Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer was the unlikely hero as he helped his side come from behind to draw 1-1 with Atalanta in the Europa League at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium.
The left-back scored the equaliser on the night and the winning goal in the tie after Rafael Toloi had initially put the Italians ahead which would’ve seen them go through instead.
Atalanta will be left heartbroken having waited 27 years since the last time La Dea played in any European competition.
Dortmund made a few changes to their last game against the Italians, with Mahmoud Dahoud and Nuri Sahin coming in for the suspended Julian Weigl and Gonzalo Castro.
Mario Gotze also came in for Marco Reus who recently scored the winner against former club Borussia Monchengladbach last week.
Atalanta meanwhile, named an unchanged side from the side that played out the 3-2 defeat last Thursday.
The home side were arguably the better side throughout the game but just couldn’t take the chances they had in both the first and second half.
They did score early on in the 11th minute with Leonardo Spinazzola initially winning a corner off Lukasz Piszczek after great initially work.
From the resulting corner, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki, (who’s been out of form all season), flapped and missed the cross leaving the ball to fall to Toloi at the back post to prod the ball in and give Atalanta the lead they fully deserve.
The home side could’ve extended their lead further had midfielders Bryan Cristante and Marten de Roon had their shooting boots on.
Dortmund struggled to create anything of note in the first half apart from the occasional half-chance that goalkeeper Etrit Berisha easily held.
The second half began and it continued to be Atalanta pressure for a majority of the game with home fans praying they would find that all-important second goal.
Just before the 80-minute mark, Atalanta had their greatest opportunity to go further ahead with captain Alejandro Gomez finding time and space in the area to take aim at Burki’s goal but the Argentinian squandered the chance and would be left to pay for this miss.
On the 83rd minute, Dortmund would break Atalanta hearts by scoring the winning goal of the tie against the run of play.
As the home side were pushing bodies forward to try and seal the game for good, Reus tried an audacious shot from 25 yards but Berisha (who played brilliantly up until this point) fluffed his lines horribly.
This left Schmelzer able to sneak in at the back post to equalise on the night and put Dortmund back ahead on the tie.
Shortly after this, the full-time whistle blew and Dortmund could begin to celebrate as they progressed into the next round of the Europa League.
Atalanta can feel proud of their performance with a typically sturdy Italian defence and slick attack with Cristante, Gomez and Ilicic leading any attacking threat.
Their focus now turns to the league where they currently lie in 8th place and face league champions Juventus on Sunday.
Dortmund meanwhile can look ahead to the next round of the Europa League with fixtures soon to be announced but they face FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Monday at home next.