SAM DALLING (@SamJDalling) reports from the away end at the Westfalenstadion, on a difficult night for NUFC…
Dortmund: Kobel, Suele, Hummels, Schlotterbeck, Ryerson, Sabitzer, Oezcan, Adeyemi (Reus 81), Nmecha, Brandt, Fullkrug (Moukoko 87)
GOALS: Fullkrug 26′ Brandt 79′
Newcastle: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Lascelles, Hall (Almiron 45), Livramento, Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Willock (Miley 81), Joelinton, Wilson (Gordon 45)
Ach. Football’s ability to bring up emotional conflict, to stretch feelings to their limits, rarely fails to materialise. Like repelling magnets, or the opposing effects of both vodka and Red Bull on the heart, it is an invisible force that causes much strain.
And so, against that background, it’s “OK” to be both overwhelmingly disappointed, and yet deeply proud. Sadly, completing a “reverse Bayer Leverkusen” makes post-Christmas Champions League participation highly doubtful. Yet, the fact the previous sentence is even a legitimate string of words is cause for quiet satisfaction.
And it is “OK” to vent frustration at Kieran Trippier’s woeful set pieces, while still loving him dearly. His pathetic second-half freekick led to Dortmund (via Julian Brandt) breaking for a goal that killed the hope that had steadily grown into semi-expectation.
This was a lesson. Perhaps once that was a tad harsh, but one worth learning, too. One that will need to be mastered as the years pass. Dortmund got results both here and back on Tyneside because they know how to get results such these. They have perfected the blend of quality and dark arts, of pressing and of sitting off in the right order. They can both fizz and draw sting. They are simply a little bit better. For now.
True, United’s injury list was lengthy. Add those missing for miscellaneous reasons, and what remains is a completely drained core, a gaggle of goalkeepers and a couple of faces familiar only to those who braved Wrexham and Port Vale in between European jaunts. The phrase running on empty was invented for scenarios such as these.
And still, but for a Joelinton touch, a Joelinton glancing header, a result may have materialised. They were chances that must be taken at arenas like these. Arena is not a term used lightly on these virtual pages, btw. It has become synonymous with Stateside franchises, the sort of outfit that can be picked up and dropped thousands of miles away. Chuck the right number at anything and it is doable, right? But strip it back to its origins, its Latin meaning, and you have the right word for Dortmund’s home. Because if you thought that drum made a din, this was on another level.
An 81,000 seater Amphitheatre, a heft of concrete as intimidatingly ugly as it was beautiful. The wall was both as yellow and booming as everyone tells you. It is fully assembled more than an hour pre match, bodies crammed as far as the eye can see. And then further still.
It bounces as one, a constant backing track to on-field matters. From before the start to long after the finish, the mass is conducted almost tunefully. And it took an interval break to protest against reforms to this competition and the rising price of German domestic tickets. Over here, supporters have a real, meaningful voice.
Down at the other end? Well. For a start it was, much like Milan, deathly quiet until post-match. The art of singing by canals and/or in squares has been mastered. Local supermarkets saw shelves cleared, and by mid-afternoon all that was available were four-packs of knock-off WKD Blue. Naturally, it proved popular. With that for fuel, it is little wonder the full song book gets an airing. In the grounds? Like the team, not quite there yet.
But then there is the bit that really grates. It is the reason that little time is devoted here to how excellent Tino Livramento looks, how delightful having the Joelinton-Willock combo back is, how intriguing it was to see a both a shifting shape with and without ball and some training ground set-plays almost come to fruition.
Our away ends can be grim places at times. Grown men pissing in sinks. Grown men coming to blows over important life issues such as being asked to move when you’re in the wrong spot. How was the match, dear? ”Aye, grand. Except some young chap was in my seat so I decided the proportionate and appropriate course of action was to call him a c**t and try to knock him down a flight of stairs.”
There is a myth that travelling sections are a free for all. That may work if you’re a six foot plus bloke, but it is trickier if you’re an older couple, a family, or have mobility issues. Plus, that only works if everyone is on board, which, clearly, they are not. And the scrapping mentioned above was in the upper tier. The place where, halfway through the opening period, club officials were trying to move people across to make room for fans unable to get to their seats / a spot in the lower. As I wasn’t below deck, I don’t want to speculate too much. Note though, that the entrance and concourse for both levels was the same. Draw your own conclusion, although it may also be that the organisation wasn’t up to scratch. Wouldn’t be the first time.
It is a shame to be writing about this on a Champions’ League night. Some of you might want to call me soft (or indeed something worse). That’s fine – you’re entitled to your opinion. Some may shrug and say “that’s football, it’s just how it is”. Again, your opinion etc.
Is it really OK though? Does it have to be? Can we not have nice things like being able to enjoy a beer in full view of a football pitch, or the chance to stand with our pals, without it becoming a pit of all that is rank with humanity? On the packed U-Bahn back, one traveller could not wait the four stops back into town to relieve his bladder. So instead, he filled a pint glass with piss. The Germans around him were astounded. English fans, reputations etc.
Look, this isn’t everyone. Plenty, in fact the majority, will have enjoyed it for just what it is supposed to be. I could have left it, glossed over it. Why include it, then? Because there is a eulogising over our away ends. There are plenty of words out there painting a romantic picture. And so, it feels right to also talk about the less good stuff. Because that exists too.
Oh yes, football. Thousands of miles travelled; still no European goal celebrated. Ach.
SAM DALLING / @SamJDalling