BRUGES – Christian Pulisic celebrated his 20th birthday in style on Tuesday with a lucky late goal as Borussia Dortmund won 1-0 at Club Brugge in the Champions League.
The US international claimed the winner in fortuitous fashion by charging down a clearance from Brugge defender Matej Mitrovic which looped over the goalkeeper on 85 minutes.
It was a huge slice of good fortune but one that ended Dortmund's 10-match winless streak in the Champions League.
“In the end we won, but there is definitely room for improvement,” admitted Dortmund captain Marco Reus. “We have to keep working hard to play better.
“Currently, we are not playing the kind of football we want to, but we are winning and we'll take that.”
While Pulisic spared Dortmund's blushes in Belgium on his 100th appearance for the club, it was a bad night for Mario Goetze.
The struggling Germany international made a rare start after being an unused substitute in the first three Bundesliga this season, but endured a frustrating hour in an attacking midfield role.
Goetze is a pale shadow of the player who hit the winner in the 2014 World Cup final and was hauled off midway through the second half after making little impact.
Having been left out of Germany's World Cup squad for Russia, the 26-year-old is a long way from the player who helped Dortmund win back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012.
However, Dortmund were delighted to win away after failing to win any of their six group stage games last season.
This was their first win in Europe since reaching the quarter-finals in 2016/17, but they will need to improve at home to Monaco in their second Group A game in a fortnight.
Thanks mainly to their goalkeeper Roman Burki, Dortmund were lucky to go into the break with the score goalless as Brugge, last season's Belgian league champions, wasted clear chances.
Dortmund skipper Reus came to the rescue by deflecting a shot by Brugge striker Jelle Vossen after 20 minutes.
Dortmund were more aggressive after the break as head coach Lucien Favre brought on Shinji Kagawa with an hour gone, finally losing patience with Goetze.
Pulisic, who came on for England youth international Jadon Sancho, eventually broke the deadlock after he was thrown on for the final 20 minutes.
The all-action American gave away a free-kick before popping up with the winner to get Dortmund off to a victorious start in Europe.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)