Pitchside Europe

Matchday six review: Dortmund’s biggest fan sends them through

Has there been a more dramatic Matchday Six in recent years? Four former winners faced the chop, two were eliminated and in three groups, there were winner-takes-all matches to decide second place. Here are some eye-catching from a memorable last round of action:

We need to talk about Kevin:

Group F was always going to be tight but to have three teams finish on 12 points, not to mention goals on 87 and 92 minutes in each game, is unprecedented in Champions League history. And so while it¹s hard not to feel sympathy for Arsenal¹s victors Napoli, whose head-to-head goal difference was damaged by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang¹s third goal for Dortmund in Matchday Five's 3-1 loss in Germeny, credit is due Dortmund for maintaining their composure and scoring another late goal (something it rather specialised in last year) to beat Marseille 2-1.

This time the hero was not Robert Lewandowski or Marco Reus: in fact, both missed chances. Instead, Kevin Grosskreutz, who grew up a Dortmund fan, got his first season ticket at seven and now, aged 25, still sleeps in a bedroom covered with BVB posters and jerseys (he lives in a semi-detached house with his parents next door, and he nips next door for his pre-match pasta meal), was the late goalscoring hero.

In 2013, he has played right midfield, central midfield and, mostly this season, right-back for Dortmund without a word of complaint. The dream squad player, he slots in anywhere and has an important impact in the dressing-room too. "He is more mature this season," said coach Jurgen Klopp.

"He is the direct line to our fans and always know what gets them going." Sporting director Michael Zorc added: "His journey shows it's still possible to live the dream and make the jump from the South Stand to the pitch."

His father Martin says he would rather play for Dortmund for one million euros than Wolfsburg for seven million while German magazine 11 Freunde put it: "He has an almost monastic life in the service of BVB."

So it was fitting that it was Grosskreutz, despite slipping and scuffing his shot on point of contact, was the match-winner. His goal changed everything: Dortmund went from third in the group to first, Arsenal first to second and Napoli second to third.

It might also have had an impact on Dortmund's January plans: instead of having to fight to stave off a bid for Reus or Ilkay Gundogan, both rumoured to be interesting Manchester United, they now approach the knock-out stage in the hope that their injury crisis, which forced Klopp to give Marian Sarr, 18, his first start for the club, will be over. And no-one will want to be drawn against them on Monday.

Will City pay the price for maths mistake?

Let's get one thing out of the way first: for Manchester City to come from behind to beat Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night was a fantastic achievement; that it did so without Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, even more impressive.

The story that followed the game, when first coach Manuel Pellegrini and then match-winner James Milner both admitted they thought City needed to win 5-2 to top the group, and not 4-2, has somewhat overshadowed the result ­ but is that fair?

Pellegrini is an intelligent man, a former engineer with a reputation for having four books on the go at the same time. But it seems astonishing that in a tie of this magnitude ­ playing for top spot in the group ensured this was not a dead game ­ City's coach or players did not know what was required.

Maybe no-one at City contemplated such a scenario, or they assumed that Pellegrini did know. The noise surrounding the story relies on the assumption that had Pellegrini known, and maybe brought on Sergio Aguero for ten minutes to terrorise Dante, City would have scored a fourth. But maybe they wouldn't have.

Either way, when the draw is made next week, City can expect to face Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid (they can't face Bayern or any of the three English sides that topped their groups). And that is a whole lot tougher than it could have been.

Group stage excitement!

Has there been a more exciting group stage in the Champions League? Going into this Matchday Six, Group D was the only one where the top two was already sorted ­ and given the excitement not just in Munich but also in Plzen, where Thomas Wagner scored a 91st minute winner for hosts Viktoria Plzen, with his first kick of the game, in coach Pavel Vrba's last match as coach, there was no shortage of drama in that one either.

Elsewhere we had Benfica and Olympiacos in a battle royal in Group A, and a series of winner-takes-all matches to secure qualification: in those, Schalke pipped Basel, Milan held off Ajax, Galatasaray beat Juventus and Napoli beat Arsenal but fell one goal short of qualification.

Spare a thought for Benfica (ten points) and Napoli (12 points), neither of whom made it through. It¹s happened before, but that makes it no easier: in the last two seasons it was Chelsea (ten points, 2012) and Manchester City (ten points, 2011). Neither were as unlucky as PSG, the only team to get 12 points and fail to qualify (in 1997, when drawn with Bayern Munich, Besiktas and Gothenburg). On the other hand, Galatasaray made it through with seven points, the lowest total since Werder Bremen and Rangers did the same in 2005.

Penalties again

It was probably the easiest goal of the lot, but Cristiano Ronaldo's four-yard tap-in after Pepe's header down was the Portuguese forward's ninth goal of the group stage, a Champions League record. To put that into context, that's more than Galatasaray, Arsenal, Milan (all eight), Schalke (six) and Zenit (five), managed in the whole group stages ­ and Ronaldo only played in five games.

It could have been more, too: he missed a second half penalty when his ego got the better of him and he tried a chipped Panenka penalty which FC Copenhagen goalkeeper Johan Wiland kept out. Ten goals would have put him two ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and four ahead of Lionel Messi, but still, Ronaldo will fancy finishing top-scorer and breaking Messi's three-year cycle of that title.

Just as on Matchday Five, though, when Mesut Ozil and Marco Reus suffered differing penalty fates, the spot-kick played a central role on Matchday Six, not least in Athens, where Olympiacos missed two penalties, first through Javier Saviola and then Vladimir Weiss, before Alejandro Dominguez showed them how to do it five minutes into added time. This was the group in which Benfica stopper Roberto had saved two penalties before.

Ronaldo will hope that open play determines Madrid¹s fate going forward: in the 2008 Champions League final, he missed for Manchester United in the shoot-out (which they went on to win) and he also missed in Real Madrid's semi-final defeat on penalties to Bayern Munich in 2012. If he¹s the best player in the world, he shouldn't miss from 12 yards.

Zenit sneak through

The surprise result of the week came in Austria, where debutants Austria Vienna won their first game of the competition, thrashing Zenit St Petersburg 4-1. Zenit still qualify with the shocking record of one win, five goals and just six points ­ the lowest total in Champions League history (though plenty of teams, among them Liverpool 2001, Juventus 2002, Rangers 2005 and Galatasaray this season, have made it with seven points).

Zenit's progress came because Porto failed to get anything at Atletico Madrid, where Manchester United coach David Moyes was watching. Depending on which newspaper you read on Thursday morning, he was casting his eye over Raul Garcia, Koke or Adrian Lopez. Given the current situation at Old Trafford, most of Atletico's starting eleven would improve their sides.

Ben Lyttleton (Twitter: @benlyt)