Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League - but for how long? | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.04.2021

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Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League - but for how long?

Dortmund have followed Bayern out of the Champions League. But even in defeat to Manchester City in a disappointing season, there are signs that Dortmund are doing something right under immensely difficult conditions.

Riyah Mahrez scores a penalty

Borussia Dortmund took the lead but couldn't hang on against Manchester City

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 (2-4 agg.) Manchester City, Signal-Iduna Park
(Bellingham 15' - Mahrez 54' pen., Foden 75')

"This is the only way for Borussia Dortmund," said Hans-Joachim Watzke this week.

The Dortmund chief executive was defending the Bundesliga club's policy of scouting young players, offering them a platform to develop, and selling them on for a large profit. "And it's working fantastically."

After defeat to Manchester City saw Dortmund exit the Champions League, perhaps for over a year given their current position in the Bundesliga, it may seem hard to believe Watzke.

But the 61-year-old has a point. Speaking to the BBC, he was responding to accusations from City manager Pep Guardiola that Dortmund pay too much to agents in order to secure players. As Watzke pointed out, the Catalan has a habit of forgetting that he has spent almost €1 billion ($1.2 billion) of Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth on his own team.

Because that is what Borussia Dortmund are up against: teams backed by nation states in the Champions League, and the might of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. In order to even try to close the gap, they need a strategy.

And despite what could ultimately end up a disappointing season with only the German Cup left to play for, there have been enough signs, on and off the pitch, that that strategy is working – not least against City.

Erling Haaland challenges for the ball at a corner

Erling Haaland is just one of many players who have exploded since joining Dortmund

Brilliant Bellingham

For three quarters of this quarterfinal, Borussia Dortmund held their own. "We played against maybe the best team in the world and we saw we can match them," said Emre Can.

Erling Haaland may have been quiet, but Jude Bellingham wasn't. In Manchester, the 17-year-old's intelligent pressing and positional play helped give Dortmund a surprising degree of control in midfield, before helping set up Marco Reus' away goal.

He also had a perfectly good goal ruled out himself, but made up for it with a sublime finish in the second leg, digging the ball out of his feet and arrowing an effort into the top corner to put Dortmund ahead.

They were going through to the semifinals on away goals – before Can's handball, Phil Foden's thunderbolt and City's sheer quality eventually turned the tide.

But the fact that Bellingham even plays for Borussia Dortmund in the first place is also testament to Watzke's strategy. Manchester United wanted him. They wanted Haaland and Jadon Sancho, too, as did others. But all three ended up at the Westfalenstadion, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic did before them.

Jadon Sancho celebrates with Marco Reus

How long will Jadon Sancho be at Dortmund?

'We do not have to sell players'

Buy young, provide the platform, sell big, repeat. It's an arrangement which suits the players, their agents and Dortmund. Combined with the revenues from the largest average attendances in Europe and an increasingly global marketing strategy, BVB have worked their way into a position whereby they are no longer obliged to sell to Bayern Munich. As last summer's Sancho saga showed, they can even stand up to Premier League money, under the right circumstances.

Of course, Watzke is all too aware that two of those pillars have now collapsed, at least temporarily. Borussia Dortmund lose around €4 million for every home game played behind closed doors during the pandemic. An absence from next season's Champions League obviously detracts massively from their budget, let alone their attractiveness for top, young talent.

Nevertheless, despite recording a €43.5 million loss in 2020, and expecting to lose a further €70 million this year, Watzke insists that Dortmund's financial position pre-Covid-19 ("We had no debt, not one euro, it is a comfortable situation") was such that "we do not have to sell players."

Agent Mino Raiola, of course, sees things differently. His client Haaland's release clause doesn't come into effect until summer 2022, but it's hard to see how Dortmund could refuse a truly huge offer this summer, should it come. The same applies to Sancho.

Indeed, how many of these players will still be wearing yellow and black the next time Borussia Dortmund play in the Champions League remains to be seen. When Marco Rose takes over from interim coach Edin Terzic in the summer, it will be his responsibility to lead the rebuild, and there's no reason for Dortmund to stray from the path they are on.

Their overall performance against Manchester City, as epitomized by Jude Bellingham, is evidence that they're doing something right.

Ansgar Knauff holds his head in his hands

Ansgar Knauff started but couldn't help Dortmund win

Dortmund vs. City - as it happened:

See you next year Dortmund?

Another breathtaking night of European football is over, and sadly it ends with another German team leaving the competition. The real question for Dortmund now though is to get back here. Will they be back next year? It'll take something remarkable, but with this team you never know. Good night!

Edin Terzic to Sky

On the result:

"After three of four halves we were through. It's tough to give it away from there but congrats to City. They deserved to advance."

On the handball:

"Handball is always tough to decide. We have referee schooling each year and are told if you head the ball onto your own arm then it's not a penalty. We were unlucky with decisions in the last week. Tonight, it's not a penalty for me. But again, congrats to City. They deserved to progress."

On the equalizer and what it did for City:

"We woke the thinking in them and they got a second wind and that made it easier for them."

On going out:

"We reduced their possession and chances on goal. We took the lead. We were through after three of four halves so the disappointment is big."

"We are also people. We had big dreams before this game. We will use the Wednesday to be disappointed and then wake up tomorrow and work towards beating Bremen."

Captain Marco speaks to Sky

"We did really well until the penalty. They had the better chances in the first half. After the penalty we didnt really have a plan. We were too wild. It was hard to get the ball after that."

"It was a penalty from where I was, but Emre just said he hit it with his head first. Honestly, if it had been on the other side we would have called for it. They were better today. We have to accept that."

"It's so hard to press them. If you open up once they counter without mercy. That's tough."

Emre Can chats to Sky

"It wasn't bad on the whole. The game changed after 1-1. I know I played it with m head first and then my arm and as far as I know that's not a handball according to the rules. It's tough to lose this way. We were denied a goal in the first leg as well. It's tough."

"We can be proud. We played against maybe the best team in the world and we saw we can match them. There are lots of positives but it hurts because we had the chance to progress."

FINAL! Borussia Dortmund are out of the Champions League after losing to Manchester City who will play PSG in the semifinal

82' Time is running out

A raft of subs. This game is gone for Dortmund I think. Brandt and Tigges on for Morey and Bellingham. Hazard's low cross is blocked. Pep Guardiola is heading towards his first European semifinal with City. The question for Dortmund is, when will they be back?

75' GOAL! 2-1 Manchester City (Foden)

That is probably that. From the resulting corner, City take it quickly and short. Foden gets space on the edge of the box and smashes it in off the near post. Hitz won't be happy but it was traveling. Dortmund need three. That might be that.

74' King Kevin!

Dortmund are missing the final ball when they get into the final third. They are running out of time and steam. Morey's misplaced ball ends up with de Bruyne. He dances through the defense but Hitz saves. Dangerous stage now for Dortmund.

68' Tension rises

Over the microphones near the pitch, it sounds like Gündogan just told Bellingham to stop crying because he didn't touch you. The Germany international not happy at all. Bellingham's quick feet wins Dortmund a free kick. Knauff is brought off for Gio Reyna.

60' Reus response?

What now Borussia Dortmund? Another goal sends us to extra time. Have they got something left or was the gameplan built off not conceding? Marco Reus needs to rally his teammates. Dahoud turns in the box but his shot is blocked. Oh what might have been...

54' GOAL! 1-1 City (Mahrez)

An incredible penalty by Mahrez, smashed into the top corner. No chance for Hitz.

53' PENALTY to City!

City trying to turn the screw here. Hitz saves but then it's a penalty to City after Emre Can (the same man from the first leg) is penalized for a handball in the box. He leans to head the ball but it does clip his arm and his arm is wide. He begs for a check, which he gets. It takes a while, but then Can has his head in hands and it's a penalty.

46' Destiny time

This half starts with a bang. De Bruyne bellows at the referee that Morey deserves a yellow for a hold. Morey escapes punishment and Dortmund deal with the ball into the box. Can Dortmund really do this?

HALFTIME

Well, what a half. Dortmund stayed focused early, scored the goal they needed and just about dealt with City as the half went on. Another night with a Bundesliga team in Europe, another fantastic half of football. Here's to another 45 minutes, if you can handle it.

40' Halftime in sight

Hitz saves a header, Bellingham gets booked for a push, City waste a long ball into the box. Dortmund just have to survive another five minutes and they are halfway there.

 

35' Jude energy

So far, Dortmund have weathered the storm. The question is, can they for the rest of the game? Jude Bellingham is up for this. Foden somehow keeps a long ball in, Mahrez looks like he'll score but Bellingham (and Hitz) slides in to clear. He gets up and pumps his fist. Two minutes later, he wins the ball in midfield with a strong tackle but it is deemed a foul, to his confusion. Dortmund hanging in there.

27' de Bruyne hits the crossbar!

Dortmund nearly inflict their own wound. Morey dribbles out from the edge of his own box, loses it and Kevin de Bruyne curls one onto the bar. Silva wants a penalty after he felt held when he headed the rebound wide, nothing there. What a chance though. Dortmund have to tidy things up there.

25' Advantage Dortmund

Now comes the real test for City. I think Dortmund will need more than this one goal though. There's just too much football left to play. Terzic has been non-stop shouting from the sideline. Dortmund deal with back-to-back City corners. This really is a game now.

15' GOAL! 1-0 Dortmund (Bellingham)

Goodness me. A long ball forward to Haaland is held up, played back to Dahoud. His shot is blocked but the rebound falls to Bellingham, who takes a touch and curls it into the top corner. Ederson gets a touch but it's not enough. What a goal. Dortmund reward themselves for such a disciplined start.

10' City in control

Other than a powerful but savable shot from Mo Dahoud, Dortmund haven't had enough of the ball to pose a threat. City have spent most of the first 10 minutes moving the ball from the left to right, mostly in Dortmund's half too. Pep's side are patiently waiting for an opening, Dortmund hoping to pounce as soon as they get the ball.

Kick off!

Teams come out of the tunnel and after the anthem, there's a roar from Marco Reus to his team. Time for something special? Dortmund get us underway.

Terzic talks

Dortmund's interim head coach Edin Terzic has spoken to Sky before the game.

On Reus: "We hope he can keep playing as he has done in recent weeks."

On Haaland: "We don't measure him just on the goals he scores for us but also it's important on how he works for the team."

On the game: "We knew when the draw was made it would be difficult. We wanted to make it about one game. After the result in Manchester, we have done that... Today is a final. There will be a winner and a loser and we will do all we can to be the winner."

Team news!

Dortmund keep Ansgar Knauff in after his late winner in Stuttgart. Otherwise, Emre Can moves into midfield with Delaney out.

City have no clear striker (of course) and Zinchenko is in for Cancelo.

Dortmund XI: Hitz - Morey, Akanji, Hummels, Guerreiro - Can, Bellingham, Dahoud - Reus, Knauff - Haaland

City XI: Ederson - Zinchenko, Stones, Dias, Walker - De Bruyne, Rodri, Gündogan - Silva, Foden, Mahrez

Message still clear

Even though there are no fans in Dortmund's stadium tonight, their message remains the same. Having watched last night's game, who wants to change this anyway? DW's Matt Pearson wrote a lovely piece about why last night reminded us how fun football can be.

Another game missing something

The pandemic has been with us for a long time, and in the world of football that has meant empty stadiums for over a year now. It feels a long time since Dortmund's famous stadium has been rocking like everyone knows it can.

No Delaney

Good evening! With Bayern Munich now out, Germany's hopes in Europe rest on Borussia Dortmund's shoulders. They're down by one but have to turn it around against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Team news will follow shortly, but it seems that Dortmund will be without Thomas Delaney tonight. The Dane was missing in the final training session yesterday and according to reports is out for tonight.

Bellingham for the Euros?

While Manchester City alumni Jadon Sancho will again miss out through injury, and Marco Reus' is a doubt, Jude Bellingham is available to make a 39th appearance in breakthrough season in Germany.

Still just 17, the Englishman has impressed even in a difficult campaign for BVB with his maturity, composure and passing range and became the Bundesliga's youngest ever English goalscorer recently. He was denied a goal in Manchester in controversial circumstances but is certainly catching the eye back in his homeland, having made his international debut at the back end of 2020.

Old boy out to attack

While there's plenty of attention on Erling Haaland, with rumors of a move to City persisting, a Dortmund old boy has been a revelation in sky blue this term. Ilkay Gündogan has scored more Premier League goals this season (12) than he did in five Bundesliga seasons with BVB. He expects his team to attack.

"Defending a result does not fit the way we play as players and as a team," Gündogan said in Tuesday's pregame press conference. "We should go out to win the game. That’s what we are used to and that's how we will handle the game in Germany, the same as we did here."

Given the imminent return of a limited number of spectators to selected games in England, Gündogan was also asked about the absence of fans at Wednesday's game.

"Going to Dortmund and knowing there is no crowd, it feels like it is a disadvantage for Dortmund," he answered. "I played there for five years, I know how loud it can be in that stadium. It was the same at our stadium last week. There is something missing in football at the moment."

A glimmer of hope

Fifth in the Bundesliga vs. Premier League champions-elect, one of the most successful coaches in the game vs. a rookie, young talent vs. superstars. This one looked like a mismatch but Dortmund were unfortunate not to come away from Manchester with more than they did.

Though, Phil Foden's late strike and Jude Bellingham's controversially disallowed goal means they trail on aggregate, Edin Terzic's side have a crucial away goal and, according to their interim coach, plenty of faith. 

"The belief here is great, but that alone will not be enough. We have shown that we can hold out against top teams. It will be a brutally difficult task, we have to work hard and be courageous tomorrow."