Axel Witsel produced an impressive display against his former side as Borussia Dortmund sealed a 2-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg.

Borussia Dortmund secured their place at the top of Group F with a slender 2-1 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

It was an open start to the game, with Zenit, in particular, showing a lot of attacking endeavour. Dortmund found it difficult to find their rhythm to build-up and navigate through the opposition’s man-marking pressing scheme. The Russians were, however, lucky to find an opener in the 16th minute when Sebastian Driussi’s shot deflected off Mats Hummels to find the back of the net.

Borussia Dortmund’s main problem was the lack of sustained pressure as they kept losing possession in vital situations. The Bundesliga giants needed a scramble inside the penalty box to find an equaliser through Lukasz Piszczek in the 68th minute.

The goal gave the Black and Yellows some much-needed confidence as they poured more men forward by notably bringing on Jadon Sancho. However, it was Axel Witsel who produced the winner through an accurate effort from outside the box, beating Mikhail Kerzhakov at his near-post.

And though the Belgian didn’t celebrate scoring against his former team, Dortmund certainly did as the goal helped them secure a narrow victory. Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the Borussia Dortmund players in their hard-fought win over the Russian giants this midweek.

Marwin Hitz: 7.5/10

Marwin Hitz was really unlucky to concede the first goal as it would have been a routine save for him had it not been for the Hummels deflection. Otherwise, it was an excellent display from the Swiss international in between the sticks, making some key saves, especially in the second half.

Lukasz Piszczek: 6.5/10

Lukasz Piszczek played at centre-back, offering support to Hummels. The Pole wasn’t exactly competent in dealing with Sardar Azmoun and may have done a lot better and been more decisive during the defensive phases. However, he did score the all-important equaliser, thus allowing his team to get back into the game.

Mats Hummels: 6/10

It was not the best of performances from Hummels, who lacked sharpness throughout the course of the game. His passing was decent, but the German may have done a lot better in providing more threat from set-pieces. May have picked up a knock late in the game as he made way for Jadon Sancho.

Emre Can: 7/10

Emre Can did what he does best – marching forward with the ball, providing healthy progression in the build-up play. Sometimes he did take one or two odd risks by moving too far ahead, but it was his commitment and mentality that served as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dire Dortmund performance this evening.

Axel Witsel: 7.5/10

Axel Witsel started ahead of the injured Thomas Delaney in central midfield and was flawless against his former side. He passed the ball well, offering support for the two ball-carriers upfront while the Belgian’s positional sense was top-notch. He capped off his performance with a clinical strike from outside the box to score the winner.

Felix Passlack: 5/10

Filling in for the injured right-back duo of Thomas Meunier and Mateu Morey, Felix Passlack naturally operated in a deeper role. He, unfortunately, struggled to provide any substance going forward, though perhaps restricted by Lucien Favre’s tactics.

Jude Bellingham: 6.5/10

Jude Bellingham offered the box to box qualities that were always going to be critical in Dortmund’s chances of navigating through the Zenit press. The Englishman, unfortunately, wasn’t the most clinical players on the pitch and may have even done a better job with the headed chance he had in the first half.

Julian Brandt: 5/10

It was yet another disastrous performance from Julian Brandt, who lost the ball at least three times during the first 15 minutes. The German international looked lost in the final third, even though he was deployed in a more natural central attacking midfield role. This performance surely won’t help the ex-Leverkusen star, who is slowly moving down the pecking order in the Dortmund first-team this season.

Nico Schulz: 5.5/10

From an attacking perspective, Nico Schulz is simply not good enough to play for Borussia Dortmund at this level. The ex-Hoffenheim defender, who was filling in for the injured Raphael Guerreiro, was clueless with his forays down the flanks. Even defensively, he allowed the Zenit attackers to make some deadly forward runs in the second half, though he did improve as the game progressed.

Thorgan Hazard: 6/10

Thorgan Hazard was a little anonymous this evening, perhaps due to lack of quality attacking support down the left flank. The Belgian did have some decent attacking moments with his teammates, but it was nowhere near enough to trouble the Zenit backline. He eventually made way for young Ansgar Knauff with just seven minutes remaining on the clock.

Marco Reus: 7/10

Marco Reus may have failed to provide penetration in the number nine role. But, he did put in a good shift, often linking up with his teammates and tracking back at every given opportunity. His remarkable work-ethic propelled Dortmund’s comeback, though not in the most clinical fashion.

Substitutes

Youssoufa Moukoko: 5/10

Youssoufa Moukoko made history by becoming the youngest player in the UEFA Champions League when he replaced Passlack around the hour-mark. Unfortunately, the 16-year-old looked lost in the final third, often losing possession and evidently lacking the trust of his teammates. Not a good first impression in the Champions League for the youngster.

Giovanni Reyna: 7/10

Giovanni Reyna came on for Brandt around the hour-mark and provide much better ball-progression in the final third. He may not have been involved much in the proceedings, but looked like a menace when he did. Made one crucial clearance to deny Azmoun a late equaliser.

Jadon Sancho: 6/10

Jadon Sancho couldn’t make much of an impact, playing almost as a right wing-back during the final phase of the game.

Dan-Axel Zagadou: 7.5/10

Replaced Hummels and produced an eye-catching defensive display, notably stopping Artem Dzyuba in his tracks before making another crucial block.

Ansgar Knauff: N/A

Showed a lot of energy after coming on for Hazard. Didn’t play enough to warrant a rating.

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