Underestimated Borussia Dortmund prove worthy of Champions League final occasion - but come up short

Shattered dreams at Wembley again for Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Borussia Dortmund, though that should not be the prevailing feeling. Even reaching this Champions League final was a victory for the Black and Yellow.

Like in 2013, when German rivals Bayern Munich prevailed here, the final proved one step too far.

Losing to Real Madrid in a European final would be no great disgrace for anyone; they’ve not been defeated in once since 1983. For Edin Terzic’s unheralded and clearly underestimated side, there was no hint of humiliation here.

Indeed, the strongest emotion must be of immense pride at reaching the Champions League final 11 years after their last — also at Wembley, back when Jurgen Klopp was in the dugout. The outgoing Liverpool manager was watching on as their guest here, and like everyone in the yellow wall left feeling haunted by the host of chances Dortmund created but couldn’t take. Real won 2-0. It’s simply their raison d’être.

Like for Dortmund, an appearance in the biggest game in European club football was of huge magnitude for Jadon Sancho, ostracised by Erik ten Hag at Manchester United but if not reborn then undoubtedly revitalised since a January loan return to Dortmund.

His ill-fated £73million move to United does well to obscure memories of an altogether more confident version of Sancho, who from 2017 to 2021 tallied 50 goals and 64 assists in 137 matches for Dortmund. Playing for the club he loves most in the city where he learned to play football, this was an occasion to savour for him.

A couple of limp passes early on went unpunished, as Sancho felt his way into his biggest game since that luckless cameo in the Euro 2020 final here, when his missed penalty after an 120th-minute introduction led to vile racist abuse from sections of so-called England fans.

While this was no Sancho display of First Dortmund Era vintage, he was soon up to speed and was an outlet to which Die Borussen would turn, trusting the Englishman’s crisp touch and make inroads into the turf Real didn’t want him to be. Eduardo Camavinga certainly made his feelings known, tripping Sancho as he threatened to break free early in the first half.

Sancho always offered himself, craved the ball, but this was not a match on which he had a decisive impact. His former Dortmund team-mate Jude Bellingham — so much expected of him here — had a similarly quiet game for Real, though he did assist Vinicius Junior for their second goal.

“I think the only way he goes back to Manchester United is if Erik ten Hag isn’t there”, Rio Ferdinand said of Sancho on TNT Sports before the game. Now there was the understatement of the century. Sancho needed out of United in January; he still needs out of United now.

But while this loan return to Dortmund has restored a smile on Sancho’s face, this was not a night that had a happy ending. Squandered first-half chances by Karim Adeyemi, Niclas Fullkrug and Julian Brandt proved terminal.

Still, Dortmund knocked out Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and PSV Eindhoven en route to this finale. They can be nothing but proud of their spirited run.