St. Petersburg - The joy was written all over Robert Lewandowski's face as he emerged from the Stadion Petrovski on Tuesday night fresh from scoring two goals in the 4-2 victory over FC Zenit that marked a return to form for both player and club.
Lewandowski's goals had an added significance, being his 17th and 18th in 26 Dortmund appearances in Europe. He thus dislodged Stephane Chapuisat as the club's record scorer in European competition.
Usually the reserved type, Lewandowski made a diversion from the direct line to the bus to express his delight to reporters on Wednesday, not only at his brace but at the whole team's performance, something which could be a turning point in their injury-blighted season so far - Jakub Blaszczykowski, Neven Subotic and now Sven Bender have all suffered long-term injuries this term.
"4-2 is a great result," he told bundesliga.com. "We now have to show them in Dortmund that we're the better team. My personal record isn't important on a night like this. I'm just really happy with our performance above all." And Lewandowski had every reason to be so, as the Westphalians turned in the type of performance that helped take them to the Champions League final at Wembley last May.
That they are 20 points behind Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München takes some believing on Tuesday night's showing. Having first helped assist the opening goal with a neat back heel, Lewandowski punished the Russians for even thinking they could reopen the game in the second 45 minutes with two clinical finishes. "We always had the right answer," said the Pole. "And we gave it to them."
It was also a poignant riposte to the domestic doubters who were beginning to wonder whether Jürgen Klopp's side would even make it into the Champions League next season, particularly in view of last Saturday's 3-0 humbling at Hamburg. And anybody who thought that Lewandowski was no longer committed to the Dortmund cause having signed his future away to Bayern must also think again.
Committed to the end
"We've got plenty of important games to come in the Bundesliga, the [DFB] Cup and in the Champions League," said the 25-year-old. "I want to win as many games as possible. It makes no difference that I'm leaving next season." On this showing, the fans will be indifferent to that fact too, and these two goals in Russia, they hope, will be just the start of a final flourish for the Poland international.
"Getting three points against 1. FC Nürnberg [on Matchday 23] is very important to us," Lewandowski stressed. "We're still fighting for second place and there are other teams after that too, which is why we can't afford to play like we did in Hamburg again." Der Club should take note.
Michal Reis reporting from St Petersburg / Adapted by Ben Gladwell