Sunday, May 26, 2024

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain: Talking points as Fullkrug’s strike makes difference in close Champions League semifinal

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Borussia Dortmund hosted Paris Saint-Germain at the Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday in the first leg of their semifinal clash in the Champions League.

The game

PSG had more of the ball in the first half already, but they never really did anything to cause problems for Gregor Kobel in the Dortmund goal. On the other hand, the Bundesliga side threatened occasionally, for the first time in the 14th minute when Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into action to deny Marcel Sabitzer. Julian Brandt tried from range in the 29th and was blocked by Marquinhos, but there was no stopping Niclas Fullkrug seven minutes later.

The striker was found by a brilliant pass from the back from Nico Schlotterbeck and fired expertly past Donnarumma to put the home side ahead.

Dortmund entered the second half with plenty of attacking intent, but their plan to increase the lead was almost undone in the 51st minute when first Kylian Mbappe and then former Dortmund right-back Achraf Hakimi hit the post for PSG. Three minutes later, Bradley Barcola broke down the left and employed Mbappe again, but the France captain fired straight into the well-positioned Kobel. Marquinhos then whipped in a great cross from deep that caught the Dortmund defence at unawares, but Fabian Ruiz failed to head on target unmarked from six yards.

Though there was no equalizer yet, the chances created lifted the spirits of the visitors, whose pressure in and around the Dortmund box gradually increased.

Dortmund finally responded around the hour mark as Fullkrug’s initiative brought them back into the opposition half for a while, and after Brandt’s shot flew wide of the post, Jadon Sancho escaped Nuno Mendes to serve up for Fullkrug on the edge of six yards, but Fullkrug was nowhere nearly as accurate as he was in the 36th minute.

In the 63rd minute, Mendes used his hands to push Fullkrug while the Dortmund striker was in the air on the edge of six yards, rendering him unable to reach the ball, but referee Anthony Taylor didn’t consider the contact sufficient to give a penalty, much to the displeasure of Edin Terzic in the home dugout.

Soon after, PSG boss Luis Enrique freshened his attacking line by introducing Randal Kolo Muani in the place of Barcola. The change meant a slight formational tweak for the visitors, with Kolo Muani and Mbappe now acting as two strikers. The pair combined nicely in the 71st minute with Mbappe setting up Kolo Muani nicely, but Kobel made a fine save to keep Dortmund ahead.

PSG had their best chance in the 80th minute. Hakimi caught Karim Adeyemi unfocused on the right flank and made a run in behind, latching onto a long ball and pulling back for the incoming Dembele, but the former Dortmund winger fired over the bar. Vitinha was the next to try his luck, shooting wide.

Terzic obviously wasn’t pleased with Adeyemi in that situation and he withdrew the youngster promptly, replacing him with club captain Marco Reus. The 34-year-old could’ve gotten on the scoresheet straight away, but his header, which followed a vital block from Marquinhos on Brandt, went off target. Both attempts were set up by Sancho.

With less than four minutes left on the clock, a cheeky cross from Vitinha found the head of Ruiz, but the midfielder missed his second big chance of the game.

Aiming to increase his team’s energy levels, Terzic made a double change late on, withdrawing Brandt and Julian Ryerson to give the final few minutes to Felix Nmecha and Marius Wolf, as well as replacing Fullkrug with Youssoufa Moukoko upfront soon after.

PSG pushed for an equalizer during the four minutes of stoppage time, but their touch on the ball failed them in crucial moments, enabling Dortmund to hold on for what may yet prove a vital victory.

Jadon Sancho

Sancho looked very lively on the right attacking flank for Dortmund. He caused real problems for Nuno Mendes on several occasions, and it’s a bit strange that Terzic didn’t ask the rest of his team to get the ball to the England winger more often. Whenever he had it, the PSG defence looked shaken.

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Sancho is, of course, currently back at Dortmund on loan from Manchester United, following his bust-up with United boss Erik ten Hag. Asked about the winger’s excellent performances in the black-and-yellow shirt recently, Ten Hag said Sancho’s quality on the pitch came as no surprise to him, pointing out that that was never the problem.

The future of Ten Hag himself remains uncertain at this point, with his team sitting sixth in the Premier League at the moment and not looking very likely to move up before the end of the season. Some reports suggested Sancho would be willing to return to Old Trafford if the Dutch tactician leaves, but others now claim Dortmund are very interested in turning the loan deal into a permanent transfer.

Deserved victory for Dortmund

Dortmund were the better side in this contest, if not by much, and the final scoreline certainly does the game justice. They were more direct than the visitors, who somehow got uncharacteristically sloppy in the final third.

Still, a one-goal lead is not much to take to the Parc des Princes next week, and Terzic will surely be preparing his team for a proper PSG onslaught in the French capital. But sitting fifth in the Bundesliga table with sixth-place Eintracht Frankfurt mathematically unable to overtake them, Dortmund nailed on to play in the Champions League again next season due to the extended format of the competition and probably won’t care too much about their upcoming game against Augsburg.

PSG are in an even better position, domestically. They’ve already secured the Ligue 1 title and like Dortmund, they can afford to focus fully on the rematch, set to be a thrilling affair which will decide who’ll face Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the final.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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