Serie A

Borussia Dortmund emerge with the advantage but PSG tie still in flux after night of missed chances

Borussia Dortmund emerge with the advantage but PSG tie still in flux after night of missed chances

(AFP via Getty Images)

Might the story of the season suddenly be happening out of nowhere, like another sublime Jadon Sancho run? Nobody has given Borussia Dortmund a chance in these Champions League semi-finals but, in part because Paris Saint-Germain couldn’t take any massive chances of their own, the German club at least have one foot in Wembley.

That came from the one goal in this tie, that was itself struck by another unfashionable figure in Niclas Fullkrug, but it could have been so many more.

It was a 1-0 win for Borussia Dortmund that could have been a 7-6 either way. If PSG are to face disappointment in this competition once again, the Qatari project will look to this tie and wonder how they missed so many opportunities. Then again, they should also wonder how they gave up so many.

Through that, it was a rare game that was actually invigorated by the misses. They added to the raucous scenes in the stands, deepening a ferocious tension. PSG even hit the inside of both posts in the space of a minute.

They have a lot to work on before the return at Parc des Princes in six days’ time, but can’t afford to really dwell on any of this. For now, Kylian Mbappe has been bested by Fullkrug, but really Sancho.

This was one of those games that will just have everyone at Manchester United wondering exactly what has happened. PSG’s Nuno Mendes certainly had that feeling on several occasions. Sancho destroyed him to wreak havoc.

Jadon Sancho had a fantastic night displaying his full range of skill and quality. (EPA)

It was just that havoc continued with the finishing – bar that one moment from Fullkrug.

It did actually take a while for events on the pitch to match the spectacle off it. Once it did, it was like the two fed off each other, creating one of those frenetic European games. Dortmund had initially been a touch too eager. After repeatedly playing themselves in trouble – only for PSG to do little with it – Nico Schlotterbeck played a lofted ball out of defence. The French side were suddenly caught, with even Marquinhos not where he should be. Fullkrug put the ball exactly where he needed. After taking the ball down so nearly, the forward swept it past Gianluigi Donnarumma. A harsh interpretation might have been that PSG should never have allowed Fullkrug to score like that. The French side certainly should have been playing better.

You wouldn’t say Dortmund necessarily deserved the lead but they had been more competent. Sancho had been promising.

Everything was about to go to another level, including PSG’s performance. They came out with full intensity in the second half, as their star began to give the full Mbappe. In one move, the forward surged into the box only to smash the inside of the far post. The ball almost came straight out to Achraf Hakimi who then hit the inside of the other post. Mere minutes later, Marquinhos attempted the most inviting and sumptuous curved ball inside the Dortmund defence, only for Fabian Ruiz to somehow head it wide. It was perhaps a rare moment where the ball flashed across the box with such craft. There were so many moments when players were appearing to just throw themselves at crosses.

It got like that at the other end, too. With PSG leaving more space and Sancho only too willing to use it, he began to thoroughly enjoy himself against Nuno Mendes. The PSG full-back can’t have felt the same about any of it. He just couldn’t get close to Sancho. It was a trying night for him. It was still just a bit more frustrating for Dortmund than it needed to be.

Niclas Fullkrug scored the only goal of the night and gives Dortmund the advantage heading into the second leg (REUTERS)

For yet another move where a ball was swept across, Fullkrug this time lashed the ball over the bar. It felt like the entire tie was there for the taking, if anyone could take a chance.

Both teams exchanged attacks and anguished faces. The most common sight of the game was one of the players putting his hands to his face as another opportunity went by. Maybe the worst was when Ousmane Dembele somehow skied over when he had so much space and time.

Maybe the best, however, was when Julian Brandt bore down on goal in the final minutes… only for Marquinhos to appear out of nowhere and block the shot with a full-bodied challenge.

There is still more to come. It will have to go to some level to match this. Dortmund might have to go some level to win.

They are halfway there.


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