UCL: Dortmund don’t have an Mbappe, and they don’t need one

DORTMUND, Germany — Borussia Dortmund don’t need a star to sparkle.

They don’t have Vinícius Júnior, Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappé — the talismans of this year’s other Champions League semifinalists — but the players they do have, they use effectively. Now, seemingly against the odds, they’re in sight of the final.

A 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in Dortmund on Wednesday means that if BVB can avoid defeat in Paris next week in the second leg, they will be lining up against either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich at Wembley in the Champions League final.

If they get there, they will be underdogs again. But they were against Atletico Madrid in the last round and not many had them qualifying from a group that also included Newcastle United, AC Milan and PSG. Yet here they are, 90 minutes away from earning an unlikely shot at being crowned champions of Europe.

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Mats Hummels was named Man of the Match, and Jadon Sancho was exceptional — but as if to ram home the point about what is powering Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League run, coach Edin Terzic was more interested in praising the collective quality and spirit his players had shown.

“It was a well-deserved win, a good team performance,” he said. “We could have scored more goals, but so could they. That’s why the result is OK from my point of view. We ran a lot, but that’s necessary in a game like this. You have to earn your way to Wembley.

“All we need now is a draw in the second leg, but we also want to win next week. We have a small lead and a good opportunity.”

While PSG have collected star after star under the deep-pocketed ownership of Qatar Sports Investments, Borussia Dortmund have grown used to having their best players stripped away.

Jude Bellingham, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Christian Pulisic, Ilkay Gündogan, Manuel Akanji and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all, at different times, gone onto bigger and better things. Ousmane Dembélé is now at PSG via a €135 million move to Barcelona from Dortmund in 2017.

The exit door at Signal Iduna Park has swung open again and again, but it hasn’t stopped Terzic from building a team that, as PSG found out, is greater than the sum of its parts. BVB’s goal here was scored by Niclas Füllkrug, a 31-year-old journeyman striker picked up for €15 million from Werder Bremen in the summer.

The pass that Fullkrug expertly took down and smashed low into the net midway through the first half was delivered by defender Nico Schlotterbeck, signed for €20 million from Freiburg in 2022.

There were impressive performances in midfield from Emre Can, back in Germany after spells at Liverpool and Juventus, and Marcel Sabitzer, deemed not good enough for either Bayern Munich or Manchester United last summer.

Veteran defender Hummels, back at Dortmund after being lured away to Bayern in 2016, was calm and clever in the face of Mbappe’s darting pace and movement. Ian Maatsen, who joined on loan from Chelsea in January following temporary spells in England’s lower leagues with Charlton Athletic, Coventry City and Burnley, was solid at left-back.

Sancho returned in January, too, having been forced out at Manchester United following his public row with manager Erik ten Hag.

What must Ten Hag be thinking after watching the winger terrorise PSG with 12 successful take-ons — the most in a Champions League semifinal since Lionel Messi in 2008. Had Fullkrug taken a golden opportunity in the second half after Sancho had danced his way to the byline and cut the ball back, then Dortmund would be heading to France with an even greater advantage.

PSG also had their moments and twice hit the inside of the post through Mbappe and then Achraf Hakimi. Mbappe had a quiet night, but he was still able to make the 88,000 feverish home fans hold their breath whenever he collected the ball anywhere near goal.

At the final whistle, the Dortmund players clapped and danced in front of the “Yellow Wall,” which started making a deafening noise more than an hour before kick-off and didn’t stop.

Every PSG touch was greeted with ear-spitting whistles and every tackle and pass from a player in yellow was met with a roar of approval loud enough to make it feel like the stadium was shaking in its foundations. When the result was finally confirmed after four minutes of stoppage time, the roof nearly lifted off into the spring sky.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Dortmund haven’t lost any of their last 11 home Champions League matches, a run only bettered by Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

“Everybody knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, this is the semifinal of the Champions League,” said PSG coach Luis Enrique. “We must recognise that this is an exceptional stadium, with fans who know how to support their team. The dressing room is a bit down, especially after hitting the post twice. That’s football. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and then other times, that’s how it goes.”

PSG turned around a first leg deficit against Barcelona in the last round and beat Dortmund 2-0 at home in the group stage in September.

It will be enough to give Enrique hope that a place in the final is still up for grabs and with Mbappe anything is possible. But Dortmund’s team full of players overlooked and under-appreciated have put themselves in pole position. Win or draw in Paris and their underdog story leads all the way to Wembley.