Dortmund pole-axe Ajax to reach last sixteen
Borussia Dortmund booked their place in the Champions League's last 16 with some clinical finishing and impressive counter-attacking football on Wednesday to hammer Ajax 4-1 in Amsterdam.
Dortmund needed just a point to go through, but the German champions had victory wrapped up with three unanswered goals by half-time as they reached the Champions League knock-out phase for the first time since the 2002/03 season.
"You simply have to give the team a lot of praise for the way they marched through a difficult group, we didn't expect that" admitted Dortmund's sports director Michael Zorc.
Germany's rising stars Marco Reus and Mario Goetze produced a dazzling display while Poland striker Robert Lewandowski scored either side of half-time.
Striker Danny Hoesen scored a late consolation goal for the host, but it was all over by then.
"All our goals were top quality and came at just the right time," said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
"Ajax were a difficult opponent, even if the result doesn't suggest it."
Ajax enjoyed the bulk of possession throughout while Dortmund had only five shots on target in the entire game, but managed to score from four of them as the Germans stayed top of Group D on 11 points.
"I think we had an average of around 70 per cent possession, but we gave bad goals away," admitted Ajax coach Frank De Boer.
"We certainly could have avoided three of them. That's the hardest part to take about this defeat."
Real Madrid are now second in the group on eight points after their 1-1 draw at Manchester City.
The best Ajax can not now hope for is a Europa League place with their final game at Real Madrid in two weeks.
After Bayern Munich's draw at Valencia on Tuesday put them through, Dortmund and Schalke also joined them in the knock-out stage with all three German teams having progressed.
Ajax are nine points behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league and it took just eight minutes for the Germans to take the lead at Amsterdam Arena.
Goetze showed great vision to play a one-two to put national team-mate Reus free in the penalty area and he fired home under the Ajax goalkeeper for his third goal of the competition.
Dortmund doubled their tally on 36 minutes when centre-back Mats Hummels took advantage of some sloppy defending with a quickly taken free-kick which found Goetze on the left.
He cut back inside and drove his shot inside the near post giving goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer no chance.
Ajax wing Derk Boerrigter had a chance soon after, but Dortmund put the game beyond doubt with their third just four minutes before the break.
With Goetze terrorising the hosts' defence, the 20-year-old put in a volley which Vermeer did well to save, but Lewandowski reacted the quickest and tucked away the rebound, although Vermeer got a glove to it.
It was Lewandowski's third of the competition as the guests handed out a lesson in counter-attacking football and the Polish star grabbed the fourth when he converted a Goetze cross on 67 minutes.
Hosen managed to pull one back for Ajax on 86 minutes having come off the bench, but it wrapped up a miserable night for the Dutch.
Manchester City are Dortmund's final opponents at Signal Iduna Park stadium in a fortnight.