Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was dropped from Borussia Dortmund’s squad but Thomas Tuchel’s side secured progression from Champions League Group F regardless with a 1-0 victory over Sporting CP.
Dortmund’s top scorer Aubameyang had been set to start Wednesday’s clash at Signal Iduna Park but, in a late alteration, the 27-year-old was replaced by Adrian Ramos.
Tuchel cited “internal reasons” as the only explanation for Aubameyang’s suspension, but the forward was not missed as Ramos gave Dortmund the advantage early on.
Ramos’ header – his first Champions League goal of the season – set the tone for a frantic first half and Jorge Jesus’ side pressed hard for a leveller before the impressive Christian Pulisic hit the woodwork.
To Tuchel’s annoyance, Dortmund invited the pressure in the second half and the hosts would have been punished had Bryan Ruiz not squandered a gilt-edged chance late on.
The victory moves Dortmund to the top of Group F and seals their qualification for the knockout stages. Sporting, meanwhile, are all-but eliminated, though Real Madrid’s draw at Legia Warsaw handed them a lifeline.
Despite Aubameyang’s omission, Dortmund started brightly. Pulisic was unlucky not to be awarded a third-minute penalty when he was scythed down by Sebastian Coates, though Sporting had appeals of their own waved away after Marc Bartra had hauled down Luc Castaignos.
Ramos was tasked with leading Dortmund’s line in Aubameyang’s absence and the Colombian duly vindicated Tuchel’s decision when he headed the hosts ahead on 12 minutes.
Pulisic and Mario Gotze were the architects as they combined to supply Matthias Ginter, and Ramos got enough on the defender’s inch-perfect cross to beat Rui Patricio.
Gelson Martins twice went close to restoring parity after the half-hour mark, but Roman Burki and then Bartra did well to deny the youngster from close-range.
Still, Dortmund continued to search for a second – Gotze combining excellently with Pulisic – but the latter’s point-blank strike rattled off the crossbar.
Tuchel’s side should have extended their lead on the stroke of half-time, but Raphael Guerreiro could only fire into the side-netting after bursting in behind Sporting’s defence.
Martins continued to represent Sporting’s greatest threat after the break, but Burki kept out the midfielder’s stinging shot five minutes after the restart.
Jesus introduced Adrien Silva with an hour gone and the Portugal midfielder almost levelled proceedings with a venomous strike that whistled just over.
Dortmund substitute Andre Schurrle was the next to go close – Patricio scrambling across to tip the former Wolfsburg forward’s free-kick wide.
Ruiz had the opportunity to level proceedings with just over 10 minutes remaining, but the Costa Rica playmaker failed to hit the target with his close-range header as Dortmund held firm to book their place in the last 16.