Despite slipping to a 2-1 (1-0) defeat, Borussia Dortmund kept their hopes of a place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals – which would represent their best European campaign since 2013 – alive with an outstanding performance away to Manchester City in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.
Boris Rupert reporting
Though they were more than worthy opponents, Borussia Dortmund were unfortunately dealt a setback in the dying embers. De Bruyne's opening goal in the 19th minute stemmed from a misplaced pass in the BVB midfield, which presented City with an opportunity to counter-attack. Bellingham then had a goal incorrectly ruled out on the 37-minute mark. The late – and deserved! – leveller was scored by Reus in the 84th minute, but it proved to be short-lived with Foden making it 2-1 in the final minute. The tie will not be settled until next Wednesday, however.
The Premier League leaders reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with seven wins and a 17-1 goal difference. Borussia's record en route to the last eight read five wins, two draws and one defeat (goal difference of 17-9). While City had won their last six meetings with German clubs, including both legs of this season's quarter-final against Mönchengladbach, BVB had lost their last five clashes with clubs from the English top flight.
Borussia boarded the plane without the injured Youssoufa Moukoko, Jadon Sancho, Marcel Schmelzer, Axel Witsel and Dan-Axel Zagadou. There were three changes to the side that had lost 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt in the league three days earlier, with Mateu Morey, Ansgar Knauff and Mo Dahoud replacing Nico Schulz, Thomas Delaney and Thorgan Hazard (all bench).
Knauff, 19, was handed his first senior start on the right of midfield in Borussia's new-look 4-1-4-1 formation. Emre Can played the holding midfield role between the two banks of four, while Erling Haaland led the line as usual. Ilkay Gündogan was the midfield linchpin in the centre-left role in Manchester City's 4-3-3 formation, with Kevin de Bruyne over on the right side.
The match & analysis:
Borussia had a clear game plan, kept their concentration and gave their opponents no space to breathe. The plan worked from the off, with counter-pressing repeatedly creating possession turnovers or forcing City into uncharacteristic errors. And that's how the first chance of the game came about for Bellingham. The energetic midfielder tested Ederson from 10 metres, though his shot was at a comfortable height and too central. Man City did have more possession (60%) but had hardly any tempo or depth to their play against an intelligently positioned BVB, who themselves looked lively. But unfortunately the final ball in or on the edge of the opposition box was wayward and Haaland miscontrolled Reus' pass on 24 minutes.
A misplaced pass from Can in central midfield gifted City the lead. A quick counter culminated in Mahrez – who was lucky to bring the ball under control on the byline – cutting it back to the in-rushing De Bruyne, whose shot from five metres left Hitz with no chance (19).
Referee Hategan awarded the home side a penalty kick 10 minutes later. De Bruyne whipped in a free-kick and there was a coming-together between Rodrigo and Can. The City player threw himself to the ground holding his face, even though Can hadn't even touched him. Following a minutes-long VAR review, the referee corrected his decision.
But he did deny Borussia a deserved equaliser. City shot-stopper Ederson attempted to bring a long Guerreiro ball under control 18 metres out, but he misjudged the flight of the ball. Bellingham made the interception and tapped the ball into the empty net for 1-1, but Hategan felt he had committed a foul. It was a view that only he held (37).
BVB continued to be very, very unpleasant opponents for the title favourites in the second period – and soon created their next chance to equalise. Haaland latched on to Dahoud's pass and got the better of both centre-backs, but Ederson closed the angle and saved the Norwegian's effort (48). The forward was then fouled just outside the box on the hour mark. Reus stepped up to take the free-kick 19 metres out, but it struck Diaz in the wall and the danger was averted (61).
Hitz made a brilliant save at the other end to deny City a second, making a block with his leg to keep out Foden's shot from close range in the 65th minute. It was the first shot the hosts had registered in the second period – and only their fourth in the entire game! City began to create further opportunities, De Bruyne firing just wide from 18 metres in the 76th minute and Hitz thwarting Foden's effort from a similar distance a minute later.
City upped the pressure and their counter-pressing in a bid to find a second goal. But instead it was the Black & Yellows who were soon celebrating a deserved equaliser. Can initiated the attack, before Haaland played Bellingham's pass into the path of Reus. The captain surged into the penalty area and placed his shot into the far corner to make it 1-1 (84).
City found a response, however. De Bruyne crossed the ball from the right flank towards the back post, where Gündogan cut it back to Foden, who fired home from the corner of the six-yard box to seal a 2-1 win (90).
The return leg will take place in Dortmund next Wednesday evening (21:00 CET). In the meanwhile, BVB are away to VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Saturday (18:30 CET).
Teams & goals