Dortmund beats Ajax 1-0 in Champions League
European Football Headlines
(AP Photo / Martin Meissner)
DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Robert Lewandowski scored late to give Borussia Dortmund a winning start to its Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over Dutch champion Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday.
Poland striker Lewandowski controlled the ball in the penalty area before hammering a shot beyond goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer with three minutes remaining, rewarding the home side's late dominance of the game.
"It was an unbelievable game, a very intensive game, as we expected," said a relieved Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, who made a rare appearance in a double-breasted suit and tie.
Mats Hummels had the chance to give Dortmund the lead from the penalty spot in the 57th minute, after Ricardo van Rhijn was adjudged to have brought down Mario Goetze, but the defender's weak effort was easily saved by Vermeer.
Ajax created the game's best chances early on, with Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller forced to make several interventions to keep the visitors at bay.
"You are so close to earning a point, which would have been more deserved. Some moments were better than others," said Frank de Boer, who had "mixed feelings" following a positive performance from his young side.
Ajax should have scored when Ilkay Guendogan needlessly lost possession to Ryan Babel in the 12th minute, only for Weidenfeller to block Christian Eriksen's shot.
Another mistake in the Dortmund defense forced the goalkeeper into action again 10 minutes before the interval, rushing out to deny Derk Boerrigter before his defenders got back to block Babel's follow-up effort on the unguarded net.
"There are a few things there that we could have done a lot better," Klopp said. "But we always pull though, though not always straight away."
Marcel Schmelzer went closest for the home side early on after a great through ball by Marco Reus, but Vermeer did well to save.
Moments earlier, the Ajax goalkeeper came out from goal to put Lewandowski off after a great long ball from Hummels.
Ajax appeared happy to keep the ball and build slowly from the back with former Schalke player Christian Poulsen contributing from midfield.
Dortmund, by contrast, employed a high-intensity game that some of its players struggled to keep up with.
Dortmund began the second half as it did the first, attacking. But it was again Ajax that nearly scored, first through Babel and then Siem de Jong, whose point-blank effort was brilliantly blocked by Weidenfeller.
However, it was the visitors' last effort on goal.
Lewandowski then had a golden chance, sending two Ajax defenders skidding before firing well over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
Hummels was relieved his penalty miss wasn't decisive when Lewandowski controlled Lukasz Piszczek's headed-on ball, held off Toby Alderweireld's challenge and then blasted past the helpless Vermeer.
"We can only blame ourselves for not taking our chances earlier on. In the end they punished us for that," de Jong said.
Real Madrid also left it late to beat Manchester City 3-2 in Group D's other opening game.
Some 50 mainly Dutch supporters were arrested before the game in Dortmund, charged with setting off fireworks and causing criminal damage, the dapd news agency reported. It also reported minor scuffles between fans entering the stadium and stewards.
Updated September 18, 2012