Donyell Malen made up for the absence of Erling Braut Haaland by scoring his first goal for Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday as the hosts beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 to move second on goal difference behind Ajax in Group C.
Dortmund were dealt a blow before kick-off at Signal Iduna Park when it was confirmed Haaland, who has scored 21 goals in just 17 Champions League games, was out with a leg injury.
With Haaland watching from the stands, Dortmund finally saw some return on the 30 million euros ($35 million) they spent signing Malen from PSV Eindhoven in July when the 22-year-old scored his first goal in his tenth game for his new club.
It could have been more as Dortmund had three goals disallowed – two from Malen and one by club captain Marco Reus – all for offside.
“It was a tough bit of work, it wasn’t perfect and we made a lot of mistakes, but we will gladly take the win,” said Dortmund defender Mats Hummels.
The win means Dortmund have six points, having also won at Besiktas a fortnight ago, trail leaders Ajaz, who beat the Turkish side 2-0 earlier in the day.
Three days after his first-half red card at Moenchengladbach, Dortmund again lost midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud early on, this time limping off after injuring his knee in an early challenge to be replaced by Germany’s Julian Brandt.
Dortmund took a while to settle after the disruption, but deservedly went into the break 1-0 up.
With 37 minutes gone, Malen scored at his third attempt on the night having already twice been offside – once when he headed against the post, then fired past Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adan only to see the flag go up.
The goal was worth the wait and was one Haaland would have been proud of.
Manuel Akanji found Jude Bellingham with a pin-point ball from the back and the England international released Malen with a superbly-timed pass for the Dutchman to fire his shot across the diving Adan and into the far corner.
“‘Manu’ (Akanji) has been putting in those passes for months, Jude Bellingham did brilliantly well and that was a great bit of finishing from Malen,” Hummels said.
For the second time in the match, Dortmund then had a goal disallowed when Marco Reus hit the net just after the break, only to be flagged for offside.
The hosts continued to dominate and Malen had the ball in the net for the third time when he headed home, but his delighted celebrations were dampened by the VAR confirming yet another offside.