What can I say? I was cautiously optimistic heading into this match, with Dortmund’s 10-match winning run fresh in my mind. Late news of Alexander Meyer’s start confirmed my fears that Gregor Kobel would miss this match, but Meyer played well on Friday, so perhaps he could have brought that form with him to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea controlled this game through nearly the entire first half despite having a lower possession statistic. I think maintaining possession was one of Terzic’s main objectives given that the lineup was very defensive-minded, with Reus, Haller and Reyna our only true attacking players on the field. Chelsea slowly broke down the black and yellow defense and by the 40th minute, they were flirting with our goal. Raheem Sterling then found the net just before the break, equalizing this tie.
The second half saw the situation move from bad to worse as Marius Wolf’s handball awarded Chelsea a penalty, which they converted on their second attempt (more on that later). Once Dortmund needed a goal, the attack picked up. Unfortunately it never came together in a meaningful way. Emre Can and Jude Bellingham were among the only strong performers from BVB with this lackluster display. A few frantic attacks in stoppage time were never going to be enough to force extra time. Marco Reus and company will rue this missed opportunity.
Julian Brandt Was Injured at the Worst Possible Time
While he had his goal at the weekend pulled back, Brandt had scored in his previous four Bundesliga matches and has become one of Dortmund’s most creative and influential players in the final third this year. His muscular injury in the fifth minute of this match was a major blow to Terzic’s tactical plan. Gio Reyna is not a like-for-like player to substitute in for Brandt and despite Reyna’s recent heroics from the bench, Brandt is clearly stronger. Brandt came off having had his thigh wrapped in what I assume to be a hamstring injury. He was able to walk off the field so I’m optimistic that this injury will be minor, but losing Brandt could be devastating for Dortmund.
Let’s Talk About THAT Goal
Here’s the play in its entirety:
I’ll be the first to admit that I was calling bullshit on this penalty call, but once I saw the replay I knew it would become a penalty. Marius Wolf jumped with his head turned and was struck by a cross from near point-blank range. Was his arm in an unnatural position? No. Was his arm away from his side enough for a penalty? Probably. But that wasn't really the issue here. Kai Havertz took his first penalty kick which bounced off of the post before it was cleared by Salih Özcan. There was an awkward pause before Referee Danny Makkelie calls for the shot to be retaken. I thought Meyer must have been off his line, but when I saw the replay, he was not. The infringement was because several players had entered the box before the penalty kick had been taken. When viewing the replay however, I noticed Chelsea players enter the box before Dortmund players. It’s really unfortunate to be eliminated after something like this. It almost feels like Chelsea is rewarded for dissent.
Danny Makkelie and Chelsea’s Disrespect
Referee Danny Makkelie did not have a terrible match as the physicality of challenges never got out of control. Yet Makkelie did allow Chelsea’s players to walk all over him on several occasions. Every single free kick Dortmund took, Chelsea players were over their line, completely disregarding the foam line sprayed by Makkelie himself. In fact, he even blew his whistle at Chelsea players in the first half to obey this rule but Joao Felix still did not. This seemed to happen at every single BVB free kick. It’s a frustrating disregard for a rule which the on-field referee dictates. But if the match official doesn't enforce the rules when they blow the whistle for a free kick, then it allows teams like Chelsea to bully their way into better defending positions. Why should Dortmund obey the ref’s line for Chelsea free kicks when Chelsea can disregard the line for Dortmund's?
Being drawn against a club undergoing a £4 billion takeover was always going to be an uphill battle. Chelsea is a very strong team with a crowd of top talent from around the world. I think we can still be proud of Dortmund’s victory in the first leg but now the team must put the UCL behind them and refocus on the Bundesliga. PSG is probably the most overrated team in Europe so I fully expect Bayern to progress to the quarterfinals which means they will have a heavier match-congestion than Dortmund in the coming weeks. Bayern could slip up again and Dortmund need to pounce on that opportunity. We still have a perfect league record in 2023, and Terzic is still undefeated in the Pokal as a manager.
What do you make of Dortmund’s Champions League Exit? Would you have made different substitutions? Will Exiting UCL raise BVB’s chances of achieving Domestic silverware?