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Dortmund, Bayern Munich and the Siren Song of Yesterday

In those few minutes after Niclas Füllkrug had scored, as the Yellow Wall swayed and roared, Borussia Dortmund must have felt the stirring of some distant memory. Waves of attacks pounded down on Paris St.-Germain, now dizzied and wearied. The world shimmered with possibility. A place in the Champions League final felt, for a moment, close enough to touch.

This is how it used to be, or at least some approximation of it, back in the days when Dortmund made Europe shake. Gregor Kobel, the team’s goalkeeper, was pulling off daring turns in his own penalty area. Mats Hummels, a fixture in the lineup a decade ago, was spraying languid passes with the outside of his foot. Jadon Sancho and Karim Adeyemi were electric, relentless.

There is a chance, of course, that it will all count for nothing. More than a chance, really: Dortmund may live to regret that a second goal never came. P.S.G. had enough opportunities to hint at its threat, too, hitting the post twice in the space of 10 seconds at one point. It may not prove quite so forgiving in the return leg in Paris on Tuesday.

But that Dortmund will travel to France with hope — perhaps even with a little expectation — is still an unanticipated development. This was supposed, after all, to be a chastening week for German soccer: Most expected Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga’s two great crisis clubs, to be exposed in the Champions League semifinals. And yet, halfway through, both teams remain vividly alive.

Niclas Füllkrug scored the goal that gave Dortmund a 1-0 victory over P.S.G. in their two-legged Champions League semifinal.Credit…Ina Fassbender/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Dortmund’s case was the more extreme. The club has spent much of this season engaged in a bout of restive soul-searching. Dortmund’s coach, Edin Terzic, has been under such scrutiny for so long that it is probably fair to assume he has memorized the password to his H.R. portal. The club enters this weekend languishing in fifth place in the Bundesliga, its form patchy, its progress stalled.

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