CONFRONTED with Borussia Dortmund’s fabled ‘Yellow Wall’, Newcastle United suffered a defeat that leaves their Champions League campaign rocking on unsteady foundations. The Magpies can still make the knockout stages ahead of matches against Paris St Germain and AC Milan, but after back-to-back losses to Dortmund, their hopes of a top-two finish are crumbling.

This evening's defeat at an atmospheric Signal Iduna Park was largely due to a listless first-half display from a changed Magpies team, with Niclas Fullkrug firing Dortmund into a deserved half-time lead.

Eddie Howe’s changes at the interval improved things, but while Newcastle were much better in the second half, Joelinton wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise when he headed wide from four yards.

Chasing the game in the final quarter-of-an-hour, the Magpies conceded a second goal when Julian Brandt rounded off a counter-attack that saw Dortmund sweep from one end of the field to the other in a matter of seconds.

As was the case in last month’s home game at St James’ Park, Newcastle were far from disgraced despite ending up with nothing. For the second game in a row, though, Dortmund’s Champions League experience told, with the German side’s intensity at key moments and general game management superior to Newcastle’s. They might have been thrashed by Bayern Munich at the weekend, but Dortmund are a side used to winning big matches.

Newcastle are still at a relatively early stage of their evolution under their Saudi Arabia-backed owners, and they are also having to deal with an injury crisis that is really starting to bite. Howe’s somewhat unexpected team selection did not really work, but the Magpies boss can justifiably claim that his hands are tied given the long-term absence of so many key performers.

Tonight’s starting line-up reflected both the damage being wrought by Newcastle’s crippling injury list and the need to limit the workload of some of the more regular starters in an attempt to guard against further injury issues.

There were first Champions League starts for both Lewis Hall and Tino Livramento, but whereas the latter had been expected to line up at right-back, with Kieran Trippier switching flanks, instead the summer signing from Southampton found himself stationed in a wide-attacking position on the right, with Miguel Almiron dropping to the bench.

The tactical tweak did not deliver the desired effect, with Hall struggling to keep tabs on Marcel Sabitzer and proving at least partially at fault for Dortmund’s opening goal before he was replaced at the break. In the second half, Trippier did indeed switch flanks, with Livramento dropping back into the right-back berth.

On the other flank, Anthony Gordon was rested for the first half, with Joelinton starting out wide and Joe Willock playing alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Sean Longstaff in a central-midfield trio as he made his first Champions League start in a Newcastle shirt. Like Miguel Almiron, who replaced Hall, Gordon also came on at the start of the second half, replacing Callum Wilson, who did not really threaten in the opening 45 minutes. With so few options, Howe is having to rotate the few attacking players he still has fit.

Nick Pope is one player who does not need a rest, and Newcastle can count themselves lucky that their goalkeeper is clearly relishing life in the Champions League. The Newcastle goalkeeper was his side’s star performer in the San Siro, making save after save to help secure a point against AC Milan in September.

He was at it again in the early stages of last night’s game, parrying shots from both Fullkrug and Karim Adeyemi as Dortmund began with the same intensity and slick midfield interplay they had displayed for much of the opening game between the two teams on Tyneside.

Hall’s ninth-minute booking was emblematic of Newcastle’s early discomfort, with the European debutant forced to pull back Fullkrug as the Dortmund striker threatened to break down the right-hand side.

The Magpies’ defence was stretched on a number of occasions in the opening quarter of the game, with Felix Nmecha once again pulling the strings for the home side and Fullkrug proving difficult to pick up as he drifted into space between Newcastle’s back four and the covering Bruno Guimaraes.

That said, however, the visitors were just about starting to feel their way into the game when they fell behind midway through the first half.

Not for the first time, Newcastle’s backline was exposed as Dortmund’s quickfire passing took them up the field. Fullkrug nodded the ball to Sabitzer on the right of the area, and having got slightly out of position, Hall failed to adequately close down his opponent as he appeared unsure whether to expect a cross or a shot.

In the end, Sabitzer delivered the former, and having continued his run, Fullkrug was left with the relatively simple task of sweeping home from close range. For once, even Pope was unable to come to Newcastle’s rescue.

The night could have got even worse from a black-and-white perspective had Sabitzer found the target when he side-footed wide from the edge of the area ten minutes after Dortmund’s opener, but having shaken off the disappointment of falling behind, Newcastle had their best spell of the game in the final few moments of the first half.

Livramento’s marauding runs down the right asked questions of the Dortmund defence – despite barely having played together, there were immediate signs of a decent relationship between the youngster and Trippier – and on the other flank, Joelinton should really have done better when he threatened to break clear of the Dortmund defence, only for his touch to elude him as he failed to gather possession.

At least the Magpies were starting to enjoy more prolonged bouts of possession, although when they finally created a decent opportunity on the stroke of half-time, it came from a set-piece.

Trippier swung a corner to the back post, Jamaal Lascelles headed the ball back across goal, but while Joelinton got a decent amount of power to a header of his own, his effort was directed too close to Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, who was able to save.   

Howe’s half-time introduction of Gordon and Almiron added some welcome vigour to Newcastle’s second-half attacking, and the latter went close just four minutes after his introduction as he curled just wide from the corner of the penalty area.

That was a half-chance, but it was a glaring opportunity that went begging eight minutes later as Joelinton somehow failed to convert his side’s best opening of the night.

The Brazilian looked certain to score as he flung himself at Livramento’s driven cross inside the six-yard box, but his diving header flashed wide of the left-hand post. On a night when Newcastle were chasing the game, it was a really bad miss.

Pope’s second-half saves from Fullkrug and Brandt ensured the visitors were at least still within touching distance of their opponents, and Newcastle were much better balanced after the break with Almiron and Joelinton offering a threat from the wide positions and Gordon pulling around Dortmund’s centre-halves as the Magpies’ central striker.

They couldn’t find a way through the Dortmund defence though, and the hosts settled things with 11 minutes left. Trippier failed to beat the first man with a free-kick, and Dortmund swept the length of the field to score. Livramento found himself trying to contain two forwards as Newcastle’s last man, and Brandt drilled a clinical finish into the bottom right-hand corner.