Teenager Kylian Mbappe scored twice to give AS Monaco a 3-2 win at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in a Champions League quarter-final first-leg match that was postponed following an attack on the home team’s bus.
Mbappe gave Monaco a 19th-minute lead shortly after Fabinho had missed a penalty for the visitors, and they went further ahead when Dortmund defender Sven Bender headed into his own net after 35 minutes.
Ousmane Dembele pulled one back for Dortmund in the 57th minute but another defensive mistake allowed Mbappe to break away and grab a third goal for the Ligue 1 side. Shinji Kagawa gave the German side hope with a neat finish six minutes from time.
German media had questioned whether the game should have gone ahead so soon after Tuesday’s attack in which three explosions went off as the Dortmund team bus travelled to the stadium, injuring their Spanish defender Marc Bartra.
Here are five things we learned from the match…
Should this game have gone ahead in the first-place?
Borussia Dortmund bus blasts injure player Marc Bartra
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin was quick to release an official statement on Tuesday evening, in the wake of the disturbing explosives attack that caused the postponement of Dortmund’s match against Monaco and left Marc Bartra hospitalised.
“The decision taken to postpone the Uefa Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco was the correct one since we must always prioritise the safety and security of all fans, team officials and players,” his statement read.
Uefa’s response to the incident, as well as the defiant and level-headed reaction of both clubs involved, has been quite rightly praised. But Thomas Tuchel’s pre-match comments were illuminating, and appeared to suggest that – in spite of Uefa’s commitment – the club had little say in the rescheduling of the match.
Borussia Dortmund bus explosion
“There are players who can easily deal with what’s happened and others who worry more,” he said ahead of Wednesday’s game. “So there are some very mixed feelings.
“We wished we’d had more time to deal with what happened but someone in Switzerland decided we have to play. It’s not very fair.”
The result aside: his complaint raised important questions as to whether it was morally right to expect Dortmund’s players to compete in arguably the biggest match of their season less than 24 hours after an attack on their lives. Fixture lists should not take precedent over the mental wellbeing of the players.
It may have been safe to have played the fixture, but that doesn’t mean it was right to.
Mbappe on song again
The striker won a penalty in the first-half, which Fabinho missed ()
There is a reason Kylian Mbappe is one of the world’s most coveted young players, but letting a ball hit him and bounce in for the opener is not it.
One might argue that being in the right place at the right time is key for a forward but the Frenchman wasn’t even onside.
The 18-year-old celebrates his opening goal ()
He got away with it though, and while his first goal might have come tinged with fortune at the Westfalenstadion, his second was emphatic.
Intercepting the ball from Sokratis Papastathopoulos, he strode through on goal before unleashing an unstoppable shot high into the top corner of the net.
On the biggest night of his career and fresh from another young star, Paulo Dybala, becoming the talk of Europe last night, Mbappe once again ensured his name was up in lights. He won the penalty that was missed by Fabinho and his general play on the counter-attack was incisive, troublesome and everything his coach would have wanted from him against a team that dominates possession.
Should Monaco reach the semi-finals, he will have an opportunity to shine on an even bigger stage.
Monaco’s young players come out on top
Monaco’s young players were at the top of their game against Dortmund ()
Ahead of this eagerly awaited quarter-final clash, Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembélé – who quit Ligue 1 in favour for a shot in the Bundesliga – suggested that Germany was the only place to be for Europe’s most talented youngsters.
“I was never worried about a move to this country,” the 19-year-old told L’Equipe. “Germany, when you’re a young player, is the best. There are lots of young talents here, and people have faith in them.”
That German clubs are wont to offering younger players fantastic opportunities is without question, after all, Dortmund’s starting XI was packed with some of the continent’s most exciting prospects.
Dembele quit Rennes for Dortmund ()
But Monaco’s performance, inspired by the likes of Mbappe (18), Thomas Lemar (21) and Almany Toure (20), proved Dembélé’s first point to be debatable. For Monaco’s young charges have lit up Europe, not to mention Ligue 1, where they currently sit first.
Just as Monaco’s European performances against the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have proved Ligue 1 is as far behind the Premier League as many like to think, so do the performances of their starlets prove that France is a fantastic place for young players to ply their trade.
But there is still hope for Dortmund’s bright lights
Isak, a 17-year-old prodigy of Eritrean heritage but Swedish upbringing, becomes the Westphalia club’s youngest hope but surrounding him are four more starlets not yet out of their teens.
Christian Pulisic, more a Liverpool obsession than merely a target, is American soccer’s great hope at just 18 and German full-back Felix Passlack is the same age.
A year older are Emre Mor, a Danish-born Turkish international winger who is most dangerous when used on the opposite flank to Ousmane Dembele, the French prodigy who, like Isak, rejected far bigger riches and reputations to play first-team football in Dortmund’s talent incubator.
Weigl impressed in the middle of the park ()
Mikel Merino escaped the grasps of Barcelona and Madrid in his homeland to sign from second-tier Osasuna last summer. Comparatively he and Julian Weigl, 20 and 21 respectively, are senior members of the squad but still have over a decade of top-level football ahead of them.
And then you have the players who are currently entering their peak; Mario Gotze, Marc Bartra, Matthias Ginter, Sebastian Rode, Raphael Guerreiro, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
All in all it’s a lot of talent but it’s all very young. Coping with the situation they were put in – “by men in Switzerland” as Tuchel described it – against Monaco it is perhaps no surprise that they might struggle to perform.
Should they be eliminated in France next week, however, the talent on their books suggests they’ll be back on this stage before long
Both sets of supporters deserve praise
Dortmund supporters ahead of the match ()
As Leicester City fans brought further shame to the English game, Dortmund and Monaco supporters came together in what was a unique situation at the Westfalenstadion.
Police informed fans that bags were not allowed inside the stadium but that did not stop the solidarity between the two sides with Dortmund creating a hashtag of #bedsforawayfans for any Monaco fans who did not have accommodation following the rescheduled fixture.
This continued before the match as both sets of fans drank and sung to one another in the city centre but the atmosphere was very different when heading to the stadium from the city centre.
Both sets of supporters came together ()
The hustle and chanting that transpired on Tuesday was turned into silence on Wednesday. Walking towards the stadium, the sense of what had happened the previous day was in the air with the addition of heavily armed police officers.
The numbers were visually tenfold compared to Tuesday evening and – although there did not seem to be any trouble in the area – people were still affected by the events.
Ultimately both sets of supporters were an utter credit to their club, as well as to the sport.