MILAN — Borussia Dortmund advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 3-1 victory at AC Milan, whose chances of progressing dropped to “2-3 percent” according to one of its players on Tuesday.
Marco Reus gave Dortmund an early lead from the spot after Olivier Giroud had a penalty of his own saved for Milan. Although Samuel Chukwueze leveled at the end of the first half, goals from Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and substitute Karim Adeyemi gave the visitors the win they needed to book their spot in the last 16.
“The lads are clearly exhausted after this match but they are very happy, happy that we are through already, with a match to spare,” Dortmund coach Edin Terzić said. “We all remember that when the draw was made this was called the group of death.”
Dortmund tops Group F and is three points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain after the French team rescued a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle thanks to a stoppage-time penalty.
Seven-time champion Milan — which reached the semifinals last season — and Newcastle are two points below PSG. They play each other at St. James' Park in the final round of matches, when PSG visits Dortmund.
“We’ll give everything at Newcastle and try to win the game ... I’d say we have about a 2-3 percent chance of qualifying," Milan midfielder Yacine Adli told Italian broacaster Mediaset. "We’ll do everything we can and hope that Dortmund gets a positive result.”
Despite having already qualified, Dortmund will be eager to finish top of the group to help it avoid some of the strongest teams in the last 16.
“We don’t want to make any distinction between different matches, we play them all to win, we don’t want to gift anything to PSG, Newcastle or Milan,” Terzić said. “Moreover, 80,000 fans will be coming to the stadium and the match will make the difference in who we can face when the draw is made, so we will be fully motivated.”
The Rossoneri would have been in a stronger position if Giroud had converted a penalty in the sixth minute — after Nico Schlotterbeck charged down Chukwueze's shot with his arm — but the Frenchman's spot kick was weak and comfortably saved by Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel
It was only the third time Giroud had failed to score a penalty in 35 attempts.
Instead it was Dortmund which took the lead from the spot four minutes later through Reus after Davide Calabria had fouled Bynoe-Gittens.
Dortmund appeared content to sit back, defend its advantage and try to punish Milan on the counterattack, which it almost did in the 28th minute but Christian Pulisic blocked Julian Ryerson’s effort.
Milan was struggling to break through the yellow wall and needed something special. It got just that eight minutes before the break when Chukwueze — in for the injured Rafael Leão — weaved his way into the penalty area from the right, past two players, before placing an angled drive into the far bottom corner for his first goal for the Rossoneri.
That appeared to give Milan confidence and it almost turned the match around completely on the stroke of halftime when Pulisic floated a delightful cross to the back post but Calabria’s header flashed across the face of goal.
Pulisic came close to scoring a stunning goal, against his former club, shortly after the interval but his overhead kick was blocked by a defender.
Dortmund restored its lead in the 59th when Niclas Füllkrug and Marcel Sabitzer combined to set up English teenager Bynoe-Gittens, who drilled into the bottom left corner.
And the German team all but sealed the win and its place in the knockout stage 10 minutes later. Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan got a hand to Adeyemi’s powerful effort but couldn’t stop the ball from crossing the line.
Both sides also hit the woodwork late on.