Borussia Dortmund finish the group stage of the Europa League on second place, as Karsnodar beat Qabala 3-0. Dortmund’s somewhat embarrassing 1-0 home loss to PAOK didn’t make much of a difference in the end, but perfectly summed up BVB’s lack of enthusiasm for the Europa League thus far.
If you had to miss the match due to an important appointment, or simply decided to watch an old episode of Friends, you did everything right. The match might have been inconsequential for Dortmund (co-efficient points aside), but it was tedious to watch. Thoughts go out to the 55.200 spectators, who paid real money to watch the calamity unfold on a cold December night – they are the real losers of Thursday’s Europa League “event”.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
Weidenfeller – Ginter, Subotic, Hummels, Park – Stenzel, Kagawa, Bender – Januzaj, Ramos, Reus
It was already clear when the team sheets came out, that this was not going to be a high-priority match to any stretch of the imagination. Thomas Tuchel rotated heavily, making seven changes in personnel from BVB’s starting XI against Wolfsburg – and even making nine positional changes. Marcel Schmelzer got a deserved rest, as well as Gonzalo Castro and Lukasz Piszczek, who were left out of the squad, as well as Ilkay Gündogan who will be back on the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt.
It was the first time Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic have played together since Thomas Tuchel took charge, as Subotic earned back-to-back starts after a convincing performance in Wolfsburg. Though the eyes were more on debutant Pascal Stenzel, who played his very first match for the pros in midfield next to Sven Bender and Shinji Kagawa. It was only another chance for Adnan Januzaj that he is capable of bringing something to the table in a Dortmund shirt.
Five minutes into the match, Borussia Dortmund looked to be in full control off the game. PAOK unzipped their 5-3-2 system around their own penalty area and waited for their one chance. Stenzel & Januzaj started with a few safety passes to get a feeling for the match and it was Januzaj, who was the first to dribble into PAOK’s box. His cross couldn’t pick out a teammate though, as one of the box was congested with Greek defenders. It would depict the setting for the entire 90 minutes.
The first chance fell to Kagawa, though whose deflected shot hit the outside of the post and 82% – 18% possession after 12 minutes perfectly described the one-sidedness of the match from the very beginning. Marco Reus’ blocked attempt after 15 minutes, made it obvious that BVB would have to bring a lot of patience and it took five more minutes until Dortmund could create their first real chance of the match, as Reus broke free on the Reus broke free on the left, but Ginter skied the cross from promising position.
As per usual this Europa League season it was Dortmund to concede first – obviously by the very first (and only shot) of the game. Dimitrios Konstantinidis played the ball into the path of Robert Mak. who was conveniently kept onside by Park Joo-ho. The ex-Nürnberg striker had no trouble in rounding Roman Weidenfeller and slotted the ball home to give the guests the lead in the 33. minute.
It was Marco Reus again, who had the best chance to equalize again before half-time, getting the rebound from a Januzaj-shot, which Panagiotis Glykos only managed to parry to the side.
With Krasnodar being already 2-0 up in Baku, it was clear that Borussia Dortmund had no need to go all out to turn the tie around. Thomas Tuchel made two changes after the break, bringing Julain Weigl on for Sven Bender and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Marco Reus, to not take any further injury risks and balance the strain of his players.
The substitutions nearly paid off early in the second half. Adnan Januzaj’s only positive contribution to the match put Henrikh Mkhitaryan free on goal, but the Armenian pulled the shot directly at Glykos, who pulled off a great reaction save to tip Kagawa’s headed effort from close range over the bar. Henrikh Mkhitaryan tried his luck from distance a couple of times, but couldn’t guide the ball on target.
In the 75. minute only the post could save the already beaten Glykos, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who replaced the Japanes in the 66m minute, only hit the woodwork with his header. It remained to be Borussia Dortmund’s last real scoring opportunity in the game.
The match petered out, as the frustration of the Black and Yellows grew towards the end of the match. They could not even test PAOK’s goalkeeper, who picked up a hip injury in the final four minutes and could barely stand, but had to pull through as Igor Tudor had already used all three substitutions to put out an even more defensive line-up.
Borussia Dortmund 0-1 PAOK FT: Shots: 20-1 Pass acc: 90%-72% Crosses: 33-3 Possession: 68%-32% FIFA in real life. pic.twitter.com/aVvPrXWRqT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 10. Dezember 2015
The stats suggest that Borussia Dortmund were the utterly dominant side in this tie. But yet another freak-result in the Europa League is not quite the coincidence. BVB lacked the necessary purpose to top their group throughout the entire group stage, after all they could only beat Qabala on aggregate. It reads embarrassing for the team, that was tipped as favorites to win the competition – which they still might after all, but only if they will show up for the knock-out stages in 2016.
Thomas Tuchel had to realize, that he cannot quite motivate a team that is used to playing Champions League for the Europa League, as he openly admitted in the post-match press conference. Meanwhile the air is getting thinner for Adnan Januzaj and Adrian Ramos who once again failed to impress in one of their rare starting appearances. The outlook is just as grim for Jonas Hofmann and Moritz Leitner, who both sat on the bench for the entire 90 minutes of the most irrelevant match of the season. As long as Dortmund show their Bundesliga face on Sunday against Eintracht Frankfurt, this loss will be quickly forgotten.
Possible opponents for the round of 32
Manchester United, Olympiakos Piräus, FC Porto, Molde FK, FC Liverpool, SCC Napoli, Sporting Braga, Lokomotive Moskau, FC Basel, Athletic Bilbao, Tottenham Hotspur, SS Lazio, Rapid Vienna