Borussia Dortmund will be favourites to advance to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals following a wild 4-2 victory at Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie at Petrovski Stadium.
Dortmund scored twice in the opening five minutes to take control of the tie before Zenit pulled a goal back twice in the second half.
But Dortmund responded to each goal with a quick strike of their own to restore their two-goal cushion and ultimately kill off the match.
Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Dortmund, who finished as Champions League runners-up last season. Marco Reus scored one goal and set up two more, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan also found the net for the Germans.
Oleg Shatov and Hulk scored the goals for Zenit, who had not played a competitive match since December 11, a 4-1 loss at Austria Wien in the Champions League group stage.
"We were close to an optimum performance. We showed great pressing and counterpressing against a really talented team," Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp told UEFA.com.
Klopp added: "It was a good evening for us, but we are not yet through. We still have some work to do in the return leg."
The result will serve as a boost for injury-ravaged Borussia Dortmund, who lost surprisingly at Hamburg this past weekend in the Bundesliga and have next to no hope of catching runaway leaders Bayern Munich.
Last season's Champions League runners-up will now be firm favourites to advance to the quarter-finals following the second leg on March 19.
Currently trailing runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich by 20 points following a 3-0 loss at Hamburg over the weekend, Dortmund are already out of contention for the German title. But Jurgen Klopp's team remain alive in the semi-finals of the German Cup as well as the last 16 of the Champions League.
Zenit, meanwhile, are joint leaders of the Russian Premier League at the midway point of the season. Luciano Spalletti's team will resume its quest for the domestic title with a home match against Tom Tomsk on March 9, once the league's winter break is finished.
Without any competitive fixtures for more than two months, the hosts' lack of match sharpness proved costly. Within five minutes, BVB had built a formidable lead.
In the fourth minute, Reus powered through Zenit's half and dribbled into the box before being felled by a challenge. The ball trickled to Mkhitaryan, who swept into the net for a quick 1-0 advantage.
Only a minute later, it was 2-0.
This time, Nuri Sahin dribbled down the right and crossed into the middle for Kevin Grosskreutz, who teed up Reus inside the box. With his first touch, Reus volleyed past Yuri Lodygin at the near post to make it 2-0.
"It was very important to start well and we did just that," Reus told UEFA.com. "Our 2-0 advantage was deserved, as was the final result, I think."
The tie quickly appeared all but over, but for Zenit there was more bad news as Andrey Arshavin left the match in the 15th minute with a hamstring injury. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk replaced him.
Dortmund could have had another goal in the 19th minute when Lewandowski raced free down the left flank and momentarily had a clear sight of goal. But Nicolas Lombaerts made a crucial intervention in the box, allowing Lodygin to smother the ball.
Zenit, meanwhile, hardly mounted an attack in the first half. Hulk sent an ambitious shot off target from distance in the 27th minute, but Dortmund kept the Brazilian under wraps throughout the half.
Leading 2-0 at half-time, Dortmund continued attacking after the break. Following a Zenit giveaway in the 48th minute, Lewandowski again tested Lodygin with a high shot at the near post.
Zenit finally found a way through in the 57th minute, scoring to give themselves a lifeline in the tie. After Salomon Rondon's shot slammed off the near post, Shatov lashed in at the far post to cut Dortmund's lead in half. Replays showed Rondon was offside in the build-up, but the goal stood and Zenit trailed only 2-1.
The scoreline didn't stay that way for long, though, as Dortmund grabbed their third just four minutes later.
Lewandowski started and ended the move, passing to Lukasz Piszczek on the right before receiving the pass back in the middle of Zenit's box. After taking a touch to steady himself, Lewandowski finished with a shot off Lodygin to make it 3-1 in the 61st minute.
The hosts then won a penalty in the 67th minute, when the referee ruled that Piszczek had fouled Viktor Fayzulin in the box. Hulk powered in the spot-kick, finishing high in the top corner in the 69th minute to make it 3-2.
Once again, though, Dortmund hit back immediately.
After another giveaway in Zenit's half in the 71st minute, Reus passed to Lewandowski on the right. The Polish striker took a touch before finishing low at the far post to restore Dortmund's two-goal cushion at 4-2.
With the match decided, both managers made multiple substitutions in the closing minutes. There was still time for Zenit's Axel Witsel to shoot from outside the box, but his shot flew straight at Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller, who saved easily.
|Zenit St. Petersburg Player Ratings vs. BVB|
|Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (for Arshavin, 15')||DM||6||3|
|Igor Smolnikov (for Anyukov, 83')||RB||N/A||No rating|
|Alexander Kerzhakov (for Fayzulin, 84')||ST||N/A||No rating|
|Borussia Dortmund Player Ratings vs. Zenit|
|Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (for Mkhitaryan, 70')||MID||N/A||6|
|Jonas Hoffman (for Reus, 85')||MID||N/A||No rating|
|Eric Durm (for Grosskreutz, 90')||MID||N/A||No rating|
Zenit host Tom Tomsk in the Russian Premier League on March 9.
Dortmund host Nurnberg in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
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