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Post Match Reaction: BVB Lose Their Champions League Opener

Dortmund fall 0-2 to PSG in an away match that was always going to be difficult

Paris Saint-Germain - Borussia Dortmund Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

And there it is: Dortmund’s 0-2 loss in Parc des Princes means we’ve opened the new Champion’s League campaign with a loss. But the away game against PSG was always going to be difficult. So what happened?

The Tactics

When the starting eleven was released I was confused as to why all three of our strikers were on the bench. By halftime, I understood exactly why. With a mere 22% possession in the first half, what would Haller, Füllkrug or Moukoko have done? Might as well put in another defensive player, right? The squad parked the bus and showed they could defend quite well when called upon, allowing just a single shot on target in the first half. The attacking strategy was to rely on the speed of Malen and Adeyemi and hope one of them can make something happen in a counter-attack.

The problem with this kind of strategy against a team like PSG is the squad puts so much focus on staying compact and cutting out any space for Mbappe, Kolo Muani and Dembele, that PSG are allowed to have sustained periods of possession in our own half, unmarked. When the squad is playing defense for such long stretches, it will naturally lead to an increase in fouls, and when the ball is being played within our own box as much as it was today, a penalty seems sure to follow. Both of Süle’s handballs in our box could have been called, or not called. I have no idea how these handballs work anymore.

There were some promising signs in this game. Once PSG scored and BVB needed a goal, I thought the team came to life and started challenging. Niclas Füllkrug made an immediate impact when subbed in, as did Marco Reus. Jamie Bynoe-Gittens even had a strike off the woodwork. Hummels and Schlotterbeck also defended professionally and... dare I say it? Nmecha looked decent. His passing wasn't great, but he won more one-on-one challenges than any other player on the pitch. His defending was pretty good.

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
The officiating of this match left much to be desired.
Photo by Franco Arland/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Early Signs of Trouble?

We’re into the “English Weeks” now with heavy match congestion. Marcel Sabitzer’s injury in the fourteenth minute is concerning; there were no theatrics involved but Sab seemed to know something was tweaked. Groin? Hamstring? We’ll find out soon I’m sure. Wolf’s late exit due to a muscular problem as well may be an indicator of squad fatigue early in the season. Mats Hummels has been one of our best players thus far in the season but can we really expect him to put in a full ninety minutes every three or four days? And having utilized each of our recognizable defenders today, I fear what the match-day squad will look like should one of Hummels, Schlotterbeck, Süle, Bensebaini or Ryerson become injured. What if we lose two of them? I don't think we can rely on the likes of Henry Blank, Mario Marquez or Lion Semic. Look up Dortmund’s official Champions League Roster to find out which of those names I made up.

We need to learn how to pass.

I’d like to direct some criticism toward Karim Adeyemi since he seems integral to Edin Terzic’s tactical plans this season. The kid is Sonic-the-Hedgehog fast but he does so little with the ball. After witnessing his form last spring, I keep thinking one of these days he is going to shine. I’m still waiting. Bensebaini and Nmecha have both demonstrated poor passing... as have Ryerson and Wolf. Actually, the whole team should probably drill this. I know PSG are good, but we’re never going to score with a 62% passing success rate.

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Marco Reus controls the ball
Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images

On to the next one.

PSG are a juggernaut of European football and the away game in Paris should be the most difficult fixture for BVB (on paper). At least that’s behind us. And a two-goal defeat isn’t too embarrassing either. AC Milan and Newcastle finished 0-0 and the group is still wide open despite our current position. A loss never feels great, so let’s put it behind us. Plus, we can all rest easy knowing that our club isn't owned by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

There are enough promising signs from both our defense and our attack that I fancy a win this weekend. I’m really looking forward to seeing Füllkrug’s first start. Will it be Saturday?

What did you think of today’s loss? Can anyone actually explain the handball rule at this point? Let us know down below.