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Sven Bender admitted there were relieved smiles on the faces of his BV Borussia Dortmund team-mates after they kept their UEFA Europa League hopes alive on Wednesday.
Dortmund's 3-0 victory over FC Karpaty Lviv combined with a 4-2 defeat for Sevilla FC at Paris Saint-Germain FC ensured that the German club's Group J destiny remains in their own hands. A point behind second-placed Sevilla, they know a victory in southern Spain on 15 December will earn them progress to the knockout stages.
"During the match we didn't know the result of the other game, but of course we all had a smile on our faces when we heard afterwards," said Bender. "We are delighted to have a final chance in Seville. It's a very difficult task, but we know what we have to do. We showed when we played Sevilla here [in a 0-1 defeat] that we can certainly compete with them."
Despite facing opponents who had failed to take a single point in the group, Bender said his side were anything but complacent in a contest won by goals from Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski. "We knew that Karpaty are a good team, and it was important to prevent them from playing," said the 21-year-old midfielder. "It was also important to stay calm and concentrated, because we knew the chances would come. After the second goal it was much easier to play."
Samson Godwin, Karpaty's Nigerian midfielder, was clearly disappointed but not despondent. "We really wanted to get some points here, but we played the best team in Germany, the leaders in the Bundesliga, a very good side," he told UEFA.com. "At least we learned from it, we learned from all our games in the group, and hopefully we will come back to the Europa League stronger and more experienced next year."
Even the bizarre sight of a dozen or so of their supporters stripped to the waist – it was several degrees below zero with the pitch covered in a dusting of snow – could not inspire the Ukrainian side to claim their first points. "It was difficult to play in this kind of weather, you can't feel your legs, you don't feel anything," said Godwin. Bender, while acknowledging the cold, did not think the pitch had suffered too much as a result. "I thought it was in pretty good condition, much better than those I saw on Wednesday on TV," he said.
After a whirlwind start which brought Kagawa's fifth-minute opener and promised more, the intensity of the home attack dropped although the outcome was never in doubt. The three points, secured effectively by Hummels' 49th-minute second, were very welcome for a team who, despite a seven-point lead at the Bundesliga summit, have struggled to replicate their domestic form in the UEFA Europa League. This was only their second Group J win – the other also coming against the men from Lviv in September – and they face a real battle in Andalusia ten days before Christmas, though Jürgen Klopp's men can at least take comfort from their Bundesliga away record to date: played seven, won seven.
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