Karim Adeyemi’s brilliant breakaway goal for Borussia Dortmund means Chelsea have a 1-0 deficit to overcome following the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
Graham Potter’s side had the better chances amid a boisterous atmosphere in Germany but Thiago Silva had a goal disallowed for handball and Joao Felix hit the crossbar when well placed. Ademeyi’s solo run punished their earlier profligacy just after the hour mark.
It was cruel on Chelsea given their performance. Once behind they pushed hard for the equaliser and came close when Kalidou Koulibaly had his fierce shot cleared off the line by Emre Can. But they must now come from behind at Stamford Bridge to progress.
The defeat on the night means that Chelsea have now won only once in nine matches since the turn of the year and though Potter will have been encouraged by some of what he saw, this was further evidence that this is a team still finding ways not to seize victory.
Borussia Dortmund: Kobel (8), Wolf (6), Sule (7), Schlotterbeck (7), Guerreiro (6), Emre Can (7), Adeyemi (8), Bellingham (7), Salih Ozcan (7), Brandt (7), Haller (6).
Subs: Modeste (5), Ryerson (6), Bynoe-Gittens (6).
Chelsea: Kepa (5), James (7), Thiago Silva (6), Koulibaly (6), Chilwell (6), Loftus-Cheek (6), Fernandez (6), Havertz (6), Ziyech (5), Joao Felix (7), Mudryk (6).
Subs: Mount (6), Cucurella (5).
Player of the match: Karim Adeyemi
How Dortmund won it on the night
The relaxing of restrictions in the summer that had previously required temporary seating to be installed on the vast Sudtribune for European competition meant that the knockout stages of the Champions League were treated to the full Dortmund experience.
The terrace was packed over one hour before kick-off, a cacophony of boos greeting the Chelsea players for their warm-up let alone the game itself. With confidence fragile, cohesion fledgling, it made for a daunting test for Potter’s team.
Graham Potter made three changes to the Chelsea team that drew with West Ham at the weekend. In came Kalidou Koulibaly, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell. Out went Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke and Marc Cucurella.
They played on the counter-attack in the first half but there were opportunities. Thiago Silva had a goal disallowed for handball from Reece James’ left-wing free-kick before Joao Felix spurned two excellent chances to give Chelsea the lead on the break.
The first saw his measured shot fly over the bar. The second, on his weaker left foot, came back off the crossbar having been set up by Kai Havertz. Along with the speedy Mykhailo Mudryk, Chelsea looked potent with space to run into but could not make it count.
Dortmund, for all their first-half possession, had little clear-cut for Kepa Arrizabalaga to deal with, Sebastien Haller’s shot on the angle being as close as they came. Captained by the combative Jude Bellingham, they offered just enough to keep the crowd in it.
The game flipped in the second half, Chelsea taking control and testing the goalkeeper through James, while Mudryk and Enzo Fernandez had efforts blocked. Just as the momentum was with them, they were exposed at the back by Adeyemi.
One-on-one with Fernandez, he outpaced the backtracking midfielder and rounded Kepa before slotting low into the net. The noise inside the stadium was extraordinary. The Chelsea players seemed in shock. It is becoming an unfortunate habit.
Dortmund were jittery thereafter as the away side tried to fashion an equaliser, Fernandez forcing a fine save from the excellent Gregor Kobel from the edge of the box. But the Chelsea supporters in the stadium were left bereft by their team’s failure to conjure a goal.
Speaking the night before about the link between resources and results, Potter had observed that the beauty of football is that two plus two does not always equal four in this game. Right now, Chelsea continue to look less than the sum of their expensive parts.
Chelsea are back in Premier League action on Saturday afternoon when they host the bottom club Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
There are further Premier League games against Tottenham and Leeds before Chelsea welcome Dortmund for the return leg of this tie on March 7.