It wasn’t to be a fairytale return to the Signal Iduna Park for Erling Haaland as Manchester City could only muster a goalless draw with Borussia Dortmund.
In a low-key affair, Haaland was sacrificed at half-time as Pep Guardiola looked to shuffle his pack ahead of a busy schedule before the World Cup break.
The hosts were the more dangerous of the two sides, looking to exploit the space left in behind the City defence on the counter-attack.
Both managers experimented with team shape, as Edin Terzic opted for an unusual back four that included no obvious full-backs, with Thorgan Hazard filling in at left-back and Niklas Sule deputising on the right.
Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty just before the hour – prompting a great save from Gregor Kobel – as a clumsy leg from Emre Can felled him in the area, and the home side came close as Youssoufa Moukoko squandered a sitter from just five yards after an excellent run and drilled cross by Karim Adeyemi down the right.
Adeyemi would have two chances himself that he should have buried; both attempts in the first half parried or held by the understudy goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
Giovanni Reyna also had a tame effort held by Ortega as Adeyemi created yet another chance for the hosts, but they lacked that clinical potency in front of goal to really threaten the scoreline.
The second half was less interesting tactically than the first as Dortmund’s threat on the counter became more sporadic, but with their main goalscoring threat substituted, City looked toothless in front of goal as well, even after the Mahrez penalty miss.
This result is positive for both sides: Dortmund have qualified for the last 16, with City already through from their result last time out, and winning the group after this.
Job done, as far as both managers are concerned, and they will both be turning their attentions to big league games for them this weekend, as City go to Leicester on Saturday trying to overtake Arsenal in the Premier League, and Dortmund travelling to in-form Frankfurt.
TALKING POINT – CITY IN CONTROL, BUT DORTMUND DANGEROUS
It was a game that one would expect City to control and Dortmund to threaten, and that’s exactly what happened.
In a highly interesting tactical battle, Terzic’s hosts weren’t afraid to go after the visitors when it came to triggering a press, and they did so in organised fashion, hunting down the half-spaces that Foden, Cancelo and Mahrez wanted to inhabit.
Adeyemi was a real threat in behind Cancelo down the right; so much so that Guardiola took off the Portuguese at the interval to allow for Nathan Ake to move wider and deal with the pacey youngster.
The Germans had their chances to win this game, but they missed them at the crucial moment. Their young starlets are exciting, but raw. And that was proven tonight.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – KARIM ADEYEMI, BORUSSIA DORTMUND
A real thorn in the side of Joao Cancelo.
His pace in behind and willingness to get beyond the City defence stretched Guardiola’s back four, and you must be doing something right if Pep has to tinker his system to deal with you.
But it wasn’t just the offensive capabilities of Adeyemi that caught the eye.
He was tireless in his defensive duties, tracking the constant overlapping and underlapping runs of Cancelo, drifting inside when needed to assist Jude Bellingham or Niklas Sule in the wider channel.
The 20-year-old showed his two-footedness inside and outside, his eye for goal when driving inside, and also his creative instincts when he set up Moukoko for what should have been the opener.
BVB: Kobel 7, Sule 6, Hummels 7, Schlotterbeck 7, Reyna 6, Bellingham 6, Can 7, Hazard 7, Moukoko 6, Adeyemi 7, Brandt 6. Subs: Malen 6, Modeste 6, Wolf 6, Papadopoulos 6.
City: Ortega 7, Stones 6, Dias 6, Ake 6, Cancelo 6, Foden 6, Gundogan 6, Rodri 6, Mahrez 5, Alvarez 6, Haaland 5. Subs: Silva 6, Akanji 7, Grealish 6, Palmer 6.
16′: GOOD SAVE! Sloppy from Stones on the far side playing Adeyemi on, and he’s through here the youngster, in behind Cancelo as the flag stays down, but the finish is poor as Ortega stands his ground! What a chance for Dortmund!
37′: WHAT A CHANCE! Dortmund flood forward through Adeyemi down the right again, and his pull-back is in towards Moukoko! What a miss!
42′: CLOSE! Adeyemi is free again in the right half-space this time, sliding in Moukoko, whose right-footed shot is tamely into the gloves of Ortega.
57′: PENALTY! An initial Foden cross misses Gundogan, falling to Mahrez, who is felled by a clumsy leg from Emre Can. // SAVED! Excellent save from Kobel, as he denies Mahrez to his right!
67′: GREAT SAVE! A lovely turn and snap-shot from Alvarez takes Kobel by surprise, but he saves well down to his right after the deflection off Schlotterbeck!