Aaron Ramsey can do no wrong. Everything he touches turns to goals right now and if his 11th of an already stellar season was arguably the scruffiest of the bunch, it positively dripped with prestige value.
Arsenal had set up to contain Borussia Dortmund, the beaten finalists in this Champions League last time out and one of Europe’s most fancied teams. Theirs was a performance characterised by defiance. But when Arsene Wenger’s team ventured forward for the first real time of note, Ramsey threw himself in where it hurts to leave Dortmund gasping.
The goal followed the cheap surrender of possession by the home side but how Arsenal made them pay. Tomas Rosicky switched the play to the right and Mesut Özil's cross invited Olivier Giroud to challenge, which he did. Suddenly, as it broke, there was Ramsey, hurling himself head-long to nod beyond Roman Weidenfeller. Ramsey has now equalled his goals return from his previous five seasons at the club.
There had looked to be only one likely winner, as Dortmund pushed and created the chances that there were. But Arsenal are increasingly suggesting that theirs can be a different story this season and here was the most persuasive evidence yet.
It was clear at the outset that Arsenal had not been cowed by reputations at this imposing arena. They held their shape, tracked their men and got feet in. Per Mertesacker set the tone with a succession of important interventions. He was in no mood to allow anything or anyone to pass, while Laurent Koscielny also made shuddering tackles. When Mertesacker slammed the door shut on Lewandowski in the early running, it earned him an appreciative whack from Wojciech Szczesny.
Neither side gave an inch. It was pretty stifling stuff in the first half and incident was in short supply. Mikel Arteta grabbed Jakub Blaszczykowski's shirt and was booked. Marco Reus tugged back Rosicky and was not booked, which surprised everybody, most of all Arteta.
Reus looked dangerous; his touch in tight areas marks him as a special talent and as the fine rain tumbled down and the chill bit, Dortmund looked the likelier first-half scorers. The big chance was created for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski combined to send him clean through in the 37th minute but, confronted by Szczesny, he curled his shot wide of the far post. Neven Subotic had nudged narrowly wide of a post early on; Blaszczykowski did not get hold of his effort after a slick Dortmund build-up and Mertesacker stepped out to time his challenge on the onrushing Reus.
Arsenal had offered little as an attacking force in the first half and if they were to emerge with a result, it felt as though it would be an evening when their less heralded qualities would be saluted. They were happy to dig in for long spells, to use their possession to draw the sting rather than commit too much going forward.
Dortmund’s full-backs bombed on and Klopp’s team opened the second-half keen to squeeze higher, to ratchet up the pressure on Arsenal. Reus, completely unmarked, drew a save from Szczesny with a header while Mkhitaryan fed Blaszczykowski and his low shot was repelled by the goalkeeper. Reus put the rebound in but he was offside.
Yet Arsenal turned the tie on its head when they forged ahead and, rather abruptly, they crackled to life in the final third. After Reus had swung and missed in front of Szczesny, Ramsey took Giroud's cross down and forced Weidenfeller into a smart save. From a Santi Cazorla corner, Giroud saw a shot scrambled off the line while Mertesacker went agonisingly close on two occasions.
DORTMUND: Weidenfeller, Grosskreutz, Papastathopoulos, Subotic, Schmelzer, Sahin, Bender (Hofmann 75), Blaszczykowski (Aubameyang 74), Mkhitaryan, Reus (Schieber 86), Lewandowski. Subs not used: Langerak, Kehl, Kirch, Durm. Booked: Lewandowski.
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny,Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Cazorla (Monreal 75), Özil, Rosicky (Vermaelen 90), Giroud (Bendtner 90). Subs not used: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gnabry, Hayden. Booked: Arteta. Att: 65,829.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland).