The Blues remain very much in this Champions League Round of 16 tie, returning from Germany trailing to a single goal conceded in the second half.
A counter-attack from either side long looked the most likely way the first-leg deadlock would be broken. That proved to be the case when the home side’s Karim Adeyemi scored a solo effort.
Chelsea were sharp and inventive on the counter-attack ourselves and could very easily have taken the lead by half-time had Joao Felix been more accurate with his shooting. Twice he looked odds on to score but struck his shot too high on both occasions, the second hitting the crossbar.
Graham Potter handed Chelsea Champions League debuts to Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix and Enzo Fernandez while the returning Kalidou Koulibaly, Ben Chilwell and the rest of the defence were kept busy at times when Dortmund attacked. Their wide players, like Chelsea’s, were a threat.
We had the ball in the net in the first half but that was ruled out for handball by Thiago Silva. With Chelsea having gone behind, a Koulibaly effort late in the game was cleared off the line while Enzo was denied by a top-class save.
In the end we managed eight on-target shots to the home side’s two, and a greater number off target too. There was plenty on show tonight to suggest this tie can be turned around at the Bridge in three weeks’ time.
Two of the changes made by Graham Potter were enforced with neither Benoit Badiashile nor Noni Madueke in the Champions League squad. They were replaced by Kalidou Koulibaly and Hakim Ziyech respectively. Ben Chilwell came in for Marc Cucurella at left-back.
On the front foot
Chelsea had finished the Champions League group stage in great form – with four straight wins to top the group. Three new players have been added to the squad for this competition since then so could the Blues find the momentum of that autumn European campaign quickly, playing against a side with six straight wins in 2023 in their domestic matches?
We looked capable of causing Borussia problems on the break from the off.
Mudryk was denied in a very early counter-attack by a timely tackle inside the penalty area and there was also a threatening advance into that zone by Kai Havertz. Dortmund had been a little careless in possession in the early stages.
Reece James picked up an early booking for a late challenge on Adeyemi who went on to be one of the home side’s biggest threats throughout. Despite the yellow card, to Chelsea relief our right-back was not one of the players close to a suspension for the second leg. However Mason Mount will miss that match for a later caution, as will Dortmund's Julian Ryerson.
Again with just under 15 minutes played, Dortmund surrendered the ball deep in the Chelsea half and some swift Blues play had it up the other end in a flash. Consecutive corners followed, the second leading to some unconvincing goalkeeping. Promising signs.
A free-kick quickly followed and from James’s delivery, Thiago Silva diverted the ball into the Dortmund net although unfortunately with his arm. Chelsea collected a second yellow card for that.
There was the better side of Thiago moments later when in combination with Chilwell he snuffed out a dangerous sprint into our penalty area by Julian Brandt.
Chelsea, defending in front of this stadium’s famous Yellow Wall, came under more pressure when firstly Adeyemi made space but his shot hit Thiago Silva, then when Sebastien Haller fired into our side-netting.
Opportunities go begging
It was developing into a fascinating nip and tuck contest. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was frequently engaged in a midfield tussle with Jude Bellingham.
With half-an-hour played came a glorious chance for the Blues to take the lead. Ziyech had space on the right to roll the ball into the path of Joao Felix but the Portuguese fired disappointingly wide with a clear sight of the target.
Dortmund went close with an Adeyemi shot from a corner before the unfortunate Joao Felix missed for a second time. It was another well-worked break by the Blues and Havertz did everything right to feed our no.11, as Joao then did in removing the goalkeeper from the equation until he hit the bar.
Before half-time Dortmund full-back Marius Wolf shot wide, concluding a scoreless first period but one that certainly threatened goals.
Dortmund make break pay
Bellingham picked up a booking early in the second half and another followed for Emre Can who brought down James just outside the Germans’ penalty area after a tremendous run by the England international.
It was James who took the free-kick which was top-corner bound until Gregor Kobel saved well.
Kepa made his first save soon after, low down to keep out a Brandt shot but Chelsea had turned the pressure up a notch since the break. James forced Kobel into another hurried save.
That made it all the more annoying that we were caught by a sucker punch. The quickest of breakaways left Enzo the only man back chasing with the sprinting Adeyemi, who had enough pace to go clear and round Kepa before finishing.
With just under 15 minutes remaining, the ball fell to Koulibaly inside the Dortmund area but a combination of a half-stop by the keeper, then a clearance right on the goal-line, prevented a Chelsea equaliser.
James then did brilliantly at the other end to chase back and deny substitute Anthony Modeste a shot.
After a late scuffle in added time ans a flurry of yellow cards came one more Chelsea strike at goal. Enzo curled his effort sweetly, but Kobel saved.
We return to Stamford Bridge on Saturday for a Premier League encounter with Southampton, currently at the foot of the table and yet to appoint a new manager after the dismissal of Nathan Jones.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Thiago Silva (c), Koulibaly, Chilwell (Cucurella 71); Loftus-Cheek, Joao Felix, Enzo; Ziyech, Havertz, Mudryk (Mount 71).
Unused subs Bettinelli, Bergstrom, Azpilicueta, Hall, Chalobah, W Fofana, Chukwuemeka, Gallagher, Kovacic, Zakaria.
Booked James 9, Thiago Silva 17, Ziyech 72, Mount 90+1
Dortmund (4-1-4-1):Kobel; Wolf (Ryerson 73), Sule, Schlotterbeck, Guerreiro; Can; Brandt, Bellingham (c), Ozcan, Adeyemi (Bynoe-Gittens 79); Haller (Modeste 68).
Unused subs Meyer, Hummels, Meunier, Reyna, Reus, Dahoud, Malen, Rothe, Coulibaly.
Scorers Adeyemi 63
Booked Bellingham 49, Can 53, Adeyemi 77, Ozcan 85, Ryerson 90, Sule 90+1
Referee Jesus Gil Manzano from Spain