Dortmund go unbeaten in tough group
Even the reserves were too good for English champions Manchester City as Borussia Dortmund beat them 1-0 to finish a tough group in the Champions League undefeated at the top.
And had they not conceded injury-time equalizers in Manchester and at Real Madrid, Juergen Klopp's team would have had a perfect run with six wins.
"Dortmund crown perfect preliminaries in group of death," said the Rheinische Post paper on their website after the latest heroics, and Bild said on their website "Dortmund are the true European champions."
Already assured of first place ahead of the final game, coach Juergen Klopp reshuffled his squad against the Premier League champions, and it was one of the new faces, Julian Schieber, who scored the winner.
"The boys reacted in outstanding fashion. I really enjoyed admiring my team," Klopp said.
Schieber said that "we are far more than 18 players that belong to the team. That makes us strong."
Having unceremoniously been eliminated in the group stage of the past two campaigns - Europa League 2010-11, Champions League 2011-12 - Dortmund were feared to be cannon fodder again when the draw pitted the Bundesliga champions against the champions from Spain (Real), England (City) and the Netherlands (Ajax Amsterdam).
But Klopp's men managed to reproduce their Bundesliga form from the past two campaigns on the continent - winning all three home games, 4-1 in Amsterdam, and seconds away from victory in Madrid and Manchester.
Real coach Jose Mourinho and Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson have in recent weeks rated Dortmund a contender for title next May in London, and City's Roberto Mancini had to agree after his team crashed out winless.
"This team can win the Champions League," Mancini said.
Dortmund won the elite event in 1997 but last played in the knock-out rounds in Europe when they reached - and lost - the 2002 Uefa Cup final.
But Dortmund are keeping their feet on the ground, knowing that they could run into the likes of AC Milan, Porto or Arsenal in the next round to be drawn on December 13.
"We are far from dreaming of the title," Klopp said. "There are brutally good team you can be drawn against as group winners."
Defender Mats Hummels agreed: "It is a bit over the top that all people are now naming us among the favourites."
However, the class of Mario Goetze (benched Tuesday), Marco Reus (played only first half) or Robert Lewandowski (played the last 13 minutes) is created awe across the continent and Dortmund will have to fear no one -perhaps apart from Lionel Messi's Barcelona.
Qualification for the knock-out rounds also further filled the purse of Dortmund who were close to insolvency in 2005 but have rebounded in strong fashion.
Dortmund are assured of some 35 million euros (45.7 million dollars) with their place in the last 16, little a week after announcing a Bundesliga record profit of 34.3 million euros. The further they go in the Champions League, the more the figure rises.