Punch-drunk Dortmund stumble out of the Champions League | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW

This game had it all: an amazing goal, a red card, VAR controversy. Unfortunately for Dortmund, none of these things went in their favor. Dortmund’s Champions League campaign, which began with the promise of two victories, has ended with this chaotic defeat before the end of the group stage. For Sporting, it was a famous win, confirming their progress to the last 16 for the first time since 2008/09.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose will point to a harsh dismissal, as he did when Mats Hummels received a soft red card in the previous game against Ajax, and a VAR decision that led to Sporting’s third. But the one thing he won’t have an answer for is Dortmund’s abject performance that preceded both. This was a night when no one in yellow emerged with their reputation enhanced.

It’s difficult to believe that Dortmund’s 1-0 victory over Sporting Club in late September put Dortmund on six points and left the Portuguese champions rooted to the bottom of the group with zero. How times have changed. Sporting’s campaign has produced the opposite set of results as Dortmund’s, whose campaign has nose-dived just as Sporting’s has taken off. With the Bundesliga side undone initially by Nico Schulz’s carelessness for the opener, a moment of quality followed by Pedro Goncalves, whose arrowed drive shortly before half time left Dortmund on the ropes.

Sporting's Pedro Goncalves watches his second goal goal in again Dortmund in the Champions League

This moment of quality by Pedro Goncalves set Sporting on the path to their first last 16 appearance since 2008/09,

Haaland’s absence telling

A one-goal defeat in Lisbon would have left Dortmund’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread going into the final round of games, but anything more than a two-goal loss and Dortmund’s dreams would be over. And before the third went in, Dortmund were already down to 10-men, with Emre Can’s petulance, unbecoming of a player of his experience, also punished with a red card.

A few short minutes later, Sporting stretched their lead to three. Dan-Axel Zagadou’s foul was spotted by the referee on a VAR replay, and although Pedro Porro’s resulting penalty was saved by Gregor Kobel, Porro’s follow-up header was not.

The harsh reality for Dortmund is that without Erling Haaland, goals always seem far away. Any team would struggle to replace the Norwegian’s goals, but with Thorgan Hazard missing too, Dortmund were toothless. And in other key areas on the field, they lacked leadership, control or cohesion. It was an immature performance by a leaderless unit.

The Europa League beckons for Rose’s side, but these are tough days without their talisman. Their victory at the weekend over Stuttgart may have closed the gap on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich to a point, but without Haaland they struggled. And without him in the Champions League they have only scored twice, both consolation goals in 3-1 defeats. One of the only positives for Dortmund is that finally Malen is starting to show glimpses of what he can do, with the Dutchman scoring his second in two games, and second in two against Sporting.

That’s immaterial though. By the time Dortmund regroup for the Europa League in February they may fancy their chances in Europe’s second-tier tournament, but on this night, on Europe’s biggest stage, Dortmund came up short.

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