A hat-trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw Borussia Dortmund run out 3-1 winners at Qabala in Europa League on Thursday.
Group C leaders Dortmund were without Henrikh Mkhitaryan – the Armenian playmaker left behind due to tensions between his home nation and Azerbaijan – but the prolific Aubameyang maintained the visitors’ strong start to the competition.
After Thomas Tuchel’s men were made to sweat early on – Matthias Ginter clearing off the line from Dodo – Aubameyang scored twice in seven minutes after the half-hour mark to put Dortmund well on their way to three points in Baku.
Aubameyang wrapped up his hat-trick 18 minutes from the end of a low-key second half when he pounced on Marco Reus’ spilled effort as Dortmund negotiated a potentially tricky away trip with relative ease.
The Gabon striker now has 17 goals in just 16 appearances in all competitions this season, and Dortmund remain unbeaten in Europe under Tuchel at the midway point of the group.
Although the game was dead, Dodo pulled one back in injury time for Qabala, who remain bottom having taken just a point from three games.
Dortmund had the first effort on target through Jonas Hofmann, but it was the hosts who created three clear chances inside the opening 10 minutes.
Sergei Zenjov lost his marker inside the area and glanced Ricardinho’s header wide before Ginter was required to cut out Zenjov’s cross with Dodo awaiting a tap-in.
Ginter was called on again to clear Dodo’s lobbed effort off the line amid hesitant goalkeeping from Roman Weidenfeller.
Dortmund regrouped and saw Aubameyang go close twice before the forward registered his first and second goals of the group stage shortly after the half-hour mark.
The 26-year-old produced Dortmund’s first moment of real quality to curl in a powerful effort before finding the target again seven minutes later, collecting Shinji Kagawa’s lay-off and prodding a second past Dmitry Bezotosniy.
Vojislav Stankovic turned the ball over the crossbar from close range for the hosts shortly before half-time with Aubameyang continuing to prove a threat in the second half with a long-range drive spilled by Bezotosniy.
Dortmund continued to dominate possession after the hour, initially without reward, with Tuchel also boosted by the return to action of Marcel Schmelzer after a thigh problem in place of Park Jo-hoo.
The Dortmund boss will have been more pleased however to see Aubameyang gain a deserved hat-trick courtesy of a poacher’s finish late on.
Bezotosniy failed to hold on to Reus’ volley, allowing Aubameyang to steal in for a simple finish, with Dodo’s late consolation mattering little as Dortmund took another step towards progression to the knockout stages.