If Borussia Dortmund go on to lift the Champions League trophy in May, all thoughts will turn to two sensational minutes that saw their campaign rescued from seemingly certain death to a dizzying climax of resurrection.
With 90 minutes up, Malaga—the unfancied, debt-stricken Spanish middleweights whose very presence at the quarterfinals could be read as a shock—were reading Jurgen Klopp's youthful collective their last rites
Eliseu's late breakaway goal looked to have won it. Malaga led 2-1 on the night and had an away goal between themselves and a salvageable cause. Dortmund's night had been a story of missed chances and brave denial at the hands of Malaga's goalkeeper, Willy. Their captivating run as the tournament's bright young thing appeared doomed for an anticlimactic end.
Then came a surge as powerful as those you see in the stands at the Westfalenstadion.
One minute into the four added, Dortmund's massed ranks somehow conspired a poacher's chance to Marco Reus, who snaffled it up. Still, Dortmund had it all to do; still, their hopes of mixing it in the last four came down to a matter of seconds against a team who'd spent 90 minutes frustrating them.
Up went the deafening roar. Forward came Dortmund again. And with a minute left, another frantic scramble resulted in a chance for defender Felipe Santana, who duly scored to complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history.
Only Manchester United's legendary 1999 turnaround against Dortmund's great rivals, Bayern Munich, can compare to the late drama served up in this one.
It ended with Dortmund maintaining their unbeaten record in the tournament this season and having made an emphatic statement of their credentials as potential Champions League winners. Klopp's team were far from their best, but the spirit they showed in rescuing victory will be viewed as a symbol of their maturity.
This was a coming-of-age performance if ever there was one.
Walking out before a fanatical home crowd, who treated their heroes to a mind-blowing tifo to set the mood, Klopp's young bunch were widely expected to put Malaga away comfortably, maintain their Champions League unbeaten record and advance to the semifinals.
This was the Dortmund team who thrilled us in group stages—a vision of German football's brighter-than-bright future. All that stood in their way was a Malaga team most saw as the weakest of the teams through the last eight.
It should have been straightforward. But football will never lose its capacity to surprise us.
After 25 minutes of complete Dortmund dominance at the Westfalenstadion, a long ball forward found the home side unable to clear their lines. Joaquin picked up possession, shifted the ball to his left foot and struck a sweet shot through Neven Subotic's legs and into the bottom corner.
The goal gave Malaga confidence, and while it was Dortmund on top, they looked capable of adding to it with their occasional forays into enemy territory.
But it was Dortmund who struck next, and in exquisite fashion. Mario Gotze's pass found Reus, whose clever flick released Robert Lewandowski on goal. The striker deftly lifted the ball over the advancing Willy and slotted home to prompt thoughts that Malaga's challenge would soon be over.
The Spanish visitors continued to look dangerous, however. On 48 minutes, Roman Weidenfeller was called upon to make a fine save from Joaquin, whose close-range header provided another example of Dortmund's lax defending from crosses.
Weidenfeller's stop was good, but Willy's from Reus midway through the second half was the stuff of brilliance. The Argentine was at it again to deny Gotze on 79 minutes.
And then came Eliseu's goal for Malaga, which was scored against the run of play and also from an offside position. Had it ended there, controversy would have reigned. All we would have been talking about is what a bad decision it was and whether Dortmund had been cheated.
Thankfully, Dortmund had another ending in mind. That their winner should itself have been ruled out for offside should hopefully count as karma to all concerned, but there will still be hearty protests.
A look beyond the decisions and the picture painted is one of a Dortmund team ready—in a footballing and mental sense—to take their place among Europe's elite. Can they win it all? With resolve like this, of course they can.
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