Borussia Dortmund kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw against FC Barcelona but they would have claimed a statement win against the Spanish giants had they converted one of their many chances in an entertaining second half.
Boris Rupert reporting
The 66,099 spectators at a sold-out Signal Iduna Park saw a BVB side that matched the reigning Spanish champions throughout and created several excellent chances during their dominant spells. But the breakthrough would not come, with Reus having a 56th-minute penalty saved by ter Stegen and substitute Brandt striking the crossbar (77).
It was the first time since 1998 and only the second time overall that the two clubs had faced each other. Both lost to an eventual finalist last season, with BVB going out to Tottenham and Barça eliminated by Liverpool. The Black & Yellows had won all three of their competitive home games this term (2-0 against Bayern Munich, 5-1 against Augsburg and 4-0 against Leverkusen), while Barcelona had yet to win away (0-1 in Bilbao and 2-2 in Osasuna).
There was only one change from the XI that took to the field in the Bundesliga at the weekend, with Hazard replacing Brandt. The injured Piszczek, Schulz and Morey all missed out on the 18-man matchday squad – as did Hitz, who was replaced by Jonas Hupe of the U23s due to injuries to fellow shot-stoppers Unbehaun and Oelschlägel. Messi started on the bench for Barça.
Borussia Dortmund alternated between a high pressing game – carried out by the attacking players plus Delaney – and a deep-lying defensive approach in their own half whenever Barça advanced more than 10 metres over the halfway line. Whenever that happened, they would allow their opponents to link up without ever really getting into dangerous positions. Barcelona lined up in a 4-3-3 formation but switched to a back three when building the play, with either Busquets dropping between the two centre-backs or one of the two full-backs pushing forward. BVB lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation – 4-4-2 when they didn't have the ball – and repeatedly had good opportunities to counter.
The match & analysis:
Dortmund tried to take the game to their opponents whenever they had the ball. After all, the Catalans had conceded at least two goals in each of their previous four matches. In the best spell for the hosts, between the 25th and 40th minutes, two or three excellent opportunities were created.
The best of them came in the 25th minute when Hazard cut in from the left flank and threaded the ball through to Reus in the penalty area, but shot-stopper ter Stegen made a strong save with an outstretched leg. Hummels headed a Reus free-kick over the bar six minutes later and then, with six minutes to go before the break, Sancho fired Reus' pass narrowly wide from a central position following a counter-attack.
It was a defensive display full of discipline and focus, and on those occasions when a gap did open up it was usually Hummels who proved to be the insurmountable object at the back. He was also the one who thwarted Barça's best opportunity, clearing a ball from just in front of the line following a corner in first-half stoppage time.
Whereas the first half – although interesting – lacked much goalmouth action of note, the beginning of the second period more than made up for it. Bürki denied Suarez at one end, before Dortmund won a free-kick from ideal Alcácer range at the other: 25.0 metres out exactly in a central position. The ball unfortunately struck the wall, however (51). Three minutes later, Delaney headed a free-kick from Guerreiro narrowly wide of the post.
Reus misses penalty, Brandt hits crossbar
But the biggest moment came when the referee pointed to the spot for a foul on Sancho by Semedo in the box. Reus stepped up to take it and drilled the ball low to ter Stegen's left, but the goalkeeper went the right way and then pounced on the loose ball before Reus could slot home the rebound. The spot-kick should have been retaken, however, as both of ter Stegen's feet were off the line when Reus shot, giving him a decisive advantage.
The captain later tried to make amends for his squandered spot-kick, but both his 64th-minute shot and his 66th-minute header were cleared behind for corners, and he then missed the target following another Alcácer dummy on the 75-minute mark. Three minutes later, he was denied by the keeper from close range. Seconds earlier, substitute Brandt had struck the crossbar with a thunderbolt from 20 metres! So close!
Barça regain the upper hand
It was at this point, with Dortmund dominating the shot count (14-5), that Messi and Rakitic came on for Barcelona. Was it an offensive ploy to relieve the pressure on a beleaguered defence? It certainly did give the visitors some more breathing space and they managed to apply pressure of their own in the closing stages, almost getting a late winner when Messi went close with the last kick of the game.
BVB are next in action when they travel to Eintracht Frankfurt in the league on Sunday (18:00 CET). The next home game will be on Saturday (28 September, 18:30 CET), when Werder Bremen come to town.