The home side was given a lifeline when Piszczek was adjudged to have fouled Viktor Fayzulin. Hulk duly obliged with his penalty.

But Lewandowski provided another immediate response after Tymoshchuk lost possession. Reus sent the ball into the Poland striker's path and he fired inside the far corner for his sixth of the campaign.

"I don't have the feeling that it was easy," Klopp said in response to a question from a Russian journalist. "I think we had to work very hard."

The game was played with the section normally occupied by Zenit's ultra fans closed due to racist behaviour, fireworks and crowd disturbances during a group stage loss at Austria Vienna on Dec. 11.

There was also tight security in place around the Petrovsky Stadium to prevent any further trouble.

Zenit's Italian coach Luciano Spalletti said the tie was not yet decided and that his side still has a chance of going through.

"In football there's always a chance of coming back," Spalletti said. "Everything depends on what kind of performance you deliver. It all depends on what you put into it, how much you're prepared to run. It depends on your effort."

Dortmund celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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