No one quite knew what to expect from Borussia Dortmund’s postponed match vs. Monaco, coming as it did less than 24 hours after three explosive devices were set off next to the Borussia Dortmund bus as it made its way to Signal Iduna Park, the club’s home stadium. Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel wasn’t sure either, saying before the game that he had hoped for more time to get over the traumatic events of the previous night. After it, he clarified that the team had been informed by text from UEFA that the game would go ahead Wednesday.
However, goals always looked on the menu, given that both sides have some of Europe’s top young attacking talents; and that previous results in this season’s competition have included Dortmund winning beating Legia Warsaw 8-4 and Monaco losing 5-3 at Manchester City. So it proved: Monaco was two goals up at halftime, and it could have been worse, given that Fabinho missed an early penalty before the scoring started.
Monaco owed its first goal to a lightning counterattack from Bernardo Silva, who ran half the pitch before teeing up Tomas Lemar to curl a ball for Kylian Mbappe to deflect into the net. Mbappe was offside, but Dortmund’s luck was about to worsen. Another cross from the left was swung in and Sven Bender, a midfielder only playing center back because of the absence of Marc Bartra–the player who required wrist surgery following Tuesday’s attack–headed past his own goalkeeper.
Dortmund looked down and out at halftime, and deserves huge credit for responding so well after the break. Tuchel made changes, switching to a back three to attack Monaco’s stand-in fullbacks (as both Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe were out injured) and bringing on Nuri Sahin and Christian Pulisic, both of whom were excellent. Ousmane Dembele pulled a goal back after neat work from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pulisic in tight space in the area. Shortly after Radamel Falcao missed a one-on-one, Mbappe showed him how it was done, running onto Lukasz Piszczek’s under-hit back-pass and finishing gloriously to make it 3-1. Tuchel described the goals conceded as “two own goals.”
This Dortmund side is made of stern stuff, though, and Shinji Kagawa reduced the deficit with a smart turn and shot late on. Still Dortmund pushed for an equalizer, and Aubameyang headed a fizzing Dembele cross over.
We can never know how much this week’s trauma affected its performance, but considering the events of the last 24 hours, Dortmund’s response, as a club, and its fan community, has been phenomenal. Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos had tears in his eyes as he applauded the fans after the game. Julian Weigl said he hardly slept all night, while Sahin said that until he came on in the second half, “my head was full of everything except football… We are human beings, there is more than football in this world.”