Youthful Dortmund side achieve Sporting feat

Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opens the scoring against Sporting on Tuesday by dinking the ball over goalkeeper Rui Patricio in the ninth minute.
Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opens the scoring against Sporting on Tuesday by dinking the ball over goalkeeper Rui Patricio in the ninth minute.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • Borussia Dortmund's young guns shone in the absence of almost a dozen injured regulars to keep the side firmly on track for the Champions League knockout stages with a defiant 2-1 victory at Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday.

Dortmund have struggled without Marco Reus, Raphael Guerreiro, Sven Bender, Andre Schuerrle, Adrian Ramos and Gonzalo Castro among others, picking up a point in their last two Bundesliga matches with an inexperienced line-up.

However, there was no evidence of stage fright among Dortmund's talented youngsters on Tuesday as they took a 2-0 first-half lead in Portugal before holding on for a win.

Players like 18-year-olds Felix Passlack and Christian Pulisic integrated seamlessly into the starting line-up, while Ousmane Dembele, 19, looked equally as comfortable in what is his maiden Champions League season.

The audacity of holding midfielder Julian Weigl as he weaved his way past several Portuguese defenders to drill in their second goal with a maturity well past his 21 years was one of the highlights of an emphatic display.

"I really don't know exactly what I did when I scored," Weigl told reporters. "I think the last time I scored was with the Under-19 team."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the opener for Dortmund and Bruno Cesar pulled one back for Sporting when he scored from an indirect free kick midway through the second half.

Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, in his second season in charge, has quickly overcome the departure of stalwarts Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the close season, plugging the gaps effectively, especially on the European stage.

"We were incredibly young and inexperienced," Tuchel said.

"But then we go out and play this first half with such naturalness. So dominant, so strong and effective."

To top it off, Tuchel even brought on another teenager in stoppage time, with 18-year-old midfielder Dzenis Burnic adding his name to the seemingly endless talent pool at the coach's disposal.

Dortmund top Group F on seven points ahead of Real Madrid, on goal difference.

Sporting lie in third on three, while Legia Warsaw have yet to pick up a point.

Sporting coach Jorge Jesus, who was suspended, said : "It is not going to be easy to reach the round of 16. We still have a chance, though. There are still nine points to play for."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Youthful Dortmund side achieve Sporting feat'. Print Edition | Subscribe