Borussia Dortmund boss Hans-Joachim Watzke urged his team to wrap up the qualification for the knockout stages, so they could focus on improving their mediocre league form. BVB did just that with a narrow 1-0 win over Sporting in Group F on Wednesday night.
Reaching the first season objective, which was to hibernate in the Champions League, should give Tuchel's men a boost in confidence for the Bundesliga -- so should consecutive clean sheets.
Real Madrid drawing against Legia Warsaw puts BVB two points clear at the top of Group F.
The big story coming out of this match revolved around Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's suspension for the match. The Gabonese striker was excluded from the squad for "internal reasons". "It was the coach's decision," said Watzke [to Sky], coy of giving anything away.
It's highly unusual for Borussia Dortmund to have players suspended for "internal reasons," and certainly this is in no way good news.
Manager rating out of 10:
7 -- With Aubameyang suspended by the club due to internal issues, Thomas Tuchel replaced him with the eventual goalscorer Adrian Ramos on the scoresheet. Tuchel changed tactical formations at least three times during the 90 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Bürki, 5 -- The Dortmund keeper had to make one important intervention in the first half.
DF Matthias Ginter, 6 -- After picking up numerous assists as a right-back at the beginning of last seaso, Ginter was at it again Wednesday against Sporting. In a rare appearance as a right-back this season, his cross found Adrian Ramos after 11 minutes for the game's only goal. It speaks volumes about Lukasz Piszczek's recent performances that BVB's right side looked invigorated -- and that wasn't only down to Christian Pulisic.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- The Greek centre-back was there when his partner's judgement wasn't on point.
DF Marc Bartra, 6 -- The Spaniard started with some early wobbles, but got an important block in after 30 minutes to deny Sporting's right-winger Gelson Martins a crack on an open target.
DF Raphael Guerreiro, 6 -- Even acting from the left-back position, Guerreiro brings a lot of drive and threat over to the left side. However, there are some question marks about his positioning when it comes to defensive tasks. In possession he assumed a more central role in the second half.
MF Julian Weigl, 6 -- After scoring his first career goal in the reverse fixture, Sporting made sure to pay more attention to the 21-year-old. Weigl had a strong passing game, but failed to spot the runs of his teammates for a killer pass behind the backline.
MF Christian Pulisic, 7 -- Arguably Dortmund's best player in the first half. The United States international ran circles around Sporting left-back Marvin Zeegelaar. The referee refused BVB a stonewall penalty after Pulisic got hacked down in the box early in the game. The 18-year-old picked himself up and had his fair share in Dortmund's first goal. In the 34th minute Pulisic was stopped by the crossbar after an exhilarating one-two with Mario Götze. However, his second half wasn't quite as illustrious.
MF Mario Götze, 7 -- "He is getting there," Tuchel said some weeks ago. And Mario Götze is still getting there. He had the confidence to take on five defenders at once and combined with Pulisic in tight space. The 24-year-old often gets asked when people will see "the old Mario". Against Sporting they saw him at times.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 5 -- Introduced himself after 39 minutes with a shot from range. His rather uneventful night ended with 20 minutes to space.
MF Ousmane Dembele, 3 -- Seconds before the referee blew the halftime whistle, Dembele had his first successful action of the night, putting Raphael Guerreiro into play. Before that he was solely a source for turnovers. The Dortmund coach had seen enough and left him in the locker room after the break.
FW Adrian Ramos, 7 -- His header fell perfectly into the back of the net in the 12th minute to give Dortmund an early lead. He acted as a vital target man throughout the game to secure the ball with his back to goal.
MF Andre Schürrle, 6 -- Added an attacking threat on the wing and provided defensive solidity on the other end. Everything a coach can hope for in a halftime substitude.
MF Sebastian Rode, 5 -- His introduction in the 69th didn't change Dortmund's play neither for the better nor for the worse.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 5 -- Brought on together with Rode, put in a routine performance.