A late goal from Phil Foden beat Dortmund in the Champions League, but danger looms in next week’s second leg
MANCHESTER, England – There were Borussia Dortmund players sprawled out on the grass, their bodies suddenly exhausted and their spirits sinking at the last moment Manchester City’s substitutes and coaching staff had hailed the goal that had inflicted the damage with great throaty roars, leaping from their seats, pumping their fists in the air
All last minute wins are dramatic – the clue is in the name – just like all last minute losses are devastating, but the emotions they generate for the winners are not all the same Some are happy , with smiles and cries of joy And some are rooted in something much closer to relief, the feel of a dodged bullet, moments encountered with clenched teeth and cries of defiance
For Manchester City, it really was sort of a B-column opportunity. Pep Guardiola’s side had, after all, been considered an overwhelming favorite: playing at home, soaring alone to the top of the Premier League, almost untouchable since the start of the year, and imperious in the Champions League He hadn’t conceded a goal so much in this competition since the opening game of the group stage. He looks like a club that is inexorably approaching an unprecedented national and European quadruple
His opponent, meanwhile, has been devastated by the Dortmund crisis is between managers He languishes fifth in the Bundesliga, he is unlikely to return to this competition next season unless he can. win this time His prized possession – striker Erling Haaland – apparently begins to glance elsewhere, wondering if he could find a home where he can more easily achieve his ambitions No game at all, in other words, for a team as smooth and fluid as Manchester City
And yet, it wasn’t until the match entered its 90th minute that Phil Foden managed to squeeze into the game-winning goal, 2-1, for City Even then, despite everything Dortmund’s desperation, a sense of at least mild disappointment will linger over City for the next week or so, knowing that the job not only remains unfinished, but may well turn out to be more complex than expected
Guardiola’s side will, of course, expect to advance to the first Champions League semi-final of his tenure – in his fifth season, a wait a bit longer than he and the club expected probably – after the return leg in Germany next week; City are, without a doubt, a more complete and polite team than Dortmund This is how it should be: the latter is the kind of place elite players come from, after all The former is usually the kind of place they go
But while there is an undeniable difference in experience and expectations, in financial weight, in individual quality and in collective organization, these advantages do not necessarily carry as much weight in an individual match as they do. could during a season In the blink of an eye, over an hour and a half, they are not as decisive as we like to suppose
And so a team as imperfect as Dortmund can play a team as thin as Manchester City and be a hair’s breadth away from escaping with a draw and, above all, come away with an away goal Not even escape, in fact, as for long stretches the German squad kept the Premier League leaders at bay with if not ease, then certainly some comfort.
City took the lead only because of a serious unforced error by Emre Can, who carelessly gave the ball away as his side started to win in the game Guardiola’s side only started creating chances with any frequency in the last 20 minutes, as Dortmund began to show the first flicker of weariness
The whole time, too, Dortmund didn’t carry a small threat in themselves. His threat isn’t as well established as City’s, of course He doesn’t have that much control or balance; it certainly doesn’t bring that feeling of inevitability that City has turned into an art form, that feeling that a goal can and will happen any minute, as sure as the sun rises in the morning.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t pose problems, ask questions, cause problems Jude Bellingham should have tied the score in the first half, his goal instead ruled out due to a extremely dubious foul on Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson by referee Ovidiu Hategan
Haaland might also have scored after half-time, releasing a challenge from Rúben Dias with surprising and breathtaking ease, only to see Ederson foil his finish When Haaland chose his captain, Marco Reus, to draw the standard of his squad – and, for a while, to give Dortmund an exciting result to bring back to Germany – it was no less, really, than it deserved.
Foden’s 90th-minute goal, of course, denied Dortmund, but Guardiola knows his side’s advantage is slim He already knows full well that the best plans can be broken down at this stage in the Champions League – by Lyon last year, by Tottenham the previous season, by Liverpool in 2018 – and that sometimes it’s the teams that embrace the chaos which turns out to be the most efficient way to do it
Dortmund certainly fits this bill There is a rising superstar in Haaland – there’s a reason why, strangely, one of Hategan’s assistant referees appeared to ask the Norwegian for his autograph as they descended the tunnel after the final whistle – but he’s not alone Dortmund are not a solo group no matter how good Haaland shines
“If I chose a player from Dortmund he would have quality,” Guardiola said ahead of the game He was right, of course Maybe not as good as City, clearly: Dortmund couldn’t leave Raheem Sterling and Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus on the bench But enough to cause trouble, enough to wreak havoc: not on one whole year, maybe, but on one evening
There is a reason why City are favored to win this competition No team, except perhaps Bayern Munich, can reach a level as high as Guardiola’s team But this competition is rarely so straightforward. Spreads between teams are much thinner than they appear, and all you need on any given night is a punch chance
Manchester City – Dortmund
World News – FI – Manchester City take a winner but know it’s not on the other side of the line