Borussia Dortmund might not have managed to put themselves in a better position ahead of the return leg in six days but they have reason to be hopeful thanks to Sébastien Haller's goal: BVB lost 2-1 (2-0) away to Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg due to a poor first half.

Boris Rupert reporting

In a breath-taking atmosphere, Borussia had already deservedly fallen 2-0 behind by shortly after the half-hour mark following goals from de Paul (4) and Lino (32). They only found their way into the game towards the end of the first half and were then on top but initially failed to get any penetration, before a stroke of genius from Brandt and Haller brought about the important goal (81). Bynoe-Gittens struck the bar shortly afterwards and Brandt's header hit the upright in stoppage time.

The scenario:   
Diego Simeone's team had come through Group E, which contained Lazio (2-0, 1-1), Feyenoord (3-2, 3-1) and Celtic (6-0, 2-2), without defeat and suffered their only loss of the campaign in the round of 16 first leg away to Inter Milan (1-0). BVB had finished a Group F including Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle United (three wins, two draws and one defeat) in pole position and then gotten the better of PSV Eindhoven in the round of 16 (1-1 A, 2-0 H). Borussia had enjoyed the upper hand in three of their previous four knockout clashes with opponents from Spain. In away games against Atlético, they had recorded one win (1996), one draw (1966) and one defeat (2018).

Personnel matters:   
Except for Ramy Bensebaini and Donyell Malen, the full first-team squad had made the trip. Mats Hummels was making his 500th competitive appearance for BVB. It was the same line-up that had faced Stuttgart with one exception: Felix Nmecha replaced Julian Brandt.

This was accompanied by a minor tactical shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 with Can operating centrally in front of the defence, Nmecha and Sabitzer either side and Sancho, Füllkrug and Adeyemi (this time on the left again) in attack. Atlético defended in a 5-3-2 and switched into a 3-5-2 upon regaining possession, bypassed the midfield with few touches and frequently played long balls looking for the runs in behind.


The match & analysis:
The Black & Yellows got hit by a dangerous counter-attack after a matter of seconds, were under pressure from then on, went 1-0 down early and subsequently appeared unsettled. Morata initially went clean through after a long diagonal ball, only for Maatsen to thwart the danger at the last moment with a sliding tackle. But BVB were ensnared by Atlético's pressing shortly afterwards: Kobel played the ball to an already under-pressure Maatsen in a central position outside the box and his attempt to find a team-mate was intercepted by de Paul, who slotted into the bottom-right corner from 13 metres. Exactly three minutes and 59 seconds had been played. A short while later, Kobel made a save to deny a second goal from Witsel, who had flicked a Griezmann cross towards the far corner (7). But it might have been disallowed by the VAR anyway due to an offside position.

It wasn't until at least the quarter-hour mark that BVB managed to make things slightly more open, but they continued to give the ball away too quickly and too easily. The hosts already won their sixth corner in the 19th minute, after which the shot ratio stood at 7-0, although that particular shot sailed well wide. The first BVB corner-kick came after exactly half an hour and perhaps more might have been possible from Nmecha's subsequent header. Instead, the next passage of play brought about the goal for 2-0. There was a mix-up involving Hummels and Schlotterbeck following a throw-in, Griezmann pounced on the ball and chipped it to his left towards Lino (who will be banned for the second leg) and he pulled off a technically demanding finish.

But Atlético made mistakes too. Goalscorer de Paul made one such error in the 35th minute. Adeyemi almost took full advantage but his shot was blocked and landed on the roof of the net. Overall, however, Dortmund's build-up play was too slow and too static – at least until the closing stages of the first period. Then the team played more directly. Adeyemi created danger in the penalty area and although his shot was blocked, Maatsen came charging forward and forced Oblak into a first save with a powerful strike (43). Sancho fired narrowly wide from the right of the box in stoppage time.


Brandt came on in place of Nmecha and immediately initiated a highly promising attack after the restart. But his team-mates ultimately couldn't get the ball on target. Maatsen launched a good attack in the 55th minute; Füllkrug was held in the penalty area but he kept hold of the ball and laid it off to Brandt, who shot from 18 metres out. The ball took a deflection and wrong-footed the keeper but landed on the roof of the net.

BVB minimised defensive mistakes in the second period without ever cutting them out entirely and increasingly made their mark up top. Haller came on for Füllkrug on the hour-mark, while Atlético made defensive substitutions: forward Morata came off, midfielder Barrios came on. They wanted to take a 2-0 lead into the return leg in Dortmund. BVB worked to cut the deficit and had a lot of possession but were unable to make the breakthrough and even got lucky when the unmarked Lino got a shot away from the right of the six-yard box following a crossed free-kick; Kobel made an outstanding save (75).

Seven minutes later Borussia played through the middle and Brandt passed from outside the box to Haller, who turned and shot from a centre-left position around 12 metres out to make it 2-1 (81). BVB kept going. Bynoe-Gittens' deflected shot from range thundered against the bar (87), then Brandt was left pulling his hair out at the end of stoppage time after his header almost found the top-right corner but struck the woodwork (90+6).

Qualification for the semi-finals will be determined next Tuesday when the return leg takes place at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK. Beforehand, there is an away trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga on the agenda (Saturday at 15:30 CET).

Teams & goals


UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final First Leg

Atlético Madrid: Oblak – Witsel (Savic, 90+1), Gimenez, Azpilicueta – Molina (Niguez, 90), Koke, Samuel Lino (Riquelme, 90+1) – Llorente, de Paul (Correa, 80) – Griezmann, Morata (Barrios, 64)
Bor. Dortmund: Kobel – Ryerson, Hummels, Schlotterbeck, Maatsen – Can (Özcan, 84) – Sabitzer (Reus, 84), Nmecha (Brandt, 46) – Sancho, Füllkrug (Haller, 60), Adeyemi (Bynoe-Gittens, 73)
Substitutes: Gomis, Moldovan; Gabriel Paulista, Reinildo, Vermeeren, El Jebari – Lotka, Meyer; Süle, Wolf, Duranville, Moukoko
Goals: 1-0 de Paul (4), 2-0 Lino (Griezmann, 3-2), 2-1 Haller (Brandt, 81)
Corners: 8-9 (8-3 at half-time), chance ratio: 6-6 (4-2)
Referee: Guida (Italy), yellow cards: Lino, Llorente, Gimenez – Can, Maatsen
Attendance: 70,460 (sold-out), weather: cloudless sky, 19 degrees