Felix Nmecha dented Newcastle’s Champions League charge as Borussia Dortmund kick-started their Group F campaign with a 1-0 victory on Tyneside.
The Germany midfielder’s 45th-minute strike clinched victory at a rain-soaked St James’ Park on a night when three more points for Eddie Howe’s men, who twice hit the crossbar late on, would have left them with one foot in the last-16.
They will now head into tough away games in Dortmund and against Paris St Germain next month with serious work to do to extend their stay in the competition.
And they will possibly have to do it without midfielder Sandro Tonali, who was used as a second-half substitute amid speculation he could be handed a lengthy ban for alleged breaches of betting rules.
Memories of Newcastle’s 4-1 demolition of Paris St Germain earlier this month faded as last season’s Bundesliga runners-up produced an accomplished away display to remind them that the race for qualification from Group F has a long way to go.
In a frenetic start to the game, Nick Pope had to block Donyell Malen’s second-minute shot with his legs after he had controlled Marius Wolf’s cross as Dortmund broke at speed, but opposite number Gregor Kobel had to be equally resilient seconds later when Anthony Gordon cut inside and unleashed a curling attempt.
But it was the Newcastle keeper who had to produce a brilliant double save to deny first Malen and then Niclas Fullkrug from point-blank range after Emre Can had dispossessed Sean Longstaff and sent Marcel Sabitzer away down the left wing.
However, as played switched rapidly from end to end on a slick pitch, Kobel came to the German side’s rescue within seconds when Alexander Isak raced towards goal from halfway before sliding a pass into the run of Gordon, whose left-foot strike was beaten away by the goalkeeper.
Pope was relieved to see Malen whip a first time shot from Marco Reus’ square ball over his crossbar.
The Magpies were forced to make a change after only 15 minutes when Isak, who had earlier undergone lengthy treatment on the pitch, limped off to be replaced by Callum Wilson.
Miguel Almiron saw appeals for a 20th-minute penalty waved away by Portuguese referee Artur Dias after he went down under Nico Schlotterbeck’s challenge after carving his way into the box, with the breakneck tempo of the game showing few signs of abating.
With Can and Sabitzer providing the ammunition and Reus linking play, the visitors continued to cause problems and Jamaal Lascelles had to block another Malen shot at the end of an intricate passing move.
Dortmund, who had earlier replaced the injured Can with Salih Ozcan, finally forced the breakthrough in the final minute of the half when Sabitzer robbed Gordon and Reus fed Schlotterbeck, whose cross was steered emphatically past Pope by former Manchester City youngster Nmecha.
Wilson passed up a glorious opportunity to level 12 minutes after the interval when, after Fabian Schar’s crunching tackle in midfield had sent the ball into his path, he exchanged passes with Gordon before his shot was blocked by Kobel.
Howe made his move with 25 minutes remaining when he sent on Tonali and Jacob Murphy, who lasted just five minutes before having to leave the pitch with his shoulder in a makeshift sling.
But his side struggled to create anything of note until Wilson headed an 87th-minute free-kick against the bar and Gordon repeated the feat in stoppage time with a deflected shot.
Published: by Radio NewsHub