It was a case of déjà vu for Borussia Dortmund as one good half of football was followed by an alarmingly poor one. Their Premier League hosts took advantage and now Dortmund's European dreams are in danger.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Borussia Dortmund
(Son 47', Vertonghen 83', Llorente 86')
A blistering second half from Dortmund's English hosts left the Bundesliga side's European dreams in tatters.
Despite missing Marco Reus, Lukasz Piszczek, Julian Weigl and Paco Alcacer, Dortmund started the brighter of the two. The front three of Mario Götze, Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic looked lively, with the English teenager stealing the show on his homecoming.
For all of Sancho's quality though, the final ball kept evading Dortmund. With the scores level at the break, thanks in part to Roman Bürki's sharp reaction save to stop Heung-min Son's cross causing more trouble, Dortmund looked well placed to secure a strong result away from home.
That all changed when Achraf Hakimi's attempt to play out from the back ended in a devastatingly good cross by Jan Vertonghen that Son sidefooted home. Stunned by the goal, one that Lucien Favre labeled a gift afterwards, Dortmund struggled to regain control as Spurs, Vertonghen in particular, excelled.
Pulisic, who endured more than enjoyed a game in the city that will be his home next season, might have changed the complexion of the match had he got a shot away at the end of a mazy run just after the hour mark, but his inability to do so was typical of Dortmund's second half.
With Dortmund tiring and the game winding down, Tottenham drove home their authority. Vertonghen turned from provider to scorer, nicking in behind Hakimi to smartly convert another well-placed cross. Just when Dortmund thought things couldn't get worse, Fernando Llorente stole a yard on Abdou Diallo to head home a corner at the near post.
Raphael Guerreiro came off the bench to curl a long-range effort just wide; Dortmund would not leave London with an away goal.
"It's really difficult to accept a 3-0 scoreline after the first half," Favre said afterwards. Dortmund will have the chance to get back to winning ways in the Bundesliga, but after games in Nuremberg and against Leverkusen, they will have to deliver one of the great performances to still be in Europe come April.
As it happened:
Dortmund's fantastic first half is followed by a poor second where they never really recovered from conceding two minutes after the restart. The two late goals might have just put the tie beyond Dortmund, and most frustratingly of all it feels quite similar to post the Hoffenheim game - the only difference is Dortmund didn't have a lead to blow. Lucien Favre and his men, even those returning for the second leg, have an enormous task ahead of them now.
90+2' CHANCE! Dortmund are probably out, but Raphael Guerreiro, who did come on in the end, curls a beauty inches past the far post. That would have changed things for the second leg...
86' GOAL! 3-0 Tottenham (Llorente) Is that the sound of Borussia Dortmund exiting the Champions League? The corner comes in, Fernando Llorente, who has just come on, beats Diallo at the near post and flicks his header in at the back post. Marking wasn't great, but Dortmund's general demise since Son's goal has made for tough viewing.
83' GOAL! 2-0 Tottenham (Vertonghen) Götze loses it, wants a foul but doesn't get it. Aurier whips in a brilliant cross and the man of the half, Jan Vertonghen, sneaks in behind Hakimi and meets the cross first time. A great finish, and a goal that makes a huge difference to the complexion of this tie. It seems Spurs scoring and Dortmund conceding late is not just something they do in their respective leagues.
82' Dortmund just can't the ball. Spurs are playing keep-ball and they're doing it well. Dahoud did have it once, but drove into traffic and then it was business as usual. Amazed that Favre hasn't made any attacking subs...
77' Lucas has a shot blocked and then slices one over. Favre makes a change, but it seems forced. Zagadou, who was just stretching before Spurs took their last corner, comes off for Schmelzer. Hakimi moves to right back, Diallo is next to Toprak. Still no attacking subs though. Guerreiro anyone?
74' Pulisic miscontrols in a game spot again. Dortmund are trying, but it's more huffing and puffing than passing and scoring. Spurs suddenly looking very comfortable and confident with the ball and this lead.
69' Dortmund finally launch an attack again, but after Delaney's dummy/flick just takes it away from Sancho, the ball gets caught up under Dahoud's feet which takes all of the power out of his shot. Dortmund need more of that (the attacking that is, not the poor execution).
66' Toprak makes a huge interception to stop Lucas from passing in a second. If Dortmund can get to 70/75 minutes without conceding a second, they have a chance to restart and launch an offensive in the final period of the game. Perhaps with a change or two?
62' CHANCE! Pulisic does the hard work, dribbles past Spurs defense, weaves into the box and even after initially being shrugged off the ball gets another chance but loses his bearings and Spurs clear. If he had just got a shot away there...
59' If the first half was the Sancho show, then this is the Vertonghen venture so far. The defender is looking so dangerous down the left. He bursts through the middle, passing players and then, just as the excitement peaks, he goes for goal and everyone remembers why he's still a defender. Still, a great move up until that point. Spurs in the ascendency now. Can Dortmund find an answer?
56' Eriksen gets a free kick 10 yards from the edge of the box. Perfect spot for him. It's his birthday tomorrow too... Into the wall. No early presents for the Dane. Not yet, at least.
53' Dortmund, naturally, look a bit rattled. The ultimate of false starts there from Favre's side. On top in the first half, but all that postivity swept away by one superb cross and finish. Credit to Spurs, though. Big 10/15 minutes coming up now.
47' GOAL! 1-0 Spurs (Son) Just like that, we have a goal and it's for Spurs! Hakimi loses it because he tries to trick his way out rather than just get rid (sometimes worth it), Vertonghen whips in an incredible cross that lands behind Dortmund's defense and perfectly for Heung-min Son to sidefoot across Bürki into the goal. A dream start for Spurs - and against the run of play too.
46' Spurs gets us restarted. P.S. Here's a reminder of when Favre didn't want to shake Pochettino's hand at the start of the game because he didn't want to give him germs. What a moment.
In short, Dortmund have had the better chances and you could make an argument they should be ahead. Spurs have had their moments, notably with Bürki's save, but so far it has been the Sancho show that has yet to deliver its headline act.
45' CHANCE! Sancho whips in a cross that Zagadou leaps to meet it at the back post but his header is more of a face push onto the face of Juan Foyth, the combination of which takes the pace off the ball and Lloris can push it away.
42' I'm still stunned about that decision. Good thing the game has continued. Dortmund are playing really well, though. Well positioned and although they've not converted one of their attacks, they look the smarter, livelier team.
38' What have we just seen? Pulisic threads a ball from deep to set (who else?) Sancho down the right. He surges forward, cuts in and just as he's about to pass it or shoot it, Sissoko clips his boot. The referee waves play on. Bizarre.
36' SAVE! Son bursts into the box on the left and drills a low cross that Lucas will just tap in - but Bürki's outstretched left boot stops it even getting to Lucas. Add that to the already long list of big saves Roman Bürki has made this season. Wow.
35' Götze goes across the edge of the area, feeds Delaney who just has a go from range. Lloris pushes it away and Spurs eventually clear. Dortmund not afraid to shoot whenever they can.
31' Dortmund are doing a great job of blocking Spurs from finding the pass lanes in between the lines. A lot of good work off the ball, notably from Götze, just as Spurs cross the halfway means that the home side is still looking for answers to the questions this Dortmund defense is posing of them.
29' The game is bubbling over nicely. In that key phase now. Can Spurs realign or will Dortmund strike first?
25' Dortmund are playing so well in attack now that if they don't score soon they'll regret it. Sancho dances around Spurs' midfield - he's really cooking now - and some neat passing later Dprtmund are in the box. Pulisic's shot is scuffed and all the potential disappears.
21' CHANCE! Dortmund really finding their feet now. Play goes wide quickly and then Dahoud plays a brilliant first-time pass to send Sancho down the right. He takes some of the tempo out of the attack, but then injects it again just as Spurs try to slow him down. His pass into the box is just behind Götze though. Everything but the final ball is missing.
20' Diallo is playing well, but it's clear he's not a midfielder. He takes that tick too long to spread the play, but he is sensing and moving into the space really well. Another such move sparks a Dortmund attack, but it ends in Lloris saving comfortably to deny Witsel's low drive from going in.
17' Sancho has some space to push into after a brilliant flick by Dahoud, but his first touch lets him down. Bit of a collector's item that.
15' CHANCE! Juan Foyth dallies on the edge of the area and Dortmund nip in thanks to good pressing by Pulisic and Götze. It's the American who gets the ball as a result and bearing on goal from the left-hand side of the box, but his shot is blocked. In truth, he took too long to shoot and the pass might also have been on. A chance though.
12' Serge Aurier gets booked after trying to take Christian Pulisic's shorts off as he sprints past him. The American could do with a big game, and on a big night like tonight wouldn't be bad either. Dortmund enjoying possession, but so far unable to find a way past Spurs.
10' Götze is working hard - as he has too. He nips in and gets the ball, but takes too long to move the ball and Dahoud eventually gives it away for his second errant pass of the night. Spurs break quickly, but the pass is over hit. The danger is clear to see though.
7' Lots of sideways running eventually pays off for Spurs. Eriksen goes wide, cross is cleared, but Sanchez heads it back in. Lucas times his run well, controls the ball on his knee and then smashes the volley towards the far corner. Just wide - and I mean just. Fizzing effort.
4' Few early bursts for Sancho, but Spurs deal with him well. Every time he touches the ball he just seems to add that something extra. Dortmund trying to spread the ball wide quickly - the only way to get any space behind or near Spurs' back five.
1' Dortmund get us started!
- Quick moment between Favre and Pochettino before the game. Favre doesn't want to give the Spurs head coach a handshake because he doesn't want to pass on his germs. Love that. Football time? I think so!
- Mario Götze, captain tonight, leads out his side at Wembley. In a different world, that sentence might have meant something else. Mind you, Götze leading this team out this season is a credit to how well he has played of late. Kick-off fast approaching!
- Lucien Favre is back on the sidelines having recovered from the cold that kept him absent from the Hoffenheim game. Speaking before the game, he says he feels ok. Here's hoping his side do better than that tonight.
- Wherever they go, Dortmund really do have quite the set of supporters.
- Quite an interesting stat, really. All this talk about Dortmund's attack but it's there defense that is really the key. Can it be again tonight, though, given the injuries? The team (see below) suggests it might be different than in recent weeks. On that note, I wrote something about Dortmund's defense just on the weekend. Might prove telling for their European campaign as well.
- For us at Wembley tonight is Matt Pearson. Be sure to give him a follow. He'll be our eyes and ears on the ground, and it seems he's already spotted quite a few Dortmund fans.
- Wembley is looking pretty glorious tonight. Not sure about those orange balls though.
- TEAMS! Dortmund opt for Diallo at left back (Hakimi moves to the right, Schmelzer on the bench) and what looks like a three man midfield. the front three were as expected, but Raphael Guerreiro is dropped. Tottenham opt for Lucas over Llorente or Lamela (both on the bench) and have a strong defensive base to work off of. This should be a lot of fun.
Dortmund XI: Bürki - Hakimi, Zagadou, Toprak, Diallo - Witsel, Delaney, Dahoud - Sancho, Götze, Pulisic
Tottenham XI: Lloris - Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Foyth, Vertonghen - Winks, Sissoko - Eriksen, Lucas - Son
- There are three German teams in the Champions League knockouts this season, and it's Dortmund who are up first. The narrative around their game is actually about who isn't playing, as both sides come into this one with long injury lists. Dortmund will be without Marco Reus (thigh), Lukasz Piszczek (heel), Julian Weigl (flu), Paco Alcacer (shoulder). Tottenham will be without Harry Kane (ankle), Dele Alli (muscle) and Danny Rose (shin).
While Reus' loss is the most glaring for BVB, the absence of two players that have become defensive cornerstones of late (Weigl and Piszczek) is perhaps more problematic. BVB's sporting director Michael Zorc said despite the injuries the club "won't be going there just to wave." It won't be long until we found out whether that's true or not.