Borussia Dortmund suffered their first defeat of the season as they were deservedly beaten 2-0 (1-0) by Atlético Madrid on UEFA Champions League Matchday 4. But despite losing their unbeaten streak on their 16th outing, the Black & Yellows still have their fate in their own hands and boast a superior head-to-head record against the Spaniards.
Boris Rupert reporting
The approximately 60,000 spectators at an under-capacity but nonetheless well-attended Wanda Metropolitano saw Sául Niguez open the scoring for Atlético Madrid in the 33rd minute with the first clear-cut opportunity of the match, and the hosts were good value for their lead in the ensuing minutes as they delivered a dominant display that had the Black & Yellows on the ropes. The defeat was sealed when Griezmann added a second with 10 minutes remaining.
A Borussia win would prematurely secure a first-place finish in the group, while a draw would wrap up qualification to the knockout stages. However, the Black & Yellows had only ever won once on Spanish soil − against Atlético Madrid in October 1996. That defeat more than two decades ago was the last time the Rojiblancos had lost on home turf to German opposition, despite having hosted Bundesliga teams eight times in the intervening years (W6 D2).
There were four changes to the BVB team that beat the Spaniards 4-0 a fortnight ago, with Akanji, Toprak, Pulisic and Alcácer starting in place of Zagadou (on the bench with a slight knock), Diallo (adductor strain), Bruun Larsen and Götze (both bench). The only absentee was Schmelzer (bone marrow oedema in knee). Atlético were missing the centre-back partnership of Godin and Hernandez, plus the attacking trio of Lemar, Koke and Diego Costa.
Dortmund, in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation albeit with another different back four, initially showed great focus and confidence on the ball. They switched to a 4-4-2 without possession, leaving decent gaps between the lines. Atlético lined up in a "4-4-1 plus Griezmann" system. The forward, who usually fills the hole behind the main striker, was largely given free rein but the visitors kept the Frenchman at bay for the most part.
The match & analysis:
It was an even encounter in the opening 30 minutes, during which BVB managed to take the tempo out of the game while simultaneously making forays into the opposition penalty area to keep the hosts on their toes. It was not until the 21st minute that Bürki, in goal for the visitors, was called into action to stop Correa's effort from 20 metres. Atlético were aggressive, with Real Madrid loanee Hakimi in particular taking a few tough knocks. By the 25-minute mark, the Spaniards had committed five fouls; Borussia none.
Los Rojiblancos upped the tempo in the period that followed and broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute when Luiz Felipe burst into the box from the left and squared to Sául Niguez, whose shot would have found the net even if had not been for Akanji's attempted clearance. Atlético, their self-confidence growing, began to take advantage of some simple losses of possession from Dortmund. Bürki saved Felipe Luiz's shot (40) in what was a crucial phase of the game, with Sául Niguez (41) and Griezmann (43) squandering promising opportunities before half-time. The visitors, meanwhile, could count themselves lucky that Piszczek's block in the 43rd minute did not result in a penalty kick.
Having made a bright start, Borussia did well to limit their deficit to one goal until the interval: the hosts had been the dominant force in front of goal (11-1 shots), although the fact BVB had the lion's share of possession (67 percent) showed it had been a half of two different stories: the first 30 minutes and the final quarter-hour.
Griezmann adds a second on the counter
Favre made his first change on the hour-mark, introducing Guerreiro in place of Pulisic. The second half started in a largely similar vein to the first – even – until Correa struck the side-netting on 61 minutes. Alcácer's cross to Guerreiro in the 64th minute was the best chance of the match for the Black & Yellows, though his header sailed over the crossbar. With time running out, BVB were hit on the counter, Atlético intercepting possession on the edge of their own box and launching a counter that ended with Griezmann slotting home (80).
Borussia Dortmund will round off a busy run of fixtures with a game against Bayern Munich at a sold-out Signal Iduna Park on Saturday (18:30 CET).