In-form forward Michy Batshuayi scored a late winner for Borussia Dortmund to ensure a well-fought 3-2 victory over an undefeated Atalanta side in the Europa League at the Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund needed to impress tonight after a poor showing in the Champions League, failing to get out of the group stages and picking up only 2 points throughout the whole stage.
Atalanta meanwhile were unbeaten so far in the competition, topping their group which included the likes of Everton and Lyon, scoring 14 goals and conceding only 4 throughout the period.
Dortmund remained without January signing Manuel Akanji who is ineligible to play in the competition with Andriy Yarmolenko, Maximilian Philipp and Marcel Schmelzer still out with injury.
Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini did have captain Alejandro Gomez and centre-back Mattia Caldara back after the pair missed the last two league games due to back injuries.
Midfielder Luca Rizzo however, remained unavailable after damaging knee ligaments in training last month.
Batshuayi scored his 5th goal in three games to ensure his new side have the advantage before travelling to Bergamo next Thursday.
In what was the first competitive meeting between the sides, it was the home side who took the initial lead in the first half on the 27th minute, courtesy of German winger Andre Schurrle.
The 27-year old did brilliantly after Batshuayi picked up the ball just inside the Atalanta half and found Piszczek whose driven pass found Schurrle, who cleverly poked the ball past Etrit Berisha in the Atalanta goal.
This was the only real chance of the first-half with the tie being a tight and well-contested affair which the home side were superior in and fully deserved of their slender lead.
However, Atalanta came out of the blocks flying with two early second-half goals from their top scorer in the competition, Slovenian forward Josip Iličić.
Iličić scored his first in the 51st minute after poor marking from young German full-back Jeremy Toljan. Centre-back Rafael Toloi drives forward from the back and lays it outside to on-loan Juventus midfielder Leonardo Spinazzola, who finds Ilicic at the back post and beats Roman Burki with a great finish from a tight angle.
The game would then be turned on its head as Ilicic would score his side’s second and fifth of the competition after poor goalkeeping from an out-of-form Burki in the Dortmund goal.
Midfielder Bryan Cristante is played through in on goal down the left and strikes from wide but his effort is parried straight to Ilicic who scored his 11th of the season.
This topsy-turvy game would then be switched back in the home side’s favour as Batshuayi would bag a brace of his own and give the fans a fully-entertaining game with a 90th minute winner in their favour.
Batshuayi’s first came in the 66th minute when recent substitute Mario Gotze played the Belgian through and Batshuayi, full of confidence created space on the edge of the box before curling in a brilliant finish to equalise for Dortmund.
Wave after wave of Dortmund pressure would follow after this equaliser, in a bid to take the lead in the tie and they would get their just rewards very late on in the game with a 90 minute winner sending the Yellow Wall into a frenzy.
Polish full-back Łukasz Piszczek’s cross is initially cleared by Atalanta defenders but Gotze (who grabbed his second assist of the game), played the ball back into the box first time to Batshuayi who does great to turn and finish sharply past Berisha in the dying moments of the game.
This goal was just what Dortmund deserved and needed to perhaps reignite what’s been a second-rate season so far for the Germans who lead on the night, but because of the away goal rule nothing has been decided yet.
Atalanta showed that they are worthy of their place in the competition and will definitely give Dortmund another tough test when the two clubs meet again next Thursday for the second leg.