BVB suffer from sound of silence in Champions League exit
Paris St. Germain 2-0 Borussia Dortmund (3-2 agg.)
(Neymar 28', Bernat 45+1')
Perhaps for a side so intrinsically connected to their fans, Borussia Dortmund were fated to exited the Champions League via an empty stadium.
For far too much of the game, Dortmund were reactive rather than active. The Bundesliga side's passing was off, their pace noticeably slower, and Lukasz Piszczek looked like a man who really had played his final Champions League season. Not even Jadon Sancho's sparks of intent were enough to cause damage. Dortmund were as absent as the crowd.
In truth though, much more than Dortmund's performance felt off. Football's persistance to keep the show going felt at odds with the state of the world in the clutches of the coronavirus.
Before a ball had been kicked, thousands of PSG fans ignored the fact the French government had banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. They cheered on the home team's bus as it made its way to the crowd. And as the goals went in, the large crowd celebrated en masse.
Football's answer to stopping the spread of coronavirus suddenly appeared questionable.
"It was strange, but for both teams," Mats Hummels said afterwards. "It's not a question of positive or negative, it was odd for both teams."
As the game kicked off, fireworks were let off outside. Seven minutes in, the fabricated stadium atmosphere blaring out of the speakers inside the Parc des Princes was turned off. It all just felt so strange, but from a football perspective the multiple transitions from silence to simulated atmosphere back to silence cannot have been easy to digest.
Yet it seemed BVB were the only ones who had a problem with the eerie atmosphere. PSG looked like a side determined to overcome years of Champions League hurt, one focused on delivering a performance worthy of making the quarterfinals. They wobbled in the final 15 minutes, as is their style, and Neymar helped Emre Can get sent off, as is his style, but this time PSG were the ones making the comeback. This time, and somewhat ironically against his former side, Thomas Tuchel was the right coach.
"The fans were missed," said Erling Haaland, who struggled to get into the game. "That's not an excuse for our performance, but you absolutely need them."
PSG weren't phased. Neymar's diving header came when the Brazilian stole into the space that inevitably comes when everyone rushes to the front post to defend a corner. And the speed with which PSG shifted the ball around before Juan Bernat got the decisive touch for the second goal was exactly what Dortmund spent an hour searching for.
"It wasn't all that bad," Hummels said. "The easy loss of possession wasn't great and shouldn't happen, but on the whole it was a game with few chances. We didn't really have any clear-cut chances."
Dortmund had come into this game having won three in a row domestically, including games that were hard-earned rather than their usual nerve-racking. There were some red flags in the win against Gladbach, but the overall trend was in the right direction.
Perhaps it is the absence of the thrill that made this night so hard for a team that has built much of its modern identity on loud, passionate, attacking football. Perhaps, as Hummels admitted afterwards, PSG were just stronger and deserved to progress.
Either way, another trophy-less season now looms for Dortmund.
As it happened:
A simply superb performance from PSG, is this the season they finally get things right? Thomas Tuchel has guided them to their first quarter-final appearance since 2015-16. For Dortmund, that was disappointing. They were uninspiring and failed to truly test PSG in attack, while their defense let them down when it mattered. Just the Bundesliga left to play now for Dortmund. PSG head into the final eight!
89' RED! Emre Can has been sent off the pitch. Looked like the referee was initially going to hand out a yellow. A little soft, as Neymar had shoved his face into Can's in the first instance.
88' Tussle between the two camps now after PSG's players took umbrage with Emre Can pushing over Neymar. Clock is ticking down.
85' PSG are seeing out this game like absolute pros. Dortmund have hardly been given a sniff all night.
79' Dortmund are upping the pressure and PSG are happy to defend this one out. Defender Layvin Kurzawa comes on for Angel Di Maria.
78' Brandt with another shot just outside the 18-yard line. Deflected and loops over Navas onto the roof of the net. Corner.
73' Brandt finds space at the top of the box and lets loose... but it shaves Navas's post. Still no dice for Dortmund. They look stale and out of ideas, perhaps Brandt can help shock them into action.
71' Giovanni Reyna replaces Axel Witsel. Just minutes after Julian Brandt entered the field for Thorgan Hazard. Lucien Favre looking to instil some creativity into his side.
63' Mbappe comes on for Sarabia. It doesn't look like getting any easier for Dortmund...
60' Yellow for Hummels after he brings down Cavani with a rugby-style tackle. PSG were away on the counter then, but Zagadou was covering so no call for a sending off.
55' Flying save from Bürki as he tips Di Maria's 30-yard free-kick around the post. It was possibly just going wide, but still an impressive leap from Dortmund's number one.
52' Dortmund made a positive re-start, but still couldn't managed to fashion a chance. PSG are settled again now and not giving Dortmund an inch.
46' We're back underway. Dortmund need a vast improvement on their first half effort.
A disappointing Dortmund two goals down against a pretty clinical and comfortable looking PSG side. One away goal sends the match into extra-time, however. So still all to play for in the second half! But the Black and Yellows will have to find a way of bringing Haaland more into the game. The young Norwegian hasn't had much of a chance so far tonight. And the more Dortmund push for that vital goal, the more Kylian Mbappe's pace comes into play if/when he comes off the bench.
45' GOAL! Shambolic defending from Dortmund. Juan Bernat turns in a cross with a slight touch taking it past a stranded Bürki. Neymar at the center of the action once again, finding space in midfield to kick-start the attack.
36' Sancho tries his luck from a free-kick but it's not problem for Navas. Dortmund holding most of the possession but struggling to pose PSG any real problems. The hosts are looking pretty comfortable.
28' GOAL! Who else but Neymar! A diving header from the Brazilian as he connects with a PSG corner. Poor all-round from Dortmund, but Hakimi particularly at fault for losing his marker. Too easy. PSG go through on away goals as it stands...
25' BIG CHANCE. Cavani is through on goal and hits a hard, low shot which looks destined for the bottom corner. But Bürki's outstretched foot deflects the effort away for a corner. First real chance for PSG, this game is an open affair.
22' Haaland again almost played in on goal by Hakimi, but Kimpembe intervenes with a fantastic sliding challenge to clear the ball. Dortmund finding some joy down the wings, with Hakimi switching from right to left.
19' Hakimi breaks down the left and his ball across the box only just evades Haaland who was sliding in at the far post. The balls works its way back to the top of the box, but Sancho hits his shot wide. Decent sign there for Dortmund.
15' Dortmund are lumping it long to Haaland at the moment and it's obvious that won't be enough. Down the other end, Neymar weaves his way through but his ball is deflected and claimed by Bürki. Just a bit all over the place at the moment this game, which is understandable, really.
10' Neymar has to get some treatment after landing on his shoulder but he's fine, eventually. Dortmund do also find a way forward, but it ends quickly. Worth remembering that a 1-0 win for the hosts would be enough for them to get through. It feels quite tense early on, a few tackles coming in hard.
7' Suddenly that sound disappears and it turns out that was being played over the speakers and UEFA just said that's not on. We're back to the silence of the evening and the occasional shout from players as they navigate where to move and pass the ball. It feels really odd now that that sound has been turned off. All just very weird. Bernat does well but the cross is cleared. Neymar drives forward but Hummels makes a great tackle. Still, Dortmund can't get outside their own half.
5' Dortmund look a little nervous here to start. Hakimi gives the ball away needlessly. PSG having a lot of the ball. And those fans outside are still being heard. Almost like some turned the atmosphere level up halfway for this one.
1' We are underway, and the sound of fireworks rings around the ground as the fans outside celebrate the start of the game from outside. You can still here them as PSG look to strike early. Dortmund all in yellow.
— Teams are out, music is on and then there's the gap where the atmosphere would be. We are good to go. Sounds of fans outside are leaking through though. Nearly go time, which feels odd and wrong all things considered.
— Words from the coaches
Lucien Favre speaking before the game: "It will be different, it will be special. We're not used to it. We have to deliver a top performance and of course defend well."
Tuchel: "Kylian Mbappe could not help us for 90 minutes, but he can help us finish the match."
Dortmund opt to leave Julian Brandt on the bench, where he is joined by Manuel Akanji, Mario Götze and Gio Reyna. Some options there for sure. Otherwise, the in-form players start across the board. Keen to see how Piszczek matches up against the pace of PSG's midfield.
PSG have Mbappe on the bench, which must be a question of fitness. Otherwise, Thomas Tuchel has picked an extremely attacking side with Di Maria, Neymar and Cavani all starting. I expect goals, even if there's no one there to cheer them going in.
Dortmund XI: Bürki - Hakimi, Hummels, Zagadou, Piszczek - Can, Witsel - Guerreiro, Hazard, Sancho - Haaland
PSG XI: Navas - Kehrer, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bernat - Paredes, Gueye - Di Maria, Neymar, Sarabia - Cavani
— PSG fans have made sure the home team have at least some of their bus journey to the ground lit up by a lot of flares.
— Both sides have had good form since they last met, which adds to the expectation around this game. After this, Dortmund have the biggest game on their annual calendar: the derby against Schalke (another game without fans). Paris face Nice, also without fans.
PSG: 4-3 vs. Bordeaux, 4-0 Dijon, 5-1 vs. Lyon
BVB: 2-0 vs. Bremen, 1-0 vs. Freiburg, 2-1 vs. Gladbach
— About those fans gathering outside the Parc des Princes, it looks like they came prepared for a party. Here they are outside the Porte d'Auteuil metro station.
— There's a banner in the home stands that suggests the home fans believe Kylian Mbappe is better than Haaland. The truth is, having both playing in the same game is a lot of fun for the netural. L'Equipe reported yesterday that Mbappe was being tested for the coronavirus, and while the results were expected today (no sign of them yet) the signs suggested he did not have the virus.
— It does look a beautiful evening in Paris, but not many will be able to experience it in the stadium. There is however some talk of some PSG fans gathering outside to welcome the team.
— All eyes will be on Erling Haaland. He did score two in the first leg, but has now gone two Bundesliga games without a goal. That is almost a drought for a player who has already scored 12 in 10 for his new club. It seems likely he will play a key role here tonight.
— Good evening! Despite the fact that sporting events are being canceled or postponed around the world due to the coronavirus, the Champions League continues - just without any fans! Dortmund travel to Paris hoping that the unusual atmosphere won't stop them from making the quarterfinals.