Jude Bellingham in a duel with City goalkeeper Ederson
Michael Regan / Getty Images
The best way to understand Jude Bellingham's performance against Manchester City is to start with Ansgar Knauff.
Knauff, 19-year-old attacking player, was the surprise in Borussia Dortmund's starting line-up in the quarter-final first leg in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
He has never been in the starting line-up in a competitive men's game.
Knauff worked, he managed to win many a ball, but he also looked nervous because he was bouncing balls.
What was completely normal, Knauff is finally taking his first steps in professional football.
Jude Bellingham is even younger than Knauff, he is 17, in the history of the Champions League only one starting eleven was younger than him, Bojan Krkic, 13 years ago at FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Ansgar Knauff is a talent.
Jude Bellingham a pillar in the BVB game.
He scored the first Dortmund goal in the 2-1 defeat when he chased a pass that was too long, attacked City goalkeeper Ederson, captured the ball and pushed it into the empty goal.
But the hit didn't count, the referee whistled foul, probably wrongly.
The second Dortmund goal, and this time it counted, initiated Bellingham with a wonderful action: taking the ball with the left, a feint, then a pass to Erling Haaland, the goal scorer Marco Reus used.
Bellingham flashed what he showed much more often in the Bundesliga, where the opponents are weaker than City in 16 out of 17 cases: his excellent technique;
his ability to dribble past opponents;
and his urge to attack.
Bellingham's first look after receiving the ball is usually directed towards the front, looking for the way to the goal, a kind of fire accelerator in the BVB offensive.
At the 1: 2 in Manchester, however, other qualities were usually required.
Man detection in the center, the protection of pressing teammates, and again and again long, exhausting ways to create pressure on the ball carrier.
Actually, he was constantly running from one position to the other, always looking for the next duel.
You can call it dirty work.
Especially when the opponent is Manchester City and the routes are repetitive and without direct wages.
Because against Pep Guardiola teams, the run-up rarely brings a ball win, they are too well-rehearsed for that.
It's about taking away the joy of the opponent.
Image with symbolic character: the striding Bellingham, here in a duel with Riyad Mahrez
Michael Regan / Getty Images
In Bellingham, BVB has found a player who combines brilliant moments and dirty work.
Who in many scenes looks so serene like a player after 300 professional appearances.
But there are only 37.
Borussia prevailed last summer in the Bellingham transfer against FC Bayern and the two clubs from Manchester and argued with the example of Jadon Sanchos, writes the sports portal "The Athletic".
Sancho, like Bellingham English, had previously signed the club from the City youth team, he quickly prevailed and became a national player.
Bellingham is actually only planned as a regular player for the professionals at the end of this season, the article says.
He just exceeded the expectations of those responsible for BVB.
He recently made his debut for the Three Lions national team.
Coach Gareth Southgate will not have missed the game against City.
"We have to show that this is not only possible on the big stage, but also on Saturdays in Frankfurt or Stuttgart."
After the game, the Dortmund leaders spoke at the sports streaming service DAZN.
Their statements were similar.
"We have to show that this is not only possible on the big stage, but also on Saturdays in Frankfurt or Stuttgart," said defense chief Mats Hummels.
Captain Marco Reus said they had been talking at BVB »for more than a year that we need to get continuity in our game.
We have too few games like today where we show our level. "
It seemed as if they meant the same thing: The 90 minutes against City showed what BVB was capable of.
Now only the head has to play along, then there will be fewer defeats.
Is that so?
The latest results could also be interpreted differently: that performances like in Manchester are not the benchmark, but rather the upward swing, which must be priced in just like the results against Frankfurt (1: 2) and in Cologne (2: 2).
One possible explanation for this is tactical.
In both Bundesliga games, Dortmund had to take on a more active role in possession of the ball;
the team found more rooms against City.
That seems to suit many players, but also the current coaching team around Edin Terzić.
Those who rely on talent have to live with fluctuations in performance
Another possible explanation: Anyone who, like Dortmund, relies on a mixture of seasoned professionals and many talents who are to be developed and sold at great profit, has to live with it when their performance fluctuates.
Even with the gifted like Bellingham.
Ansgar Knauff lost the stand in the first half and failed to play a pass to the unprotected Haaland.
Substitute Giovanni Reyna, 18, did not support their own defense adequately before the hosts scored the winning goal.
Even Bellingham made mistakes.
With the first goal he could have disrupted goal scorer Kevin de Bruyne, if he had assessed the situation correctly.
But he sprinted too late in the direction of the Belgian.
The main mistake was Emre Can's bad pass.
And he's 27.
The Dortmund team would be wrong to expect flawless appearances at the top level.
This also applies to the often criticized consistency.
Like it's normal to win every game.
As if BVB were Bayern Munich.
Despite their good performance, Dortmund are going into the second leg next week as a clear underdog.
If a performance like on Tuesday is not enough to draw, it will be difficult to progress.
After all, that would require a victory.
For BVB it would be more important to have a successful comeback in the league, where Frankfurt is fourth seven points ahead.
Missing the Champions League would be a disaster for Dortmund, the club would miss many millions of euros, and he would also lose a pledge in the fight for talent: playing times in a big league
the premier class.
After all: Bellingham is already there.
And if BVB vies for talent in the future, they can refer to this quarter-final against Manchester City, in which the club bet on a 17-year-old and looked good.
Not a bad argument for a move to Borussia.