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Dortmund need penalties to see off Union Berlin, advance in Pokal

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Well that was dramatic

Borussia Dortmund v 1. FC Union Berlin - DFB Cup Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

Dortmund escaped a pesky Union Berlin to advance in the DFB-Pokal Wednesday, prevailing 3-0 in penalties after a mediocre performance saw the two sides deadlocked at 1-1 through 120 minutes of play.

19-year-old Jacob Larsen capped off a strong debut by forcing an own goal in the 44th minute but a long-range goal from Steven Skrzybski. Roman Weidenfeller blanked Union in the penalty shootout, however, and Dortmund prevailed in penalties after a lackluster extra time

There were a few fresh faces in the rotated squad, with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic and Marc Bartra all held out of the starting 18. Larsen made his after training after the Danish teenager trained the first team the week prior. Nuri Sahin also returned to the lineup, joining Gonzalo Castro and Mario Gotze in midfield.

Dortmund dominated possession early, with Union Berlin’s back line bending but not allowing any real opportunities for the home side. The first real chance for Dortmund came in the 6th minute, as a streaking Mario Gotze tapped the ball to Adrian Ramos but the Colombian managed only a poor effort which was easily held by Daniel Mesenholer

Dortmund’s injury woes nearly worsened minutes later, as Sokratis Papastathopoulos went down with an injury after colliding with a streaking Collin Quaner. The Greek man limped off the pitch with an apparent hip injury, causing Dortmund fans to collectively hold their breath at the prospect of losing another defender to injury. He returned a few minutes later, however, and the knock appeared not to be too serious.

Both sides traded dangerous chances soon after. Roman Weidenfeller was called upon to make his first save of the match, going full stretch to tip away a dangerous Union cross. Dortmund gathered the ball and hit back on the counter attack, with a long range shot from Gotze deflecting just over the bar. The resulting corner kick went by the wayside.

Union utilized a high press to solid effect and created plenty of chances for themselves as the half wore on. The Dortmund attack remained formidable however, dictating possession even as they struggled to translate that into goals.

Long distance efforts from Gotze and Sahin nearly broke the deadlock towards the end of the first half but Meisenholder rose to the challenge both times to make acrobatic saves and force a BVB corner.

Dortmund would draw blood in the dying seconds of the first half. After a fruitless short corner, Dortmund recovered the ball at midfield and Gotze nicely played in Larsen, whose powerful shot deflected off Michael Parensen and into the back of the net for a Union own goal. While the shot appeared to be going wide, the assist was a deserved honor for the youngster, who looked very impressive throughout the first half.

The second 45 minutes started out much like the first, with Dortmund dominating possession and Union fighting back periodically on the counter attack.

Reinforcements came in the 67th minute, with Ousmane Dembele replacing Larsen and Julian Weigl coming on for Sahin.

Union kept pressing and nearly equalized in the 70th minute, after Stephan Fürstner played a dangerous cross across the box, which Kristian Pedersen tapped into the back of the net. The referee correctly ruled Pedersen offside, however.

A (legal) equalizer came shortly thereafter, however, with Steven Skrzybski burying an absolute screamer past Weidenfeller. It wasn’t a great clearance from Weigl but credit Skrzybski for a fantastic strike to tie things up.

Emre Mor nearly won the match in the 86th minute, streaking through on goal but his shot was parried off the bar by Mesenholer. After 90 minutes, the match was deadlocked at 1-1.

Both squads showed fatigue in extra time and should have found a goal to put them in front. But neither side found a winning goal and penalties were required. Fortunately, Weidenfeller was up to the task, saving three straight Union Berlin penalties to lift BVB. Ousmane Dembele, Matthias Ginter and Gotze converted their chances to send Dortmund onto the Round of 16.

Thoughts

  • The defense, which looked shambolic against Ingolstadt Saturday, looked only mildly better today. Felix Passlack looked lost at times on the right side and Lukasz Piszczek was much too easily beaten. The centerbacks looked better, especially Sokratis, but the backline still gave away chances too easily to an inferior attack (including a couple truly horrific backpasses from the fullbacks).
  • Excellent debut for Larsen, with the own goal capping off a fine first half. While he showed his youth at times, he also was lively and showed his willingness to take on defenders. He seemed to put himself in a good position. Hopefully we see him in the first team again soon.
  • The midfield looked strong today. Castro and Sahin provided a strong core and Gotze was unlucky not to have a goal. Multiple times he had good, long-range efforts stopped by a sprawling Meisenholder. Sahin likewise nearly scored and, combined with Castro, helped control possession in the first half. While the midfield was not in peak form, they more than got the job done and seem to be gelling.
  • Weidenfeller made a couple boneheaded decisions in extra time but was immense in the penalty shootout. The 36-year-old still has it.
  • I know Emre Mor is young and is not a finished product but man is he infuriating to watch. Not great in distribution and his decision making leaves you wanting to throw something at the TV. Feel like Dembele should have replaced him, not Larsen, in the second half.
  • While Dortmund should feel like they deserved to advance, the real winners of today were Schalke. Dortmund were stretched thin in extra time and that fatigue will not help the out-of-form Black and Yellows on Sunday’s Revierderby. It feels good to advance but today was a classic pyrrhic victory