Dortmund took the spoils in the first of their Champions League clashes with Arsenal. But fans of both teams can look forward to an exciting finish in Group F.
It was possibly the most hotly-anticipated match in the Champions League so far this season, but Dortmund's group stage match against Arsenal Tuesday didn't quite live up to expectations. These are two of Europe's best attacking outfits, and neutral fans were hoping for ninety minutes of one-touch football and pacey counter attacks. That the fantasy only materialized for brief spells is something Dortmund won't mind at all: their 2-1 win on the road gives them a great chance of qualifying from Group F.
As the Dortmund fans marched down to Emirates Stadium by the thousands, few seemed to fear the prospect of falling six points behind their opponents. A repeat of the result when the sides met here two years ago would have given Jürgen Klopp's players an uphill battle in the second half of the group stage, but standing in the middle of the crowd as it streamed towards the ground, that never felt like a possibility. You can't avoid being caught up in the atmosphere created by such a loud and passionate group of people, and when they carried that into the stadium it transformed into genuine momentum.
Inside the stadium, the relentless beat of the drum and incessant chanting were a spectacle of their own, and the visiting fans were rewarded for putting on such a great show when Robert Lewandowski scored a late winner. The result, combined with Napoli's victory over Marseille, means Dortmund and Napoli are now level with Arsenal on six points. As Dortmund still have two home games remaining, they're in an excellent position to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
It marks a strong recovery for Dortmund after a poor start to their European campaign. A defeat against Napoli in their opening game also saw Klopp sent to the stands after nearly bursting a blood vessel during a rant at the fourth official. It was a typical example of Klopp going too far, but the same enthusiasm has made him a cult figure among fans at home and abroad.
His post-match interview following the thrilling Champions League quarterfinal against Malaga last season endeared him to audiences around the world. With his foggy glasses and unconcealed sense of joy he embodied a kind of everyman rarely seen in top-level football; the perfect combination of passion and tactical nous.
Klopp's team has also become a favorite among foreign fans. In part that's due to their entertaining style of play, but people are also drawn to them because they have achieved success without spending vast sums of money. In an age when the likes of PSG and Manchester City have won trophies thanks largely to their wealthy owners, Dortmund have claimed two Bundesliga titles and reached the final of the Champions League with mostly modest purchases.
Tough task for Gunners
That's something Arsenal would love to replicate, but this defeat represents more than just three points dropped. They still have to overcome difficult away games if they are to qualify for the last 16, and will probably need to win against the odds in either Germany or Italy. But they can take solace in the way they have played since an opening day defeat in the Premier League.
The Emirates is a much happier place this term, and even after a loss the howls of frustration that filled the North London air just a few months ago were notable by their absence. The feeling that this group of players could break the club's long barren spell is growing, and while the reverse against Dortmund will make life harder for them in Europe, there's a positive atmosphere that even some classic English weather failed to dampen.
One of the main reasons for the feel-good factor at the club is the signing of Mesut Özil, who in spite of his muted performance last night has already justified Arsene Wenger's decision to spend big. The attacking midfielder has settled in seamlessly, adding goals and assists, but also attacking impetus, to a team that was already improving.
In defense, Özil's countryman Per Mertesacker has become a linchpin for the Gunners, missing just one game in all competitions so far this season. After a difficult first year in England, the giant centre-back has shown why he has 94 caps for Germany.
With three sides so evenly matched in this group, it's a shame that one of them will have to drop into the Europa League this winter. But after Tuesdays results brought us no closer to finding out which team that will be, we can at least look forward to an exciting conclusion.