A goal from Adrian Ramos was enough to see Borussia Dortmund through to the last 16 of the Champions League despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's strange absence. Bayer Leverkusen picked up an important win at Tottenham.
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Sporting CP
(Adrian Ramos 12')
Borussia Dortmund confirmed their spot in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sporting Lisbon.
Despite being touted as comfortable favorites ahead of the tie, Dortmund could only overcome their Portuguese opponents by a solitary goal.
The main talking point before kickoff was the mysterious absence of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had been given a one-match ban for "internal reasons" according to coach Thomas Tuchel.
Adrian Ramos came in for the absent forward and initially did well to compensate for his attacking comrade, with a looping header just 12 minutes in to the game killing off any early nerves from the Westfalenstadion faithful.
Sporting had a perfect opportunity to equalize 15 minutes later when Gelson Martins was played through on goal but an alert Roman Bürki smothered the ball before the striker could get a comprehensive touch to it.
Just a few minutes later young winger Christian Pulisic cracked the crossbar after a one-two with Mario Götze, before Raphael Guerreiro sent a shot inches wide of the Sporting left post before halftime.
Rather than push for a second, Dortmund generally sat on their lead in the second half.
With 15 minutes remaining it was substitute Andre Schürrle who came closest to doubling Dortmund's advantage with a testing free kick, but from 23 meters out the Sporting keeper had time to at least parry it wide. A header from Sporting's Bryan Ruiz just a few minutes later offered a moment of panic for the home support.
But Dortmund held out and progress to the knockout stages with 10 points in Group F and two games to spare. Securing top spot will now be Tuchel's priority, as well as clarifying the situation with Aubameyang.
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
(Kevin Kampl 65')
At risk of being upstaged by their Bundesliga counterparts, Bayer Leverkusen turned plenty of heads with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at London’s Wembley Stadium to keep their hopes of reaching the next round alive.
Sporting a fully fit squad, coach Roger Schmidt made three changes to the team that beat Wolfsburg 2-1 on Saturday by reintroducing Julian Baumgartlinger, Omer Toprak and Jonathan Tah to the starting lineup.
The German side’s tactics seemed to work almost immediately. Harassing the home team across the entire pitch, Leverkusen did well to pounce on the tardy passing of an unsuspecting Tottenham team that looked anything but comfortable in their makeshift home.
Although it was Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen that got the first significant shot away in the 33rd minute, Leverkusen’s Javier Hernandez would have been the one kicking himself at halftime after missing a glorious chance from close-range just 10 minutes later.
Tottenham did well to momentarily turn the tide in the opening exchanges of the second half with another Eriksen shot from distance just five minutes in to the half, before a dazzling run from Kyle Walker saw him dribble through numerous Leverkusen players before failing to convert his shot.
Then Leverkusen began to squeeze their hosts once again. Just a minute after Walker’s exquisite run, Hernandez once again found himself with the ball at his feet in the middle of the box. Yet the Mexican forward’s signature killer instinct once again deserted him as he fired a shot straight at Hugo Lloris in goal.
Indeed, it was a moment of luck rather than skill or predetermined tactics that gave Leverkusen their crucial goal. Chilean midfielder Charles Aranguiz found himself with time and space on the edge of the opposition box and hit a shot that deflected off a charging Tottenham defender. Unfortunately for the home side the ball landed at the feet of Kevin Kampl, who knocked it in to the back of the net with notable glee.
As shocked as anyone to be ahead, Leverkusen reverted back to a defensive system for the final 20 minutes of the game. Tottenham's Eric Dier cracked a free kick off the corner of the Leverkusen woodwork before Ben Davies fired a shot just wide.
Yet in the end Leverkusen secured an important win in London. They now sit second, two points above third-placed Tottenham with a trip to CSKA Moscow and a final clash at home to Group E leaders Monaco to come. It will be an impressive achievement for Leverkusen to qualify from such a challenging group.
Wednesday's other Champions League results:
Legia Warsaw 3-3 Real Madrid
Monaco 3-0 CSKA Moscow
Copenhagen 0-0 Leicester City
FC Porto 1-0 Club Brugge
Juventus 1-1 Lyon
Sevilla 4-0 Dinamo Zagreb