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Aubameyang admits losing fitness at Africa Cup

Berlin (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admits his Champions League shocker for Borussia Dortmund against Benfica was down to a loss of fitness due to the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 27-year-old Gabon striker was hauled off on Tuesday moments after missing a penalty in the 1-0 last 16 first-leg defeat in Lisbon.

It was one of four clear chances spurned by Aubameyang, the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“I missed out on some fitness work (with Dortmund) because of the Africa Cup and I have to admit, I am a bit tired,” Aubameyang told German daily Bild.

Benfica goalkeeper Ederson saved Aubameyang’s 58th-minute penalty and Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel replaced the misfiring forward four minutes later.

“I am very sad and disappointed. It was a black day for me,” added Aubameyang. “I was bad. I can only apologise.”

Aubameyang has only scored one goal in five games since returning from the Cup of Nations last month after Gabon’s group-stage exit.

Tuchel says he took Aubameyang off because of his body language after his penalty blunder. 

“‘Auba’ has been physically behind since returning from the Africa Cup,” explained Tuchel.

“After the missed penalty, I didn’t get the feeling anymore from his body language that he was in a position to score.

“He is a part of the team and I can’t imagine that he had a problem with my decision,” Tuchel added.

And Aubameyang admitted it was right that he was taken off.

“Of course, I had to score the goal,” he said. “That the coach took me off is completely in order and understandable.”

Aubameyang has made no secret of his desire to one day move on from Dortmund, but club bosses last month told him to stop talking about leaving. He gave two interviews in January where he hinted at a June exit.

Despite losing in Portugal, Dortmund battered the Benfica goal with 14 shots compared to the hosts’ five.

Aubameyang twice fired over the bar with only Ederson to beat, hit his penalty straight at the goalkeeper and also failed to convert a cross from Raphael Guerreiro from two yards out with the goal gaping.

Benfica’s Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou scored the only goal of the game but Tuchel remains positive about the return leg on March 8.

“We didn’t just play well, we played exceptionally well,” said Tuchel.

“We didn’t pay attention for three minutes, when we went off the boil, and we conceded with their only shot on goal in the second half.

“That’s football, when you play so well, yet still walk off as losers.

“But for days like that there is always the return leg. Shit happens.”

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