Tottenham left with mountain to climb against Borussia Dortmund
Marco Reus scores twice as Mauricio Pochettino much-changed side go down in Germany
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund outjumps Ben Davies of Tottenham Hotspur as he scores their first goal during the Europa League Round of 16 first-leg match at Westfalenstadion. Photograph: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images
Borussia Dortmund 3 Tottenham 0
So much for the theory that this would be a night when Tottenham Hotspur would measure themselves against one of the top teams in European football.
Mauricio Pochettino may as well have waved a white flag from the moment he handed in the team-sheet as Borussia Dortmund tormented the Premier League club to such an extent that the second leg at White Hart Lane has already been rendered irrelevant.
Evasive about where his priorities lay on the eve of the game, Pochettino made it clear that it is the Premier League title or nothing for Spurs this season when he opted to name a severely weakened team. There were seven changes from the side that drew against Arsenal on Saturday – only the suspended Dele Alli was enforced – and Dortmund were not in the mood to take it easy on a callow Spurs team.
The home side were exhilarating to watch and showed why there is such excitement in these parts about the way Thomas Tuchel has re-energised Dortmund since replacing Jürgen Klopp.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was outstanding up front and took his tally for the season to 33 goals in 38 appearances, the wonderfully gifted Henrikh Mkhitaryan ran the game from midfield and Marco Reus scored twice.
Reus’s second was a moment of beauty and highlighted the chasm in class.
Dortmund swept from one end of the pitch to other, completing 21 passes before the ball arrived at the feet of the Germany international. Showing superb technique, Reus clipped Gonzalo Castro’s dinked pass on the half-volley beyond Hugo Lloris and Dortmund were on their way to the quarter-finals.
The result felt like vindication for Tuchel, who had made only two changes from the side that drew with Bayern Munich on Saturday, and left Pochettino with many questions to answer.
Spurs were simply unable to stop the yellow and black tide. Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason were overrun in central midfield and it was a huge occasion to give 18-year-old Joshua Onomah his fourth start. By the time Harry Kane was introduced 14 minutes from time the game was up for Spurs and it was tempting to wonder what was going through the minds of their travelling fans.
Aubameyang’s opening goal had been coming and the only surprise was that we had to wait until the 30th minute for the breakthrough. Dortmund were in total control, moving the ball with supreme confidence and carving Spurs open with their slick, incisive passing.
The early chance that Christian Eriksen swept into the arms of Roman Weidenfeller, with only 38 seconds on the clock, was no sign of things to come as Tuchel’s side tightened their grip on the game and began to go through their gears, targeting the space that opened up on the flanks. Ben Davies, the Spurs left back, was horribly exposed at times and Kieran Trippier, the right back, also had his work cut out as Dortmund raided the wide areas.
Aubameyang thought he had opened the scoring in the 14th minute, when he pounced on the loose ball after Lloris parried a wonderful 25-yard shot from Mkhitaryan, but the assistant referee’s flag saved Spurs on that occasion. There was no reprieve, however, for the visitors later in the half.
Marcel Schmelzer picked up possession wide on the Dortmund left and his measured cross was met by a superb downward header from Aubameyang.
Climbing above Davies, the Gabonese gave Lloris no chance from eight yards as he nodded emphatically into the bottom corner.
It was not the first time those two players combined. Earlier in the evening Aubameyang flicked a lovely ball out wide to Schmelzer with the outside of his left boot before sprinting into the area to meet the winger’s cross with a close-range volley that skimmed the roof of the net.
Spurs were living dangerously whenever Dortmund attacked. Aubameyang, showing that there is more to his game than goals, released Erik Durm with a neat through ball in the seventh minute but the Dortmund midfielder, with only Lloris to beat, dragged a low shot wide of the far upright.
If the interval provided Spurs with some respite, there was no let-up after the restart and only the woodwork denied Dortmund a second. Mkhitaryan, with yet another sublime pass, set Aubameyang free inside the Spurs area.
Whether it was a shot or a cross – it looked more like the former – the ball slid across the area and arrived at the feet of Castro, who struck the outside of the post with the angle against him.
Yet Dortmund did not have to wait long for their second. A short-corner routine saw Castro whip in a cross that Neven Subotic, who had been on the pitch for only three minutes, flicked on and there was Reus, ghosting in at the far post, to volley powerfully into the roof of the net. The best, however, was still to come, with Reus applying the coup de grace with his delightful finish.