Eddie Howe, a newcomer to Champions League action, had seen his Newcastle side make a promising start in Group F, securing a draw in Milan and dismantling Paris Saint-Germain.
However, their ascent to the top was halted by Edin Terzic’s Borussia Dortmund, who displayed tactically astute football on a rainy night at St James’ Park.
Felix Nmecha’s first-half goal proved to be the difference, throwing the race for knockout stage qualification wide open with three games remaining.
Despite Newcastle hitting the bar twice, Howe, who had tried to sign Nmecha in the summer, had few complaints. “We created a lot of late pressure but we weren’t at our absolute best,” he admitted. “It’s a top-quality group, and it was always going to be tight. It’s fine margins. But we’re still in there, still fighting.”
The rainy conditions were so severe that giant paper towel rolls were used to mop up the water collecting on seats and work benches in the press box. The usual replay monitors had to be removed due to an electrocution risk.
On the field, the playing surface held up well, resulting in a fast-paced, end-to-end contest with both goalkeepers making crucial saves. Nick Pope denied Donyell Malen and Niclas Füllkrug with a stunning double save, while Gregor Kobel stopped Anthony Gordon’s curler.
Dortmund displayed superior passing and the ability to break down Newcastle’s press with ease. Terzic’s team, despite being at the bottom of the group with only one point, proved to be a formidable opponent, posing more first-half problems than Paris Saint-Germain had in their entire 90-minute match.
As valiantly as Newcastle defended, Dortmund’s ball control and passing accuracy, led by Emre Can, Marcel Sabitzer, and Nmecha, kept the home team on the back foot. Nmecha’s fabulous counter attacking goal just before halftime left Newcastle trailing.
Callum Wilson’s efforts to equalize couldn’t break Dortmund’s defense, and despite hitting the bar twice, Newcastle fell short of making a comeback.
Dortmund’s manager, Terzic, praised his team’s performance, stating, “Newcastle pressed high and took risks, but we made the right decisions. And Felix Nmecha is a brilliant player; he had a fantastic game.”
With the qualification race now wide open, Newcastle faces an uphill battle to secure a spot in the Champions League knockout stages.