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Mats Hummels leaves the field after being sent off
Mats Hummels was shocked and furious with the red card he was givenImage: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Dortmund undone by Mats Hummels red card

November 3, 2021

Billed as a revenge game for the Bundesliga side, a refereeing decision ended up costing Borussia Dortmund the chance at a win over Ajax. Mats Hummels was controversially sent off in the first half.


Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Ajax, Signal-Iduna Park
(Reus pen. 37' — Tadic 72', Haller 83', Klaassen 90+3')

What was supposed to be Steffen Tigges' night turned into another conversation about the video assistant referee (VAR) as 10-men Borussia Dortmund eventually succumbed to Ajax.

With the six-foot, five-inch, blonde striker Tigges deputizing for the injured Erling Haaland, Marco Rose asked the lanky forward to seize the moment. Instead, it was referee Michael Oliver who did when he harshly sent Mats Hummels off after just 29 minutes.

The defender slid in fast and his foot was off the ground but it was angled down and he came in from the side when he tackled Antony near the halfway line. In the end, it was the Ajax player whose foot ended up on top of Hummels' leg. Oddly, Oliver did not review the decision on the monitor but did consult with the VAR before sticking with his original decision, much to the shock of Hummels and most onlookers.

"I have no idea how you can give a red card there, how a referee at an apparent Champions League level can have the idea to give a red," Hummels said to DAZN afterward.

"An absurd mistake... It's a farce."

Marco Rose had something similar to say afterward.

"To have the opportunity to check the decision with people who can take a look at it... for them to say you can give that card then I'm sorry, then something is wrong in football."

With Hummels leaving the field shaking his head and apologizing to a packed Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund suddenly looked destined to endure another schooling. Instead, six minutes later, VAR chimed in again after Nourssair Mazraoui clipped Jude Bellingham in the box while running behind him. This time Oliver did have another look, and awarded Dortmund a penalty that Marco Reus converted.

Inevitable Ajax

With the large group of traveling away fans singing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" to start the second half, it felt very much like everything was going to be alright for Ajax. Even before the break, Erik ten Hag's team were knocking on the door. 

For 25 minutes, it looked like the door wouldn't break and that Dortmund's stubborn resistance would lead them to a memorable victory, one to throw at VAR in smug disgust.

Eventually, though, not even Tigges' endless running and Bellingham's tenacity could keep Ajax out.

Tiredness caught up with Marco Reus, who was just a little slow to close down Antony. Substitute Marin Pongracic's desire to clear was just a bit too great and then Dusan Tadic was at the back post. Ten minutes later, it was Ansgar Knauff who was late to close down Antony and Sebastien Haller headed home to score his seventh goal in his fourth game.

"The simulation of my opponent shouldn't be forgotten in this," Hummels said of Antony, who was named man of the match. "It’s unsporting. Antony came to me and told me it wasn't a red... He's a super footballer but he needs to learn to be a sportsman."

Dortmund's legs gave way, and Antony was there again to set up Davy Klaassen who confirmed a historic night for the Dutch club. For the first time in their history, Ajax have won their first four games in the Champions League.

In the circumstances, Dortmund would have been happy with a point. Instead, they're left with nothing but frustration, a feeling likely made worse by Sporting's win against Besiktas. With two games to go, Group C is much closer than a battered and bruised Borussia Dortmund would have wanted.

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