Borussia Dortmund deserve credit for having dominated the UEFA Champions League's so-called 'Group of Death', according to director of sport Michael Zorc after his team hammered Ajax 4-1 in Amsterdam.
The German champions booked their place in the last 16 on Wednesday with some clinical finishing and impressive counter-attacking football as Germany stars Marco Reus and Mario Goetze shone and Poland's Robert Lewandowski scored twice.
Having been drawn with Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City in Group D, Dortmund are now three points clear at the top of the table ahead of their final pool game at home to Manchester City in a fortnight.
But Zorc says his team deserve all the credit they have earned after beating Real at home, then drawing away in both Madrid and Manchester while claiming victory over the Dutch both home and now away during their campaign.
"You simply have to give the team a lot of praise for the way they marched through a difficult group, we didn't expect that," said Zorc as Dortmund reached the knockout phase for the first time since 2003.
Incredibly, Dortmund had just five shots on target over the 90 minutes at the Amsterdam Arena, but scored from four of them and gave a lesson in counter-attacking football with just 33 per cent ball possession.
"I think we had an average of around 70 per cent possession, but we gave bad goals away," admitted Ajax coach Frank De Boer.
"We certainly could have avoided three of them. That's the hardest part to take about this defeat."
High quality strikes
The first and fourth Dortmund goals were of particular high quality. On eight minutes, Goetze showed great vision to play a one-two to put national team-mate Reus free in the penalty area and he fired home.
Then on 67 minutes, Goetze floated a cross to the back post where Lewandowski fired home from a tight angle for Dortmund's fourth before Daniel Hoesen scored a late consolation score for the Dutch.
"All our goals were top quality and came at just the right time," said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp. "It was not a walk in the park and everyone that was here today saw that.
"Ajax had a lot more possession, but we produced a very disciplined performance. They were a tricky opponent, even if the result doesn't suggest that."
The best Ajax can now hope for is a UEFA Europa League place with their final game at Real Madrid in two weeks, while Dortmund prepare for the visit of Manchester City on 4 December.