Henrikh Mkhitaryan stars for Borussia Dortmund in Europa League win
Borussia Dortmund have qualified for the round of 32 of the Europa League by beating Qabala 4-0 at home, combined with Krasnodar's 2-1 win over PAOK Thessaloniki which was enough for BVB to reach the knockout stages.
Although manager Thomas Tuchel rotated five positions, his side breezed past the below-average team from Azerbaijan. A compelling 4-0 win ahead of Sunday's Revierderby against FC Schalke was just what the doctor ordered for the Black and Yellow. Thirty-one to three shots were counted in the end, while the guests were unable to send one on Roman Weidenfeller's goal. Qabala were just the right sparring partner for BVB, who were hardly challenged throughout the game.
It was a quiet evening all around for Borussia Dortmund, with only the injury worry to Marco Reus not fitting the script. The midfielder is doubtful with a muscle strain ahead of the derby according to Tuchel. It would be far from ideal for BVB to lose their star man for the much more important match on Sunday, but the Dortmund coach was reluctant to field an entire B-squad.
Defender Neven Subotic only sat on the bench, while Jonas Hofmann didn't even make the squad against Qabala. The writing is already on the wall that both players have fallen out of favor under Tuchel. It seems as if only injuries could put Subotic and Hofmann back on the map.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Weidenfeller, 5 -- Subotic could have played in goal against Qabala and it wouldn't have made any difference. Weidenfeller, who has played BVB's Europa League matches, had a very quiet evening, as the guests didn't create a single chance throughout the 90 minutes -- not even a corner.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 6 -- It's probably more accurate to mark Schmelzer as midfielder rather than as defender, since he was playing on the left wing for most parts of the match. Chipped in with a couple of crosses.
DF Mats Hummels, 7 -- It was the kind of match where Dortmund's captain morphs into another playmaker. There wasn't much defending to do and Hummels could impress with a couple of beautifully passes to create chances.
DF Sven Bender, 8 -- Replaced Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who cheered his team on from the stands. Bender put in a couple of tidy interventions at the beginning of the match, when Borussia Dortmund's rotated team hadn't fully settled into the match. Not much to do in the second half.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 6 -- Grabbed an assist and looked lively throughout the match at the right-back position. Probably not enough, though, to earn him a start over Matthias Ginter in the derby.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
MF Matthias Ginter, 6 -- Started in defensive midfield to give Ilkay Gundogan a rest, before getting subbed for the aforementioned after 62 minutes. Ginter played predominantly on the right side in defensive midfield, teaming up with Piszczek.
MF Julian Weigl, 7 -- Suffered twice as many fouls (six) as he misplaced passes (three). Probably the most consistent 20-year-old in football. Regardless of the opponent, the midfielder calmly distributes the ball in midfield.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 5 -- Couldn't impress as much as in previous game, but still his class was on display.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 9 -- The Armenian scored the pick of the litter, thumping the ball under the roof of the net after nice turn. He hit the post twice and could have scored four goals with a little more luck. Most tellingly, Mkhitaryan got up and sprinted to win the ball back after he had slipped with 89 minutes played and the score at 4-0. That says it all about Mkhitaryan's flawless work ethic.
MF Marco Reus, 7 -- Reus was the only worry after the game. He started limping after scoring the opener from distance. He was subbed off at half-time and the first diagnosis a thigh muscle strain. Tuchel couldn't release Dortmund supporters of their fear, stating that Reus is in doubt for the derby against Schalke, but could still be fit in time.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- The striker had the yips against Bremen, not being able to convert exquisite chances, but at least found the net again, albeit not his usual clinical self. Little reason to worry about Aubameyang though.
MF Adnan Januzaj, 5 -- The Manchester United loanee was subbed in at half-time for Reus. He entertained the crowd with a couple of spectacular dribbles, but couldn't get his name on the scoring sheet for Borussia Dortmund yet again.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 6 -- Replaced Ginter after an hour. Played on his usual level without opting for the spectacular.
DF Adrian Ramos, 3 -- Was brought for Aubameyang with 20 minutes on the clock, but wasn't successfully involved in one of Dortmund's attacking plays. To be fair, Dortmund took their foot off the gas at 4-0 up after 70 minutes.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.