Borussia Dortmund went into tonight’s Champions League tie away to Newcastle knowing that they would be all but out of the competition if results went against them. Given that Newcastle have been in great form in all competitions so far this season, and knowing that St. James’ Park would be a tough place to play, I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic.
Thankfully, however, Dortmund proved me wrong. Just before the end of the first half, Schlotterbeck made a perfectly timed tackle and sprung a quick counter, before cutting it back for Felix Nmecha to finish brilliantly and give BVB a 1-0 lead that they held on to until the end. Dortmund were every bit a match for a very good Newcastle side, and they met fire with fire in what was at times a very chaotic game. The final 30 minutes of the tie did require Dortmund to dig deep and hold on to their slim lead, but they did exactly that, and through a combination of grit and a little bit of luck, they got the vital win that springs life back into their Champions League campaign.
Here is my reaction to a stressful but ultimately very satisfying 1-0 win.
Dortmund Show Some Fight
Obviously, the chief complaint about the way Dortmund started the season was just that they looked pretty lackluster, but another issue has been the lack of energy. Dortmund at times have looked a little lifeless, even when the performances have picked up. Against Werder Bremen, it felt a little different, but tonight against Newcastle? Dortmund fought for every inch!
Dortmund came steaming out for this game and looked up for it from the first whistle right to the very last kick of the ball. I’m far from a subscriber to the BVB Needs BALLS Newsletter, but the absence of energy has been a concern at times this season. Seeing BVB play with purpose and like they are all, to a man, willing to bleed for the cause gives me a great deal more optimism about what this team can achieve.
Terzic Counters the Counter
Newcastle are well known for their ability to hit teams in transition. They’re incredibly efficient in and around their opponent’s penalty area, and they are more than happy to give up possession and let the opponent try to break them down. Coming into tonight’s game, I was very concerned about the possibility that Dortmund would make the same mistake as PSG and fall for Newcastle’s tomfoolery, seizing possession with both hands and overcommitting with the ball. Instead, BVB embraced the chaos, opting to counter the counters! Every time Newcastle looked to counter Dortmund, they were drowning in yellow, with multiple BVB players counter-pressing to try and get the ball back.
Newcastle are happy to let the opponent have the ball, knowing that they are well-organized defensively and that their opponent will be most vulnerable when Newcastle break quickly. When the opponent has committed too many players forward, Eddie Howe has coached his players to pounce. However, Dortmund’s view appeared to be that Newcastle, equally, would be at their most vulnerable when they are moving up the pitch quickly. It was a risky strategy, but it was absolutely the right way to get at this Newcastle side at St. James’ Park.
Dortmund were unlucky not to come away with more in the first half, but they got the goal and that was the main thing. Nmecha’s opener was a perfect example of the way Dortmund approached the game, at least at first, with Schlotterbeck stepping up to snuff out a Newcastle attack, then Reus and Schlotterbeck combining well to get into a dangerous position before Newcastle had the opportunity to reorganise themselves. Schlotterbeck’s cut-back to Nmecha, and Nmecha’s excellent finish, were the perfect way to finish off an excellent passage of play.
I thought Terzic set the team up perfectly in the first half, and they deserved their 1-0 lead. As the game wore on, it was clear that Dortmund were starting to tire, and Newcastle really grew into the game. BVB were forced to soak up a lot of pressure, and they did a pretty solid job on that front. There were definitely moments where they were holding on for dear life, but otherwise I thought they gave a pretty good account of themselves defensively (Schlotterbeck, Bensebaini, and Kobel especially).
Terzic has, at times, been a little naïve in his substitutions, especially when BVB are trying to hold on to a slim lead, but I thought bringing Adeyemi on for Reus with half an hour left was really smart. Adeyemi hasn’t been in brilliant form, but he didn’t need to be. His role was to serve as a threat in transition so that Newcastle were unwilling to commit too many men forward. Adeyemi didn’t necessarily have to be that great. He just had to be quick. It’s the implication.
A Game Defined by Big Individual Moments
I thought there were few, if any, poor performances from BVB players tonight. When everyone puts in a minimum of a six or seven out of ten, it really raises the team’s floor. However, the real difference-maker for Dortmund was the handful of ceiling-raising moments from BVB players.
Schlotterbeck’s perfectly timed tackle to break up Newcastle’s counter for Dortmund’s goal (and the run and cut back that followed), Nmecha’s composed finish as he crashed the Newcastle box, Gregor Kobel’s huge save from a point-blank Callum Wilson effort, the crossbar contorting itself to keep Wilson’s late header and Anthony Gordon’s even later deflected strike out of the BVB net. Dortmund gave themselves a chance because every player pulled their weight, but it was a handful of moments of brilliance that gave BVB all three points.
Some Bonus Reactions Because You’ve Behaved Yourselves
- I regret not making more effort to try and get a ticket for this game. St James’ Park is one of the stadiums highest on my list to visit, and it was in fine form tonight.
- Emre Can going off injured = bad; Salih Özcan replacing him and doing very well = good! Hopefully Can is okay.
- Ally McCoist is great. I love him. I want him to be my weird old friend who has no business hanging round with someone my age.
What did you think of Dortmund’s vital three points tonight? Were you impressed with how they performed? Let us know in the comments below!