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Borussia Dortmund still preoccupied by Bundesliga near-miss and is struggling without Bellingham

BERLIN (AP) — After wasting a great chance to win the Bundesliga on the final day last season, Borussia Dortmund still hasn’t recovered.
Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Champions League group C soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Union Berlin at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BERLIN (AP) — After wasting a great chance to win the Bundesliga on the final day last season, Borussia Dortmund still hasn’t recovered.

A 4-2 win over Freiburg papered over the cracks last weekend, but Dortmund’s problems were exposed again Tuesday in a 2-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“We lacked the courage,” coach Edin Terzić said.

“Too much nonsense,” sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.

“Very bad signals,” club advisor Matthias Sammer said.

Injuries in Paris to midfielders Marcel Sabitzer and Marius Wolf will not help the mood before in-form Wolfsburg visits in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Wolfsburg has started the league with three wins from four games, while Dortmund was fortunate to win two — against Cologne in the opening round, then against 10-man Freiburg. Dortmund was held to draws by Bochum and promoted Heidenheim inbetween.

Against PSG, Terzić sought to limit the attacking threat of Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé and Randal Kolo Muani by lining up with three central defenders and five players across midfield.

But it didn’t work as planned.

“With the line of five the way we imagined it, you can actively defend going forward,” Kehl said. “We didn’t implement that.”

Terzić pointed to the team’s poor pass rate with almost every second pass going astray.

“We can put it nicely and say we had too much respect, or you could say that we simply lacked the courage,” Terzić said.


Dortmund hasn’t yet been able to make up for the absence of Jude Bellingham, who joined Real Madrid in the offseason and has made a brilliant start in the Spanish capital. Bellingham snatched a 1-0 win for Madrid over Union Berlin in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

Bellingham was injured and didn’t play when Dortmund drew with Mainz 2-2 on the final day of the Bundesliga last season, allowing Bayern Munich to pip the team to the title on goal difference.

Sabitzer joined Dortmund from Bayern after falling out of favor at the Bavarian powerhouse, and Felix Nmecha joined from Wolfsburg. Neither of them can replace Bellingham on their own and Dortmund as a whole hasn’t been able to compensate as it was able to do when top-scorer Erling Haaland joined Manchester City the summer before.

Of the team’s forwards, only Donyell Malen has managed to score so far in the Bundesliga this season. Gio Reyna, Sébastien Haller and Youssoufa Moukoko remained on the substitutes’ bench in Paris.

Terzić still enjoys the club’s support but the coach will come under increasing pressure if Dortmund’s poor form continues. After Wolfsburg on Saturday, Dortmund visits Hoffenheim – where it has traditionally had problems before – before it hosts AC Milan in the Champions League.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga’s fifth round, Bayern hosts Bochum on Saturday, and Bayer Leverkusen welcomes promoted Heidenheim on Sunday. Bayern and Leverkusen drew 2-2 last weekend and are both undefeated so far this season.


AP soccer:

Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press

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