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Dortmund's aggressive approach backfires against Tottenham

The Wembley woes continue. For Borussia Dortmund that is, who did not look like a veteran Champions League side, but rather like a rookie outfit trying to apply its domestic approach on the European level. But this competition is unforgiving and teams must play with more risk aversion to be successful.

Against Tottenham, a good start was vital in the race for a top two spot. BVB are now chasing from behind with Real Madrid coming to the Westfalenstadion next. Talk about pressure.

Tottenham HotspurTottenham Hotspur
Borussia DortmundBorussia Dortmund
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In his first start, Andriy Yarmolenko scored Dortmund's only goal on the night (that counted) and it was world class. Dortmund went behind in the fourth minute but responded well by gaining control and creating a few chances. Too bad BVB's best period in the match only lasted for 10 minutes overall.


A 4-3-3 system applied with high pressing and a high line always has been and always will be susceptible to counter-attacks. Thus far, three teams in the Bundesliga have been unable to pounce, but the big question was how Dortmund would fare against more skillful opposition. Given they were carved open twice in the first 15 minutes and even more often in the second half, it does not bode well for future high-profile matches.

In fairness, centre-backs Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Omer Toprak do not have a lot of experience playing together, while Jeremy Toljan made his debut at left-back while Mahmoud Dahoud and Yarmolenko also have had very little time to settle. However, it is frustrating that they looked tactically incoherent and lacked the maturity and inspiration to beat a Tottenham outfit that only had to sit back and wait for mistakes.

Manager rating out of 10

3 -- This was the first real test under Peter Bosz and BVB failed it. The fact that they looked very tired after 70 minutes doesn't inspire optimism either. Bosz set up to run into trouble and bringing on Mario Gotze and Gonzalo Castro in the second half did not help, either.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Roman Burki, 2 -- Awkward. Burki was beaten twice by Harry Kane and once by Son Heung-Min. The keeper's positioning was not on a Champions League level in the first half especially but, although the Swiss goalkeeper had a stinker by his standards, bigger problems lie elsewhere.

DF Lukasz Piszczek, 3 -- The only starting player, who also began the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley. To say all three goals were scored on his side would be easy, but overall Piszczek looked at least two steps too slow.

DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 3 -- When to fall back, when to aggressively charge forward when the opponent plays a long ball? Those are decisions that have to be made quickly and Sokratis did not do that.

DF Omer Toprak, 4 -- Just like Sokratis, it did not help Toprak that BVB's high defensive line was so exposed. He got a ball to his face early in the second half and arguably should have been taken off.

Andriy Yarmolenko curled a superb shot into the top corner for Borussia Dortmund's only goal.

DF Jeremy Toljan, 6 -- The 23-year-old joined the Ruhr side only a fortnight ago but looked bright in his debut -- filling in for injured left-back Marcel Schmelzer -- on what was a chaotic night. With Piszczek falling flat, he may feature more often.

MF Shinji Kagawa, 5 -- Picked up the assist for Yarmolenko's screamer and did well when on the ball. His only flaw was that he wasn't involved enough.

MF Nuri Sahin, 4 -- He had 124 touches but none were at his own end and, what's more, the defensive midfielder won zero tackles and had no interceptions. The stats may paint a rougher picture than it actually was but Sahin was not a factor.

MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 4 -- The 21-year-old definitely needs more time to gel with his teammates.

FW Christian Pulisic, 5 -- Huffed and puffed in the first half and created some promising chances. The 18-year-old saw a drop-off in the second period, however, and will rue a handful of over-hit crosses.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 -- Struck the ball into the net in the 56th minute for what would have been the goal to make it 2-2 but his effort was falsely flagged offside. Four minutes later Kane scored his second to seal the game.

FW Andrey Yarmolenko, 5 -- In his first start, Yarmolenko showed that he can be an asset but also that he needs a lot more time on the training ground. His 11th-minute shot from outside of the box curled into the top corner past Hugo Lloris but, in the second half, he was less of a factor.


MF Mario Gotze, 5 -- 66 minutes were on the clock when he replaced Kagawa and Gotze, who has been one of the best players for Dortmund this season, could have changed the match. The only problem was that the rest of his team looked too fatigued to get back into the game.

MF Gonzalo Castro, NR -- Came on for Dahoud and has to be glad about a non-rating, because he was absolutely horrific.

DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, NR -- Was brought on in the 80th minute for Toprak.

Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.


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