Football

Dortmund coach: Auba not fit and focused

Dortmuch coach Tuchel defends decision to take off star striker Aubameyang

Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel insisted that he was right to substitute misfiring striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his side's shock Champions League loss at Benfica.

Dortmund went down 1-0 in the last-16, first-leg tie at Estadio da Luz yesterday morning (Singapore time), after Kostas Mitroglou grabbed the only goal of the game from a corner early in the second half.

Aubameyang wasted a handful of chances in open play and, when his dreadful penalty was easily saved in the 58th minute, Tuchel responded by withdrawing his top scorer from the pitch almost half an hour before the final whistle.

The decision raised eyebrows given Aubameyang's importance to the side, not to mention his 21 goals in all competitions this season.

But Tuchel told uefa.com: "Aubameyang is not fully fit after the African Nations Cup and his body language did not suggest that he would do better after giving away the penalty.

"I don't think he had a problem with the substitution."

Tuchel could hardly believe his side drew a blank in Portugal after racking up 12 goal attempts to the home side's two.

Ousmane Dembele, Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic were among those who wasted chances to drag Dortmund back into the match.

OUTSTANDING DISPLAY

"It is an extremely complicated result, but I am very proud of how we played," said Tuchel.

"Even though I am very disappointed, I am proud of how we presented ourselves.

"I don't think we played well, we played outstandingly. It's only possible in football to play this well and to still lose.

"Luckily, there's a return leg for such games."

Benfica boss Rui Vitoria agreed his side may have been outplayed, but had a more nuanced take on proceedings.

He saw much to praise in his team's plucky rearguard, not least the stout performance of goalkeeper Ederson, who did as much as Aubameyang to keep Dortmund off the scoresheet.

"It was a tasty victory for sure, speaking of justice after a game like this is tricky," he said.

"I agree that Dortmund are strong opponents and that they had the best of this game.

"We lacked something in the defensive process during the first half, but rectified that at half-time.

"Besides that, we analysed that set-pieces could be a way of hurting Dortmund and it worked. We fought, gave our best and victories are also made of that.

"Congratulations to Ederson too, a goalkeeper who showed his quality once again, this time against a team that scored so many goals in the group stage."

- PA SPORT

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