Football can be cruel. Fortuna Düsseldorf fans will understand this more than anyone today. For 94 minutes and 45 seconds, Düsseldorf dug in their heels and fought Borussia Dortmund to a standstill in a desperate attempt to get a vital point in their race to avoid relegation. It was ugly and boring football, but it looked like it had gotten the job done for Düsseldorf. Unfortunately, there were 15 seconds more to play, and in a moment of quality from Manuel Akanji and Erling Braut Håland, BVB found the back of the net and secured 3 points to keep the title challenge alive on the very last play of the game.
Borussia Dortmund mustered a paltry two shots on goal during the first half. Ironically, both were the result of a pair of really good combinations along the flanks. The combination of a brilliant run from Jadon Sancho and some bad marking from Dusseldorf allowed the Englishman to find Hakimi in the middle of the pitch, with no one but Florian Kastenmeier, the Dusseldorf keeper, between him and the goal. Unfortunately, Kastenmeier did a good job of closing down the distance between him and Hakimi, and the full back didn’t have the sense to either chip the ball or go around the keeper.
BVB’s other shot on goal was the result of a neat passing combination between Hazard, Guerreiro, and Witsel near the goal line on the left side. The play found Brandt unmarked in a good shooting position just outside the 5-yard line. Unfortunately, Brandt’s shot was a tepid dribbler that didn’t challenge Kastenmeier at all.
The first half ended with both teams combining for just those two shots on net.
In the 65th minute, it looked for a bit like BVB had taken the lead. The play started with a run along the right side from Hakimi. After a darting run down the flank, he played a ball into the feet of Håland, who made a one-touch pass to Thorgan Hazard. Hazard tried to return it to Håland, whose shot cannoned off a Dusseldorf defender. The ball looped into the air and came down right in front of Raphael Guerreiro. The ball deflected off Raph’s shoulder on the way into the air before he smashed it into the net. There was no way it was a handball: it bounced off the very top of Guerreiro’s shoulder, closer to hitting his neck than his arm. Unfortunately, the referee Sascha Stegemann consulted VAR just as the resulting kick-off was to be taken, and after a video review, called the goal off.
One would think being denied a goal would motivate BVB to go out and get another. Instead, it was Dusseldorf who seemed more motivated to find a winner. Steven Skrzybski, who had been subbed on for Dusseldorf minutes earlier, struck the post with a well-aimed shot from the 18-yard line. Fortunately, BVB were able to deal with the rebound that bounced dangerously in front of goal.
As the game wound down, BVB were clearly frustrated. Hakimi took a needless yellow. Akanji had a few clueless turnovers. Skrzybski hit the post again, this time off a breakaway off a defensive turnover from Dortmund. Düsseldorf looked like the side that was more desperate to go on and win it.
Fortunately, Borussia Dortmund had one more moment of quality buried within themselves. It was a remarkably simple play: Akanji picked up the ball along the left side of the pitch and lobbed in an absolute gem of a cross towards goal. It laid up on a platter for Håland, who headed the pitch into the net with ease. It was the last play of the game. Fortuna Dusseldorf were heartbroken, and Borussia Dortmund were jubilant: Lucien Favre even appeared to pull a muscle in his leg jumping in celebration.
- Hats off to Dusseldorf: They desperately needed a point to stay above Werder Bremen in the relegation race, and this desperation showed. Dusseldorf fought tooth and nail for every inch of the pitch, and never allowed a BVB player to be comfortable on the ball for more than a moment. They even hit the post twice. In the end, though, 94 minutes and 45 minutes of hard work was beaten by 15 seconds of quality. Such is football.
- Akanji comes through: That last-minute goal might have been the first time I’ve ever seen him attempt a cross, and what a cross it was! He laid it perfectly on a plate for Håland, who effortlessly guided it into the corner.
- Piszczek is still good at soccer: Father time waits for no man, except for Lukasz Piszczek. He looks right at home at the RCB position for Dortmund.
- A bad day for the forwards: Aside from Håland’s goal, it was a night to forget from Dortmund’s attackers. Poor touches, easy passes put astray, and a general lack of cohesion plagued Jadon Sancho, Julian Brandt, and Thorgan Hazard for much of the match. Luckily, an amazing cross from Akanji and a single header from Håland was enough to make up for it.
What did you think of BVB’s performance today? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.