Newcastle 0-1 Borussia Dortmund: Champions League reality check for Eddie Howe’s side

Matt Targett and Bruno Guimaraes

This was the dampest of damp nights on Tyneside, with a torrential cloudburst delivering a freezing cold shower all over Newcastle United’s Champions League aspirations.

The Toon Army rolled up from the city centre into St James’ Park fuelled by the elation of a fine start in hazardous Group F, a draw against AC Milan in San Siro followed by a spectacular win over Paris St-Germain that represented an exhilarating homecoming after two decades away from the tournament.

Emotions were in sharp contrast here on Wednesday night though, as Newcastle’s players and fans trooped away at the final whistle rain-sodden, bedraggled and beaten after Borussia Dortmund gave them a lesson in the harsh realities of the Champions League.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe has no need to panic after one loss – that would be ridiculous – but there is no doubt life has suddenly got a whole lot harder. The optimism that was rampant when PSG and Kylian Mbappe were sent packing in that 4-1 thrashing has been replaced by a real sense of jeopardy.

The smart money would still be on PSG winning the group, despite the defeat at Newcastle, so it is a bitter setback that Newcastle lost to Borussia Dortmund, increasing the significance of their meeting in Germany on 7 November.

Newcastle did not play badly against the Germans and they can look back on missed opportunities, especially when Anthony Gordon was thwarted twice by Dortmund keeper Gregor Kobel in the first half.

They came even closer after the break when Kobel blocked an effort from substitute Callum Wilson – a first-half replacement for the injured Alexander Isak – with the England striker then hitting the bar with a header before Gordon’s shot was deflected on to the woodwork with seconds left.

For all this, the Bundesliga side had opportunities of their own, especially when Nick Pope made a magnificent double save from Donyell Malen and Niclas Fullkrug in the first half when both seemed certain to score.

Nick Pope saves Niclas Fullkurg's effort

There was always a sense that Dortmund just had a bit too much nous for Newcastle. This is a club that has been around the Champions League block many more times than Howe’s side, who are rookies at this level – and it showed.

The German team may not be quite operating at the rarefied level they have in the past when it comes to the Champions League, but in people like Mats Hummels and Marco Reus they have individuals with many miles on the clock and were a bit more street-wise than Newcastle.

‘Reality check’ was the phrase on many lips.

Newcastle could not recapture the intensity that proved too much for PSG. The snap was not there in a game played out in a deluge for the most part.

Indeed, it was the visitors who started more quickly, clearly determined to put a marker down that they would not be unnerved or cowed by a spectacular pre-match display of flags and a wall of noise inside St James’ Park.

They play in a special atmosphere of their own at Signal Iduna Park, and this vital victory was played out to a non-stop soundtrack of singing from the colourful travelling fans.

Borussia Dortmund players line up after the game

Edin Terzic’s side had threatened before the decisive moment on the stroke of half-time when Felix Nmecha – who was linked with Newcastle in the summer – steered a composed right-foot finish past Pope after fine work by Nico Schlotterbeck.

Newcastle were also disrupted by an early recurrence of Isak’s groin injury while an attempt to inject fresh impetus in the shape of Jacob Murphy halfway through the second half lasted only five minutes before he went off with a shoulder injury.

This was simply not Newcastle’s night.

Newcastle will hope they do not look back on it as a big opportunity missed, because a win here would have put them in prime position to reach the last 16 – but they were short of their best and paid the price.

Sandro Tonali made a 25-minute cameo and fans will be wondering if it might be his final appearance for quite some time, with the club fearing a long ban for alleged breaches of Italian betting regulations. There was the sniff of a story and a farewell contribution when he came on to a very warm reception, but it was not to be.

For all the frantic finale that almost saw Newcastle snatch a precious point, this was a night that fell flat after the fervour of the victory against PSG.

It was a damp squib for the majority at St James’ Park, the agony after the Champions League ecstasy of the previous game. There is, though, another chapter in this story in two weeks’ time.

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