Borussia Dortmund dropped out of the UEFA Champions League in the quarter-finals on Wednesday evening, losing 3-1 at AS Monaco after a 3-2 defeat in the first leg at home that was overshadowed by and rescheduled because of a terrorist attack on the players inside the team bus on Tuesday, April 11.
Dortmund would’ve needed to win with a two-goal advantage in minute Stade Louis II to make it to the semi-finals, a feat that seemed difficult but not impossible going by the first leg, when the Black and Yellows suffered from bad refereeing decisions for two of Monaco’s goals.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel chose his tried and tested formation with a back three and two wing-backs, Raphael Guerreiro and Erik Durm, who were supposed to provide width and additional cover against Monaco’s lightning-quick transition game.
Durm, however, early on showed some rust after missing a number of games with muscle problems. He and right-sided centre-back Lukasz Piszczek were basically run over by Monaco’s left-wing duo of Benjamin Mendy and Thomas Lemar. The former initiated an early goal for his side with a spirited run deep into Dortmund territory, forcing an awkward save from Roman Bürki.
The Swiss spilled the ball towards the centre of his box, from where teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe had no problems putting away his fifth Champions League goal of the campaign. Bürki would later redeem himself with a number of quality saves but will feel he should’ve done better in this situation after just two minutes.
After a short while of processing the goal, Dortmund came close to an equaliser that could’ve changed the complexion of the entire tie. Nuri Sahin, who started next to Julian Weigl in central midfield, clanged a brilliant free-kick off the inside of the post and, in an illustration of the misfortunes throughout the 180 minutes for Dortmund, the ball ran alongside the goal line instead of going behind it.
In the 17th minute, just three after Sahin’s attempt, Dortmund failed to engage Lemar, leaving the young Frenchman with far too much time for a pin-point cross towards Radamel Falcao. The veteran striker evaded Matthias Ginter’s marking with some excellent movement in the box and put the ball away with a precise header.
Tuchel reacted 10 minutes later, bringing on Ousmane Dembele for Durm and moving to a back four. Dembele rejuvenated his side’s play to an extent but nothing notable came off their attempts until half-time.
Marcel Schmelzer replaced Sahin at intermission, despite the midfielder’s being perhaps the best BVB player on the pitch to that point. With Sahin’s extensive injury history in recent times in mind, however, Tuchel probably deemed keeping him on too risky. Schmelzer’s presence moved Guerreiro in a central-midfield role.
Dortmund’s hope of mounting an improbable comeback flared up for a short while when Dembele got past Mendy with a nice move just two minutes into the second period, with the 19-year-old finding Marco Reus at a tight angle to the goal. Dortmund’s captain contorted his body magnificently and scored a superb volley goal.
Monaco took the hit on the chin and allowed Dortmund possession without ever being in real danger of a second goal coming, themselves waiting for a counter-attacking opportunity that was sure to arise as the game went on.
One of those was the dagger for the game and the tie, with Piszczek doubling up on costly individual mistakes in the build-up phase after the first leg, as he played the ball into Lemar’s feet with nine minutes of regulation to go. Lemar, arguably the best player during the 90 minutes, found substitute Valere Germain, who made no mistake and even nutmegged Bürki.
Ultimately, Monaco deserved going through to the semis for their clinical finishing over both legs. Whenever they turned on the tempo, BVB found it almost impossible to prevent shots from good locations. Dortmund also made too many individual mistakes to expect more.
However, one would be remiss to fail to mention the incredibly difficult circumstances under which these two games were played from a BVB perspective. Having to play one day after an attempt at their lives was, as this writer and others argued, inhuman and disgraceful.
Dortmund were then held for 15 minutes on the bus by French police on Wednesday evening, which surely didn’t help concentrating on football.
During the 90 minutes on Wednesday, German TV station ZDF reported that a reconstruction of the progression of events of the attack on Tuesday, April 11, has confirmed that there would’ve been multiple casualties had the three explosive devices been triggered just one second earlier, as they would’ve hit the bus in full force.
With those somber news in mind, every Dortmund fan should be glad the team used up their luck on the bus and had none left for two ultimately meaningless games of football.
Dortmund’s Champions League campaign ends under these unbearable circumstances, but, all in all, it has to be considered a fairly successful one. Given the relative inexperience of many players (and the head coach) at this level, making the quarter-finals is a decent result. Having won their group ahead of holders Real Madrid, while setting a record for goals scored, is a strong accomplishment, too.
Ultimately, the only important thing is that all of the players and staff members are still alive.