Borussia Dortmund have been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League after a 3-1 (2-0) defeat away to Portuguese champions Sporting CP and will now drop down into the UEFA Europa League after the winter break.
Boris Rupert reporting from Lisbon
A defensively minded Sporting side took advantage of a positional error to open the scoring through Goncalves in the 30th minute. Directly after that goal and Goncalves' second in the 39th minute, Malen had two huge opportunities – but struck the post on 32 minutes and was then denied by Inacio, who cleared off the line with the goalkeeper beaten (40). With a sizeable two-goal deficit to overhaul in the second half, Borussia applied pressure – but Sporting countered and once Can had been sent off (74), Porro slotted home the rebound following a missed penalty to make it 3-0 and send the Black & Yellows crashing out (81). Malen then scored a consolation goal in stoppage time.
Having followed up two wins at the outset (2-1 in Istanbul, 1-0 at home to Sporting) with two defeats against Ajax, BVB were under pressure. A defeat by one goal would give them a very faint hope of going through, while a loss by two goals would see them eliminated from the competition. Borussia had won all previous meetings (the reverse fixture plus both games in autumn 2016).
Dortmund had travelled without Haaland (hip flexor injury), Hazard (Covid-19), Hummels (suspension), Moukoko (eye inflammation), Reyna and Wolf (both lack of match fitness) plus Morey and Schmelzer (both rehab). Guerreiro's name was soon added to that list after he sustained a muscular injury during the warm-up. Coach Rose therefore had to make a third late-notice change to the starting XI that faced Stuttgart in the league: in addition to Pongracic and Reinier (for Hummels and Hazard), Schulz was drafted in.
Borussia took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Witsel and Bellingham, who pushed forward when in possession, in central defensive midfield. Reinier played centrally in the attacking midfield three, with Reus and Brandt on the wings. Sporting played in the same 3-4-3 system as the reverse fixture; they withdrew when Dortmund had the ball and mostly only attacked when the ball was already in their own half.
The match & analysis:
The home side, who had won each of their previous eight competitive games and had made a statement by comfortably beating Besiktas twice in the Champions League (4-0 and 4-1), only applied pressure in the opening minutes, and Borussia had the game under control by the 10-minute mark. The match statistics were very much in Dortmund's favour, with 62% possession and a 67% tackle win rate. At this point, Sporting's fear of defeat (and elimination) was significantly greater than their desire to win (and qualify for the round of 16). They seemed to be hoping for a lucky goal.
And they were gifted one with exactly half an hour played. A long ball over the top was misjudged by Schulz, who inadvertently steered it into the path of Goncalves and he took full advantage in a one-on-one with Kobel. Then at the other end, Malen surged into the box from the right and fired goalbound but hit the woodwork.
Then came a slice of misfortune for Akanji, who cleared a low cross with a sliding challenge but unfortunately played it straight to Goncalves, who struck the ball perfectly from 18 metres to make it 2-0 (39). BVB could have halved the deficit straightaway. Brandt played a through-ball towards Malen, who rounded goalkeeper Adan but saw his effort cleared off the line by Inacio (40).
BVB – with Can now on in place of Schulz – looked to strike back quickly after the interval but were instead hit on the counter after a corner was intercepted, with Kobel forced to make a block with his chest. Borussia forced Feddal into an own goal after 54 minutes but Meunier was offside in the build-up. The Black & Yellows dominated clearly, with the Portuguese looking increasingly uneasy.
Rose made a triple substitution around the hour mark, with Tigges, Dahoud and Zagadou coming on in place of Reinier, Witsel and Pongracic. But the chance of a comeback was stopped in its tracks in the 73rd minute when Can became involved in a skirmish and was sent off. When the game was resumed after a lengthy break, there was another collision in the penalty area – this time between Zagadou and Paulinho. After consulting the pitchside monitor, referee del Cerro Grande pointed to the spot. Kobel saved Goncalves' spot-kick, but Porro was on hand to head home for 3-0 (81).
But they did not give in. Brandt's cross from the left was flicked on by Reus towards Malen, who slotted home from close range. Two of the seven minutes of stoppage time were up by that point. But there was not enough time for a miracle...
BVB will travel to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday. One week later, they will host Bayern Munich at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK.