Borussia Dortmund have lost the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final with AS Monaco 3-2 (2-0). The bomb attack on the BVB Team Bus a day earlier was clearly hanging over the players in the first 45 minutes, but after the interval they put it to the back of their minds for a while and might consider themselves unlucky not to have equalised.
Dennis-Julian Gottschlich reporting
French newspaper L'Équipe perfectly captured the mood in the Borussia Dortmund camp on Wednesday morning. "How can this German team and its players be expected to be able to play 24 hours afterwards, to act as if nothing has happened and be their normal selves? Nobody knows how they will react and what impact the emotional burden will have on their performance," wrote the sports daily the morning after the bomb attack that left Marc Bartra with a broken radial bone in his arm and bits of debris lodged in his right hand.
Despite – or, in some cases, because of – the events of the previous day, 65,848 spectators made their way into a sold-out SIGNAL IDUNA PARK and produced an outstanding choreography to ramp up the atmosphere before kick-off. Thomas Tuchel's team, however, had problems getting into the game and failed to convert two half-chances through Aubameyang (4, 11) and another good opportunity for Kagawa in the opening stages. Instead, it was Monaco who broke the deadlock, racing into a 2-0 lead thanks to a Mbappé goal from an offside position (19) and an unfortunate own goal from Sven Bender (35). It could have been three if Fabinho had converted a 17th-minute penalty. After the interval BVB improved vastly, piling the pressure on the visitors and pulling one back through Dembélé in the 57th minute. As the game moved into the closing stages Mbappé re-established the two-goal lead (79), before Kagawa again cut the deficit five minutes later. Ultimately, though, the equaliser eluded Borussia and they were not able to get the draw they deserved.
The match was rescheduled for one day after the initial fixture. There had been "no alternatives", according to BVB Chief Executive Officer Hans-Joachim Watzke. "We have a very congested fixture list. The return leg is scheduled for next week. It wasn't possible to move it to Thursday either, as we can't keep Monaco here for three days. They've got another match at the weekend." The mood within the Black and Yellow camp was very clear. "We're playing for Marc Bartra," declared captain Marcel Schmelzer.
And now back to sporting matters. Both teams had qualified for the knockout stages as group winners before overcoming a first-leg defeat in the last 16 to progress to the quarter-finals. BVB won their second leg 4-0 having lost 1-0 to Benfica in Lisbon, while Monaco suffered a 5-3 reverse at Manchester City before winning the return fixture 3-1 to go through on away goals.
In addition to Bartra, Borussia Dortmund were without Castro (adductors), Rode (muscular problems), Reus (fitness following fibre tear), Schürrle (ankle), Durm (tear) and Götze (metabolic disorder). The lengthy list of absences meant the squad was down to just 17 players. Thomas Tuchel made four changes to the starting XI that were beaten in Munich on Saturday, with Bender and Weigl replacing Bartra and Castro, while Passlack and Pulisic both dropped to the bench for Piszczek and Kagawa. Monaco were without Sidibé (appendicitis), Bakayoko (suspended), Boschilia (torn cruciate ligament) and Carrillo (thigh).
Borussia lined up in a very attack-minded 3-1-4-2 formation in which a back three of Piszczek, Sokratis and Bender were protected by Weigl as the sole defensive midfielder. Guerreiro and Kagawa occupied central roles as the cogs in the midfield machine, while Ginter and Schmelzer were on the flanks. Aubameyang and Dembélé spearheaded the attack. Without possession, Schmelzer dropped back into defence to expand the back three into a back four. Monaco defended in a 4-3-3 system but transitioned into 4-4-2 going forward. Thomas Tuchel opted for a tactical reshuffle during the interval, switching to a 4-3-3 with Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter and Guerreiro in defence, Kagawa, Weigl and Sahin in midfield and Pulisic, Aubameyang and Dembélé in the front three. Dembélé later dropped in behind the two forwards, with Guerreiro taking his position on the left.
The match & analysis:
BVB looked to dominate from the off and twice created promising chances for Aubameyang in the opening stages. A strong challenge from Monaco centre-back Glik in the fourth minute denied the Gabon international a shooting opportunity; then a short while later the forward fired over the crossbar from a narrow angle approximately 14 metres out. Monaco, on the other hand, limited themselves to counter-attacks and had their first gilt-edged opportunity to get on the scoresheet on the 17-minute mark after Sokratis had held back Monaco forward Mbappé in the penalty area. The Frenchman went down rather softly and the referee awarded the principality club a spot-kick, which was dragged narrowly wide by Fabinho.
The relief inside the BVB Stadium was short-lived, however, as Monaco broke the deadlock with their next counter-attack. Bernardo Silva broke through the middle at speed before picking out Lemar, whose cross into the six-yard box was bundled over the line by Mbappé in the 19th minute. The Monaco frontman was clearly offside when Lemar played the ball – a fact that escaped the attention of the match officials. The Black and Yellows could have equalised later through Kagawa but the Japan international's effort went narrowly wide from six metres (31). Things soon got worse for Borussia: rather than levelling at 1-1, the hosts found themselves 2-0 down before the break after Bender unluckily headed Raggi's cross past his own goalkeeper following a tussle with Falcao (35).
Guerreiro and Kagawa on the scoresheet
Borussia Dortmund came very close to halving the deficit through a Dembélé direct free-kick immediately after the interval, although the Frenchman's effort from 17 metres sailed a good metre wide of the goal (47). However, the desire among the Black and Yellow players, now looking significantly more attack-minded following the introduction of Pulisic and Sahin, was clear. Several crosses were fizzed into the Monaco box between the 48th and 55th minutes, but on each occasion the danger was averted by one of Glik, Fabinho or Raggi. Sensing that the game was far from over, the crowd urged the Black and Yellows forward with vociferous support from the stands. A goal for the hosts was only a question of time, and eventually came in the 57th minute when Sahin fed Guerreiro, whose cross into the box was imaginitively backflicked into the path of Kagawa by Aubameyang. The Japan international sidestepped Monaco custodian Subasic and Dembélé was left with a tap-in from close range (57).
Briefly freed from the burden of yesterday's events, the hosts were clearly in the ascendancy for a while and pressed the team from the principality back into their own penalty area. Aubameyang went inches wide after being set up by Dembélé in the 59th minute and Guerreiro drilled the ball across the face of goal from the corner a short while later (62), then Pulisic shot from 17 metres out only for Subasic to make a comfortable save (77). Monaco, however, remained unperturbed by the waves of attack coming towards their goal and continued to wait for opportunities to counter. Falcao had the chance to make it 3-1 from a narrow angle 15 metres out but missed (76) and, shortly afterwards, BVB were made to pay for a defensive error: Mbappé intercepted an underhit pass and fired an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 17 metres to make it 3-1 (79).
BVB, though, were not done yet. From the right Sahin played the ball into the centre, where Kagawa controlled it ten metres from goal before sidestepping two opponents and slotting home a low effort from six metres to cut the deficit again (84). BVB continued to link up dangerously in the Monaco box in the closing stages but the equaliser eluded them, with Aubameyang missing their best chance of the final minutes – a header from four metres – in the first minute of stoppage time.
The return leg will take place next Wednesday (19 April, 20:45 CET) at the Stade Louis II in Monaco. Beforehand the Black and Yellows will play host to Eintracht Eintracht in the Bundesliga on Saturday (15:30 CET).