Manchester City finished rock bottom of their Champions League group after slumping to a 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park.
Julian Schieber slid home substitute Jakub Blaszczykowski's low cross just shy of the hour mark and his first goal for his new club condemned the Premier League champions to finishing the 'Group of Death' as the only side not to continue on in Europe.
Dortmund were already guaranteed to progress to the knockout phase as group winners along with runners-up Real Madrid, but the matchday six results mean Ajax move into the Europa League despite a 4-1 defeat at the Bernabeu.
Though City’s European fate was out of their hands heading into the final fixture of the group phase, Real Madrid’s 2-0 first-half lead against Ajax simplified matters for them: win at Dortmund, and they would return to the Europa League.
Unfortunately for the Premier League side, the creative spark which took them to the 2011 FA Cup and last season’s league title was barely causing static in a timid first half.
Edin Dzeko’s 33rd-minute drive forced a great parry around the post by goalkeeper and captain Roman Weidenfeller, while Carlos Tevez’s close range header soon after also had to be saved – though the offside flag was up, anyway.
Juergen Klopp’s men were far from at their best, either, with their best early moments coming through Oliver Kirch’s 12th-minute shot on target and a neatly innovated one-two between Ilkay Gundogan and Ivan Perisic, which led to the Croatian calling Joe Hart into action with a low save just before half-time.
Dzeko could easily put the away team ahead straight after the interval only to head Samir Nasri’s cross straight into Weidenfeller’s arms from six yards out, and from there Dortmund began to take over thanks in part to half-time sub Blaszczykowski.
Leading his side’s creative surge, the Polish midfielder was involved in moves which led to Perisic and Kevin Grosskreutz forcing fine stops from Hart before his great run down the right led to the cross which Schieber converted to decide the match.
Schieber almost had a quickfire double but for a lack of height on his attempted chip over Hart, though if Tevez’s Ricky Villa impression had led to a better finish after ghosting away from four defenders in a crowded Dortmund box on 67 minutes, perhaps there would have been hope for the visitors late on.
Instead, they finished their short 2012-13 European tour with a whimper, and were lucky to only lose by one after Blaszczykowski created further big chances for rising young star Moritz Leitner and fellow Polish substitute Robert Lewandowski.
The night of celebration at Signal Iduna Park was capped by the late booking of Mario Balotelli, booed from the very moment he emerged from the bench due to his starring role for Italy against Germany for Euro 2012, for dissent.
A year ago, Manchester City fans were mortified by the prospect of ‘settling’ for Europa League football in the second half of the campaign. This time around, they simply were not even good enough for that.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Marcel Schmelzer - Borussia Dortmund: A clean sheet and several attempted assists in an excellent all-round performance which helped settle the nerves of fellow defenders Kirch and Santana.
DORTMUND: Weidenfeller 8, Kirch 7, Santana 8, Hummels 7, Schmelzer 9, Gündogan 7, Leitner 6, Perisic 7, Reus 7, Großkreutz 6, Schieber 7. Subs: Blaszczykowski 8, Bittencourt n/a, Lewandowski 7.
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart 8, Maicon 7, Kompany 6, Lescott 6, Nastasic 7, Nasri 5, Garcia 5, Barry 5, Dzeko 5, Sinclair 7, Tevez 7. Subs: Zabaleta 5, Aguero 6, Balotelli 4.