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Borussia Dortmund v Chelsea FC: Round of 16 Leg One - UEFA Champions League Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Kobel and Adeyemi the Difference-Makers as Dortmund Take 1-0 Lead Against Chelsea

BVB can now advance to the Champions League Quarterfinals with a draw at Stamford Bridge in three weeks’ time.

What a goal! What a game! What a win! After three months of waiting, Borussia Dortmund returned to the Champions League with an edge-of-your-seat win over Chelsea FC. This result gives Die Schwarzgelben a narrow 1-0 lead heading into the return leg at Stamford Bridge in early March and will prove vital if Dortmund advances. While the result was great, the performance was not without its flaws and I suspect that BVB will need to be much better in the return leg if the club wishes to push into the quarterfinals.

To beat Graham Potter’s Chelsea, Edin Terzic trotted out a 4-1-4-1 with a midfield trio of Jude Bellingham, Emre Can, and Salih Özcan, that did a good job controlling the flow of the match for the first thirty minutes. The attacking play often flowed from Julian Brandt or Jude Bellingham to the wings and both fullbacks, Raphael Guerreiro and Marius Wolf, generated numerous chances from crosses in the opening minutes of the match. Although these chances never resulted in goals, they did a good job maintaining the pressure on Chelsea as the first half rolled on. As the half progressed, Dortmund had several chances from acute angles inside the box but failed to find the back of the net. As a whole, it was one of the better halves Dortmund played in the Champions League thus far.

Unfortunately, as the match continued, and especially after Dortmund eventually took the lead in the 63rd minute, the balance began to tip radically in favor of the visitors. As the game went on, it became more and more apparent that BVB’s squad had little to no answer for Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk. These two Chelsea attackers ran rampant along Chelsea’s left wing, and even with assistance from Emre Can and Niklas Süle, Marius Wolf struggled to cover both of them. Thankfully, while Chelsea held much possession around the periphery, they mostly failed to penetrate into the 18-yard box, and only mustered a handful of shots from dangerous areas. The match ended with the shot count radically in favor of the Blues 21-14. Thankfully, when Chelsea did register such chances, there was nothing but a brick wall to stop them; a wall by the name of Gregor Kobel.

Gregor Kobel Masterclass

Sometimes you just need one player to step up when it matters most. When the squad doesn’t have its A-game and is dealing with opponents of high quality, sometimes one person needs to stand up and put the team on their shoulders. There were vast stretches of today’s match when Chelsea looked to have Dortmund on the ropes. Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk looked electric. BVB’s full backs were barely hanging on, and it only seemed to be a matter of time before Chelsea would break the ice... but they never did.

That’s because for the full 90 minutes, Gregor Kobel stood on his head and blocked every shot that came his way, and in the one instance when he didn’t fully stop the shot fired at him, he got just enough of the ball to slow it down for Emre Can to clear it just as it was rolling over the line. Over the course of the match, he made eight saves, including multiple high-danger chances. His biggest save consisted of one last brilliant diving stop on an Enzo Fernandez shot that seemed destined for the top corner, just as stoppage time was winding down:

One Moment of Brilliance From Adeyemi

Overall, Chelsea had the better chances, but they didn’t have the best one. That belonged to BVB’s own Karim Adeyemi. The young German has looked like a completely new player in 2023 year. Adeyemi now has three goals in his previous three appearances and, after his goal today, any questions about his future with the squad will have been silenced.

Adeyemi is fast. Only two weeks ago, he set a new Bundesliga record for the fastest sprint speed ever recorded during a match. Today, Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea’s newest nine-figure signing, learned of Adeyemi’s speed the hard way:

While Julian Brandt and Sebastien Haller are quality attackers, neither of them have that kind of sheer acceleration to possess the ball in front of a defender and blow right by them. Adeyemi adds a very dangerous dimension to BVB’s attack, and his goal today showed what he’s capable of if, he can execute properly.

A leg up

A 1-0 lead heading into the second leg is a good result, but it’s nowhere near enough for progression to the quarterfinals to be guaranteed. It will only take one breakthrough for Chelsea to level the score, and despite Gregor Kobel’s heroics today, I don’t have confidence in the squad to maintain another clean sheet against a squad with Mudryk and Felix. Barring another miraculous goalkeeping performance, Dortmund will need to find a way to score again, this time away from home. The squad hasn’t failed to do so yet in the new year, and all the tools are there; it’s just up to Edin Terzic to figure it out.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of today’s game? What do BVB need to improve heading into the second leg? Let me know your thoughts.

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