Newcastle was handed a Champions League reality check by Borussia Dortmund.
A 1-0 loss to the German team at a soggy St. James’ Park on Wednesday was in stark contrast to Newcastle’s euphoric 4-1 thrashing of Paris Saint-Germain three weeks ago.
Turns out this hard-to-call group, which also contains AC Milan, might go right to the wire after all.
Dortmund ignited its Champions League campaign with a first win as Felix Nmecha turned in Nico Schlotterbeck’s cross in the 45th minute for what, surprisingly, was the only goal in an end-to-end encounter.
Newcastle, the top scorer in this season’s Premier League, couldn’t discover its clinical edge, hitting the goal frame twice in the second half through Callum Wilson and then Anthony Gordon in stoppage time.
Dortmund, which is in hot form after five straight wins in the German league, survived to join Newcastle on four points — two fewer than leader PSG.
“We weren’t anywhere near our best,” Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier said. “We pushed them more in the second half, but we know we can do a lot better.”
A bad night for Newcastle included injuries to striker Alexander Isak in the first half and winger Jacob Murphy after coming on as a second-half substitute.
Offseason signing Sandro Tonali came on as a 65th-minute replacement for what could be his last appearance of the season after becoming implicated in a betting scandal in his native Italy.
Newcastle was overwhelmed by Dortmund’s midfield runners in the first half and lost the intensity it had against PSG on one of the Saudi-owned club’s greatest nights.
Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope produced a stunning double save early on from Donyell Malen and Niclas Fullkrug but could do nothing to keep out Nmecha’s shot at the end of a move that started with Schlotterbeck tackling Gordon to claim possession and ended with the defender providing the cross for the goal.
“We had a fantastic first half, when we deserved the win. In the second, we defended it,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzić, who saw midfielder Emre Can come off injured. “We invested a lot, showed a lot of passion and gave everything to bring that win home.”
Newcastle face back-to-back away games against Dortmund and PSG next.
“It was always going to be tight in the group,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said. “Tonight was a blow for us, especially at home.”