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No medals were handed out, but Kevin Grosskreutz felt huge relief as his goal edged Borussia Dortmund past Olympiacos FC in the first of his side's Group F "finals".
Rooted to the foot of the table on one point before Ernesto Valverde's men came calling, Dortmund needed a victory to keep their qualification hopes from fizzling out. That was reflected in their frenetic start and, with less than seven minutes on the clock, Grosskreutz fired the only goal of the game. Surprisingly fielded in place of Shinji Kagawa, the 23-year-old latched on to Mario Götze's pass and cracked in a shot from 20 metres.
"Today we had the first of our finals and I think we did a good job," said Grosskreutz, whose effort took Dortmund above Olympiacos into third, three points behind second-placed Olympique de Marseille. "We've worked really hard, especially on our defence, and everyone fought very well for everyone else. We have shown the press and the whole of Germany that we are strong enough to play in the Champions League
. Now we have two more finals ahead of us. We want to still be a Champions League team in the spring."
Dortmund's next "final" is away against section leaders Arsenal FC on 23 November, and Grosskreutz would gladly pass the honour of notching the decisive strike to a team-mate if it means the Schwarzgelben can prevail in north London. "I am really happy that I could score the goal, but the most important thing is that I was able to help the team with it," he explained. "It was a very important goal. I managed to hit the ball perfectly."
"The sense of relief is massive," added centre-back Neven Subotić. "It was really important for us to salvage our chances of going through. It was not the best match of all time, but we have the three points, which is what matters most. Our plan was to avoid conceding and score the first goal, and we did that. Then the second part of the plan was to go on and extend our lead, but unfortunately that did not happen. I do not feel like we played at an extraordinary level, but it was enough."
Frustration reigned for Olympiacos, meanwhile, who created a number of chances from set pieces without making them count. Now a point behind Dortmund in fourth, they face their own pair of must-win games – starting at Marseille in three weeks' time. "I thought we deserved at least a point," said centre-back Olof Mellberg.
"It is still possible for us to go through. We always knew the Marseille game was going to be a key match. Even if we had got a point today, we were going to need to win the last couple of games. I hope we can get the results our performances deserve, and that goes for the league as well. We need to keep going, keep playing well, and hopefully the results will come.
With a little help from Dortmund, we still have a chance."
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