Their first Champions League match since losing in the 2013 final didn’t turn out so well for Borussia Dortmund, and not just because of the loss – Roman Weidenfeller and Jurgen Klopp got sent off, while a too tactical approach, leaving someone like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench cost them a chance to make an impression early on.
Instead, it became a set pieces kind of match, even before Dortmund fell apart with sending offs. Marco Reus was the one in charge of the delivery for Dortmund, and it was poor throughout the match. On the other end of the pitch, the first set piece, which resultes in a Gonzalo Higuain goal, was also what led to Jurgen Klopp losing his s@#$ and jumping all over the fourth official: Neven Subotic wanted to get back in after being treated, the referee refused to allow it, and Napoli went ahead with the set piece, while Dortmund’s defense was completely confused, not to mention under manned.
Napoli won 2-1 enjoying yet another goal from a free kick, this time a beautiful execution by Lorenzo Insigne, who had a brilliant match on the left wing and provided width that Dortmund didn’t get from its winger. Aubameyang did come on in the second half, but the overall insistence on always rushing towards the middle to create a four man combination with Reus, Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski.
Dortmund were unlucky throughout the match – not just because of the red cards, but they also lost Mats Hummels to an injury right before half time, although it didn’t make things too easy for Napoli, as Marek Hamsik was having a terrible day. Gonzalo Higuain did have a comfortable time getting behind the Dortmund defense time after time, but he simply didn’t have too many attacking weapons around him to make something out of it, making it easy for the Dortmund defense to center on him when he had the ball.
Dortmund were just as dangerous as Napoli, especially in the first half, but they lacked width and speed during the minutes when it was a level playing field. Even with Reus and Aubameyang on the other wing playing together in the second half, it felt like the team was simply too cautious (probably for a good reason too) to actually try and risk enough in order to get more than that own goal by Zuniga.
Starting Jakub Blaszczykowski does make sense, but it showed a bit of fear from Klopp heading into a very difficult stadium, even though he has the better team. Aubameyang has been scorching hot since the beginning of the season, and having someone who isn’t just a hard worker on the wing but someone who is a constant threat to break loose with his speed through the channels might have been more beneficial to start with in hindsight.
The loss makes things very complicated in an already difficult group, but Dortmund should recover from this hit. They’re good enough to beat any team in Europe in any stadium, but when set pieces are defended and delivered so poorly, all the beautiful passing combinations in the world aren’t going to help.