Newcastle United 0-1 Borussia Dortmund (UEFA Champions League Group Stages)
I’m straight out of Gateshead and its boys to men as I brave the rain and jump in the car to program ‘Times Square Car Park’ into my sat nav for a next date with Newcastle and Dortmund, this time the elders.
The car park is cheap but it’s a good bloody walk from St James’ Park and this rain is not relinquishing. Luckily, it’s quite fine so I won’t be a drowned rat on arrival, more of a wet pussy you might say, I’m pulled up after a bit of traffic and out the car park and onto St James’ Boulevard as I head towards Grainger Town.
I’ve got a bit of time to kill so make my way down St Andrews Street under a China Town arch opposite the stadium where all the pubs are busy full of fans, not fancying a pre-match pint I instead find a book shop called ‘The Back Page’ which is littered with sporting memorabilia from around the country. Predominantly Newcastle stock it has Miggy Almiron drinks bottles and Bobby Robson coasters, I’ve even spotted a Forest scarf and a non-league guide 2023/24 which I’m most tempted to buy (I’ll take a look on Amazon where it's probably cheaper later).
Back in the rain I’m heading up the short walk to the stadium sat nicely not too far away on the hill, glowing in the grey skies as I cross Gallowgate towards the Jackie Milburn Stand to get my press pass.
It doesn’t seem as madly busy as it did for the PSG game but that was then and this is now, the clubs first match back in the UCL was always going to be an occasion to remember, this has an after the lord mayors show feel? Dortmund are a whopping 4/1 against and I can’t fathom why Newcastle have been made clear favourites by the bookies. I’m shocked as BvB’s form has been sensational this season, still unbeaten in the league having only suffered loss at PSG in Europe.
I’m under the Milburn Stand as I walk up to the packed ‘hospitality’ suites entrance before making my way up the escalators to the UEFA Office where I quickly say hello and grab my pass. I’m having a look at the memorabilia inside a glass cabinet where I spot a few old FA Cup medals and various international caps from Newcastle stars gone by before crossing back over the road where a little doorway by the players entrance takes me to the press room, I’m waltzing in as Alan Shearer is chatting to somebody by the door before finding a quiet seat and doing a little work on my laptop as we’ve still a couple of hours to go until kick off.
I’m sat a good forty minutes before making my way up to my seat. Through a back door under the stand I’m out into concourse and up the steps to the open, fans already inside this huge arena which has a large circular Champions League banner covering centre circle.
The Dortmund fans high up on my left in the top tier are already here and making a racket, I’m walking up the huge number of steps to my table seat, I’ve brought a laptop today where I’ll also get a stream but it looks like we’ve also been provided monitors, the mod cons of UEFA Champions League nights, the pitch is a long way down and with my eye sight you need all the help you can get.
There’s a racket ahead of kick off as the Newcastle fans pack in and make a noise with a full stadium tifo of black and white as 52,000 hum to the Beatles Hey Jude, but Dortmund aren’t here to make the numbers, they start bright and should have taken the lead, in fact the opening moments see chances at both ends, the match is end to end and in particular the away side enjoy some progress in breaking down their left.
It looks to me like they’ve targeted the usually solid Kieran Tripper who takes all Newcastle’s set plays. When United have the ball he’s invariably out of position, so when he's not at right back, Edin Terzic’s side are quick to send Marco Reus away down the left.
The half is slowly soul destroying for Newcastle who look a shadow of the side that beat PSG as they struggle to break the solid Borussia lines and suffer injury to their star striker Alexander Isak.
The game looks to be festering out into a scoreless half of football as Dortmund prove a tough nut to crack, the home crowd now flat as the away support beat their drums, the yellow wall high up in the gods haven’t stopped all game, and then Nico Schlotterbeck is sent away, down the left as standard where he has time and space to pull back to Felix Nmecha who coolly gives the yellows the lead.
That goal in the rain certainly dampens the mood further inside the stadium, by half time it’s gushing in from the East and my laptop is getting it despite being under the largest roof cover imaginable.
The second half I expect fireworks from the home side who do give it a good go, substitute striker Callum Wilson goes close but at the other end Dortmund continue to attack, the hosts bring on Sandro Tonali for his last game ahead of a twelve month ban for gambling but his appetite and drive cannot help either, a succession of corners leaves with Newcastle hitting the bar, by the time the whistle is blown for full time United goalie Nick Pope is still in the opposition area, the fight was there but they were brutally knocked down by the better boxer midway through the night, despite picking themselves up to claw back some points of pride late on, an actual point could not be retrieved.
The level of football was of high quality and the post match verdict was met by Newcastle fans with appraisal, that ‘this is the Champions League’ and being able to go toe to toe with a great club like Dortmund who have regularly been there and done it is huge strides in itself considering where the Magpies were less than 2 years ago.
Nick Pope made a fabulous double stop in the first half and he proved you don't need to be good at kicking to be a good goalkeeper whilst Kieran Trippier, despite being regularly exposed and targeted down the left, well he’s such an important player for Newcastle and I get the feeling he’ll be remembered for a very long time favourably at this club.
Bruno Guimaraes was fabulous in midfield and is a real cult hero whilst Anthony Gordon was lively out wide. Borussia had several excellent performances non the least by their defensive duo Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck. Marcel Sabitzer and Emre Can (for 45 minutes) were solid with Felix Nmecha providing the difference ahead of half time, he's a top all round midfielder, all in all a well rounded team effort from them, a chance they’ll give Bayern a good run for their money in the Bundesliga this year?
In some ways this defeat is probably the kick up the backside Newcastle needed as they approach more difficult matches to come, they still have it all in their own hands but two tricky away games in Paris and Dortmund will make it hard to qualify, but they knew that as they all did, before they started when they were handed this group of death.
Ditto Dortmund who are second on 4pts but level with Newcastle behind PSG on six … You feel the next match between the two at Signal Iduna Park will tell you a lot about who may make it along with the French favourites out of the group and into the round of sixteen.
Newcastle United: Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Joelinton (Jacob Murphy 65 (Joe Willock 70)), Anthony Gordon, Alexander Isak (Callum Wilson 15), Miguel Almiron, Dan Burn (Matt Targett 70), Sean Longstaff (Sandro Tonali 65), Bruno Guimaraes.
Borussia Dortmund: Gregor Kobel, Nico Schlotterbeck, Felix Nmecha (Giovanni Reyna 78), Ramy Bensebaini, Marco Reus (Karim Adeyemi 63), Niclas Fullkrug (Sebastien Haller 78), Mats Hummels, Marius Wolf, Marcel Sabitzer, Donyell Malen (Niklas Sule 78), Emre Can (Salih Ozcan 43).
8:00pm Kick Off. Wednesday 25th October 2023, St James' Park, Newcastle (att 52,024).