Dortmund's 3-1 defeat to Bundesliga new boys Union Berlin came as a shock on Matchday 3. After a host of smart signings, they were widely tipped to take Bayern's crown. Not on this evidence, writes Ed McCambridge.
Borussia Dortmund were outfought, outrun and, ultimately, outplayed. This Dortmund team might look the part on paper, but as a deafening home crowd thundered in the stands of a thumping Alte Försterei, those parts added up to nothing. Scratch a little beneath that expensive paint job and the same old engine continues to choke when the road gets tough for this team.
Earlier on Matchday three, title rivals Bayern delivered a 6-1 mauling of Mainz, sending an ominous message: Come on then, Dortmund, let's see what you're made of.
The answer was meek as Lucien Favre's players looked spineless in a manner that fans will have become all too familiar with in recent seasons.
Yes, you can lose matches. Yes, you can even do it against teams as inexperienced at this level as Union Berlin – participating in Germany's top tier for the first time in the club's history – but you need to go down swinging if you're to convince anyone of your title-winning credentials. Borussia Dortmund emphatically failed to do so.
Nothing should be taken away from Union. There's a special kind of magic around the club, and Dortmund won't be the only side to come away from East Berlin licking their wounds this season. But Dortmund fell to pieces in the second half, as the atmosphere and determination of their limited but tireless opponents spooked them.
Mats Hummels, re-signed from Bayern Munich in the summer to add a layer of steel and composure to an often disorderly defense, showed none of the former and only traces of the latter. He sprayed half a dozen sumptuous passes around the pitch in the opening 45 minutes, but, once the storm was weathered, Union found far too much space in the gaps around both the Germany World Cup winner and central-defensive teammate Manuel Akanji. Sir Alex Ferguson once said it's defense that wins you titles and on this evidence, it'll lose you them too.
Attack is usually the saving grace of this Dortmund side, but after Marius Bülter nonchalantly rolled in Union's eventual winner, we were reminded once again that Dortmund's Plan B was never really a proper plan at all. Give the ball to Marco Reus and hope he pulls a rabbit out of the hat. Even the greatest magicians have off days, and there were no heroics from the captain this time.
If there were any positives to take from this, Jadon Sancho bagged another assist to add to his impressive stats column and Julian Brandt looked tidy in his first start. Beyond that though, the only consolation for Dortmund is that they don't have to come back here again. Over the course of 90 minutes, the roar from the stands at the Alte Försterei can knock the wind out your sails, and tonight, even this early in the season, it turned title hopes into doubts as well.