Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund: Final score 2-4, early blitz ends Zenit hopes

Alex Grimm

Four Dortmund away goals -- two of which were scored in the first five minutes -- means that this tie is all but over.

Zenit St. Petersburg's long sabbatical from football continued during what was theoretically the first leg of their Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund. They hadn't played for two months, and apparently inertia got the best of the hosts -- they managed to conduct themselves so poorly that the contest was over within five minutes.

Given that BVB were 2-0 up by the time everyone managed to find their seats, it's laughable that there were warning signs. But there were -- Salamon Rondon made the bizarre decision to waste a three-on-two break by passing to Sokratis Papatathopoulos in the first minute; the third saw Andrey Arshavin contrive to play a through ball to Robert Lewandowski*.

*Who dribbled out of play for reasons unknown. It's not as though Dortmund were very good either.

Seeing that Zenit were there for the taking, Marco Reus went ahead and took them. A Lewandowski flick set the lithe winger away, and despite Nicolas Lombaerts and Neto both trying to hack him down, he stayed on his feet and eventually worked the ball to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who slotted past Juri Lodigin to give the visitors the lead.

A second would follow within, well, seconds. Domenico Criscito was caught so far out of position that he might as well have been off the pitch, allowing BVB to surge forward with menace. Both Kevin Grosskreutz and Reus were unmarked in the box, allowing Mkhitaryan to pick out the former with a simple cross. One layoff later, and Reus was rifling past Lodigan with his left foot for the game's second goal.

2-0 with two away goals meant that the tie was over. The mystique of competitive football had completely faded, leaving behind the sort of vacuum that you'd more typically associate with NASA. The blue shirts ran around aimlessly, inhabiting an emotional spectrum that spread from frustration to raw, unfettered cannot-be-arsed-ness (Arshavin only lasted another 10 minutes before being overcome by ennui and being replaced by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk), while the yellow ones did their best to make sure they didn't burst into some sort of concerted giggling display.

They didn't quite succeed -- the sequence that led to Oleg Shatov rifling in from 16 yards, which saw Papatathopoulos fall over the ball, Marcel Schmelzer's clearing header traverse a whole 5 yards and the linesman botch a straightforward offside call was particularly ridiculous -- but even when Dortmund did suffer a lapse in concentration they took back what they'd given up immediately. Lewandowski was the respondee, notching a close-range strike from Lukasz Piszczek's cutback reestablishing the visitors' two-goal cushion.

Ninety-two seconds separated Zenit's second goal, converted from the spot by Hulk after a very dubious Piszczek-on-Faizulin foul led to a penalty, from Dortmund's fourth, converted by Lewandowski after Reus gamboled his way through the hosts' sorry excuse for a midfield. It was that kind of game. There was no real hope, just stuff that happened to be happening, and the prospect of Zenit scoring to "make it interesting was anti-ethical to the very soul of the match. They were punished accordingly whenever they tried.

For five minutes, this was an important Champions League game. For 85 minutes, some people did some things with the ball. Knocks and niggles aside, said things were utterly without consequence, although they were at some points amusing. So it goes.

Zenit St. Petersburg starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Juri Lodigin; Domenico Criscito, Nicolas Lombaerts, Neto, Alexander Anyukov (Igor Smolnikov 84'); Viktor Faizulin (Alexander Kerzhakov 84'), Axel Witsel; Andrey Arshavin (Anatoliy Tymoshchuk 15'), Oleg Shatov, Hulk; Jose Rondon.

Goals: Shatov 58', Hulk 69' (p).

Borussia Dortmund starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Marcel Schmelzer, Sokratis Papatathopoulos, Manuel Friedrich, Lukasz Piszczek; Sebastian Kehl, Nuri Sahin; Marco Reus (Jonas Hofmann 85'), Henrik Mkhitaryan (Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang 70'), Kevin Grosskreutz (Eric Durm 90'); Robert Lewandowski.

Goals: Mkhitaryan 4', Reus 5', Lewandowski 61', 71'.

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