Michy Batshuayi scored a late winner as Borussia Dortmund narrowly defeated Atalanta 3-2 in the first leg of their Europa League knockout fixture.
Dortmund came into the round of 32 as third favourites for the tournament and they showed their perceived superiority by taking the lead in a frantic game, which then turned on its head and then back again in the second half.
The best chance of the opening exchanges fell to the hosts. Batshuayi slipped Marco Reus through and the German carried into the right-hand channel of the box only to drag his effort wide of Etrit Berisha’s far post.
Atalanta showed their counterattacking abilities after ten minutes were played. Josip Ilicic charged down the wing and found Bryan Cristante whose effort was blocked behind. From the resulting corner Mattia Caldara found space in the six-yard box but saw the ball late and could not make sufficient contact with the ball as it bounced across the face of goal.
La Dea breathed a sigh of relief as their post was struck. Andre Schurrle attempted a long-range strike which deflected off of Marten de Roon and onto the upright. Alejandro Gomez came close within minutes at the other end but his effort hit Sokratis’ head, a touch which was not noticed by the officials, and narrowly over the crossbar.
A buzzing Batshuayi was integral as Dortmund took the lead. The Belgian dispossessed Remo Freuler in the middle of the pitch and broke. Shurrle found space in the box and his first touch invited Berisha out and with his second he prodded under the Albanian and into the net.
L’ouverture du score par Schürrle face à l’Atalantapic.twitter.com/NFRdqZtCfo
— FrSerieA Goals (@FrSerieAGoals) February 15, 2018
It did not take long in the second half for Atalanta to get back on level terms. Leonardo Spinazzola, coming in from the left, lifted his head and picked out Ilicic beyond the far post. Ilicic’s first touch with his right was perfect, which then allowed him to curl in across goal with his left from a tight angle.
GOL crucial de Ilicic que define como mandan los cánones!pic.twitter.com/YbkJRXCldL
— La Voz del Calcio (@lavozdelcalcio) February 15, 2018
Not six minutes later Ilicic and Atalanta had completed the turnaround. Spinazzola again started the move by slipping Cristante through on the left channel. The midfielder shot across goal but Roman Burki got a hand to it only for the Slovenian to tap into an open goal from six yards.
— Jonah Takalua (@Destaquito2) February 15, 2018
Batshuayi did get the goal his performance deserved. Rafael Toloi foolishly lost possession when he shouldn’t have and the hosts broke. Substitute Mario Gotze found the in-form forward who took his shot early and rifled out of Berisha’s reach from 20-yards.
El empate de Batshuayi para el Dortmund! 2-2 ¡Vamos por mas! ???????????? pic.twitter.com/DEjxwPDCuU
— Borussia Dortmund (@DortmundLatino) February 15, 2018
Once Dortmund were back on terms they looked to have come through their nervy moments and looked to cause more problems for the Italians, who had taken the shakiness off the hands of their hosts.
Batshuayi did deliver the day’s decisive goal in stoppage time as he found space in the box before emphatically firing into the bottom corner.
The two sides will do battle again on Thursday February 22 at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia.