"It's great to have already qualified," Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said after Dortmund's 4-0 win against Qäbälä, while İlkay Gündogan's next target is to "win the group".
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus were unsurprisingly the centre of attention after their first-half goals set Borussia Dortmund on their way to a 4-0 home success over Qäbälä, a result which secured Thomas Tuchel's side a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with two games to spare.
For his part, the Gabon international, resplendent in silver shoes almost as eye-catching as his earlier performance had been, told reporters of his delight at the leaders' qualification from Group C. "It's great to have already qualified for the next round," he said. "Marco's goal at that early stage was particularly important to make sure there was no tension or nervousness in the air. It was a good goal."
Indeed, Reus's 28th-minute strike – a lovely finish from the edge of the box – came at exactly the right moment as the hosts' fast but wasteful start was beginning to fade in the face of an organised visiting rearguard.
Aubameyang himself was guilty of uncharacteristic profligacy in front of goal, firing one straightforward opportunity straight at Dawid Pietrzkiewicz after 16 minutes. "That missed chance only made me more focused," the forward said. "I missed so many chances in the last game [against Werder Bremen] in the Bundesliga. It was important for me to score here. I really, really wanted to."
And so he did, eventually beating Pietrzkiewicz with an excellent solo effort on the stroke of half-time, a remarkable 21st goal of the season in all competitions. While his partner-in-crime Reus was taken off with a knock at the interval, Aubameyang's pace and movement continued to trouble the Qäbälä back four until his withdrawal after 68 minutes.
Understandably, the 26-year-old received a standing ovation from the adoring Dortmund fans, who watched their team ease to victory in the closing stages courtesy of a Sergei Zenjov own goal and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's sixth strike of this UEFA Europa League campaign (qualifying included).
"We managed to put in an outstanding display throughout the 90 minutes," said Dortmund coach Tuchel. "Perhaps we weren't pushed right to the limit, but that was partly because we earned that privilege by putting a lot of pressure on."
İlkay Gündogan, meanwhile, shared the boss's satisfaction. "We worked our way into the game and deservedly won," said the Germany midfielder who, with qualification sealed, set a new aim for his free-scoring team-mates. "Now our target should be to win the group. Only then can we be pleased with our group stage."