Robert Lewandowski spared Borussia Dortmund's frustrations with a late winner in their UEFA Champions League Group D opener against AFC Ajax.
The German champions looked like they would be left to rue Mats Hummels's second-half penalty miss and a string of wasted opportunities as the Dutch title holders held firm throughout, almost pinching a lead themselves in the opening period. However, Jürgen Klopp's young side persevered and eventually earned their reward as Lewandowski secured what could turn out to be a vital three points in a very tough group.
Propelled by the yellow wall of sound behind them, Dortmund began with typical energy and Mario Götze almost slipped Poland striker Lewandowski through within the opening minutes.
Ajax quickly reminded the hosts of their own attacking principles, however, and might have gone in front when İlkay Gündoğan gave the ball away in his own half. Only the swift reactions of home goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller spared the Germany midfielder's blushes with a top save to deny Christian Eriksen who was one-on-one.
Weidenfeller again had to be alert to foil the onrushing Derk Boerrigter, but Dortmund, unbeaten in 31 Bundesliga matches, are not a team easily shaken. Die Schwarzgelben had threatened when Marco Reus fed the overlapping Marcel Schmelzer in the box. Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer made a fine stop, yet as the tempo remained high towards the interval, it was Dortmund who looked the more positive.
Dortmund started the second half much as they had the first, only this time chances were forthcoming. Lewandowski blazed over having seemingly done the hard work by losing two markers, while Reus saw his finish diverted around the post by Vermeer after being sent into the clear by Mario Götze.
Frustration turned to exasperation for the home crowd approaching the hour as Hummels's tame penalty was easily saved after Götze was tripped by Ricardo van Rhijn. That spurned opportunity looked as though it could cost Dortmund dear, not only on the night but also in terms of the group, yet instead Lewandowski's emphatic finish three minutes from time ensured an entirely different end to the evening. Klopp's side go level top of Group D with Real Madrid CF, themselves late victors against Manchester City FC.
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