Liverpool’s Europa League dreams are alive and well after the first leg of this quarter final ended all square. The headline writers in England and Germany salivated as soon as this draw was made. Tt was the dream tie, the return of the prodigal son. After a fond and emotional farewell last year, a return to Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park (Westfalenstadion) was always going to be a huge occasion for Jürgen Klopp and everyone associated with Borussia Dortmund, such was his influence and success during his time at the club. He arrived with his Liverpool team in mixed form and facing a tough task against the Bundesliga high-flyers, boasting the attacking talents of Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The hosts however, were without influential midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, whilst Klopp opted for the raw pace and power of Divock Origi ahead of Daniel Sturridge, but was able to welcome Roberto Firmino back from injury, though he was only on the bench.
The evening started with an incredible rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from both sets of fans, all 80,000 of them to provide a fantastic atmosphere as the attention moved from the dugout to the pitch. In the early minutes, Simon Mignolet seemed to think he was Manuel Neuer, not quite executing a drag-back but he managed to get away with it as both teams started the game with a high intensity. The first big chance came on 16 minutes when Julian Weigl beautifully picked out Marcel Schmelzer, who had been played onside by Dejan Lovren, and the Dortmund left-back cut the ball back to Mkhitaryan, but his shot was magnificently blocked by Sakho.
Shortly after, a Lovren header from a Milner free-kick was parried by Weidenfeller and as he claimed the loose ball, he clashed heads with Lovren. The keeper required treatment, but the blood flowing from his mouth wouldn’t stop him continuing and he would go on to play a vital role.
Dortmund were on top of the game, but 35 minutes in the home crowd were shocked when a ball forward from Alberto Moreno was flicked on by Milner into the path of Origi and his shot took a small deflection off Lukasz Piszczek to nestle in the bottom corner of the net. It seemed to stun Dortmund and minutes later, both Clyne and Milner had shots blocked as Liverpool threatened to extend their lead.
It was in added time before the break that first, Aubameyang was denied a Dortmund equaliser by an excellent block from Lovren and then down the other end on the stroke of half-time, only a fantastic save from Weidenfeller denied Origi a second.
Jordan Henderson looked to fall awkwardly in a clash with Reus just before half-time and during the break, the Liverpool captain was replaced by Joe Allen. Meanwhile, Dortmund made a tactical switch, reverting to a 4-3-3 with Nuri Sahin coming on for Erik Durm. The switch cannot be credited for Dortmund’s equaliser just a couple of minutes into the second half though. A short corner from Castro was crossed in by Mkhitaryan and there was Mats Hummels to head it in. Quite how he comfortably made his way into the box and was picked up by Adam Lallana will be another defensive set piece for Liverpool’s coaching staff to work on.
The atmosphere really picked back up now as the two sides kept the tempo of the match going, but in the 50th minute, Weidenfeller was again the hero for Dortmund, pulling off a tremendous trio of saves from Coutinho, Clyne and again from Coutinho to keep the scores level. The first of the three saves in particular was spectacular from the veteran keeper as he peeled back the years. It proved to be the defining action of the second half that settled into a stalemate and sets a dramatic night next week at Anfield. Whilst Weidenfeller was the home fans’ hero, Liverpool’s can point to the impressive performance of Origi, who caused Dortmund’s defence no end of problems and was emblematic of Liverpool’s willingness to go toe-to-toe with their much fancied opponents; roll on next week.
Dortmund – Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Hummels, Bender(Sokratis), Piszczek; Weigl, Castro, Durm(Sahin); Reus, Aubameyang(Pulisic), Mkhitaryan
Subs: Bürki, Ginter, Sokratis, Sahin, Kagawa, Leitner, Pulisic
Liverpool – Mignolet; Moreno, Sakho, Lovren, Clyne; Can, Henderson(Allen); Coutinho, Lallana(Firmino), Milner; Origi(Sturridge)
Subs: Ward, Toure, Smith, Allen, Ibe, Firmino, Sturridge