There are several things that are inevitable about a match in the DFB Pokal match against a local rival: the atmosphere will be raucous, the pitch will have the quality of a cow pasture, the air will be choked with smoke from flares, and the underdogs will be anxious to pull off an upset in front of their home fans. There was something about today’s cold Wednesday DFB Pokal match away to Bochum that instinctively felt like a trap game, and although Borussia Dortmund made it through to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win, it was far from the cakewalk that would have been expected.
But that’s what cup football is all about, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be fun if Dortmund rolled over every opponent every game. Bochum fought very hard, and by the end of the 90 minutes, both sides were exhausted from a full game of constant battles all over the pitch. Although overall Dortmund won in the end, and the game might have been closer than necessary because of a sketchy penalty call, the result could have been different if it weren’t for a few moments of quick thinking.
First-half (non) finishing
The game might not have been so close if BVB’s players had finished the many chances they created. In the first half alone, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens failed to convert a few shots inside the box, and Sébastien Haller blasted a shot on a 1-v-1 well over the bar. Julian Brandt took a good shot off a direct free kick that Manuel Riemann saved as well. It’s ironic, then, that the single goal that Dortmund managed to convert in the first half was arguably the most difficult...
If you’re a Goaltender... TEND THE GOAL
... Sorry, wrong sport! But the point remains: if you’re a goaltender, tend the goal. Bochum’s Manuel Riemann has been one of the best keepers in Germany in recent years, but he had one heck of a gaffe today that I’m sure he’d love to forget. Towards the end of the first half, he realized that he would have to come out to collect a loose ball that Sébastien Haller was chasing down. Fine, understandable, it happens all the time in football. Unfortunately for Riemann, he then came to the sudden realization that he would actually have to do something with the ball. Ederson he is not, but he did his best impersonation and wacked the ball as hard as he could. Unfortunately, it fell right to Emre Can, who very smoothly poked the ball into the air and whacked it across to the goal from the halfway line.
It’s a good day for the Can Clan
Emre Can will earn the lion’s share of the plaudits for his goal today, but his partner-in-suffixes Salih Özcan was arguably as vital. As I mentioned in my intro, VfL Bochum came to play, and both Can and Özcan needed to stand tall against Bochum’s pressing game, which directly targeted them in the center of the pitch. With Emre Can often dropping into the back line when BVB were in possession, both Özcan and Jude Bellingham served as the only outlets for the Dortmund center backs.
Despite being marked by at least one Bochum player throughout the entire match, Salih Özcan managed to progress the ball fairly well. No moment exemplified this better than his through-ball to Jude Bellingham that eventually led to Marco Reus’s game-winning goal.
Few players can collect the ball from the back line, drive forward, and play a perfect through ball like that. I know many BVB fans have been clamoring for Mahmoud Dahoud to take to the pitch, but Özcan demonstrated that he too can flash some of the skills that Mo brings to the table.
A Baffling Penalty Call
I don’t normally like to complain about referee calls, but this one was pretty confusing. Bochum’s lone goal came from a penalty in the 64th minute, which was the result of a very soft handball call on Jamie Bynoe-Gittens. The young Englishman went up to block a shot, with his elbow tucked towards his torso, hardly making himself any larger. The shot from Bochum’s player did strike his arm but it was only inches from his waist. He didn’t attempt to move his arm towards the ball either.
Even if it was a handball, it was potentially outside of the penalty box, and Bynoe-Gittens had been blatantly shoved moments earlier. There were many reasons why I thought it shouldn’t have been a penalty, but none were enough to convince the VAR official or the referee Tobias Stieler to overturn it.
Although Bochum converted the penalty, thankfully it didn’t have a lasting impact on the game, as Marco Reus would score the winner minutes later.
Dortmund have advanced to the Quarterfinals! Only three more matches stand between Edin Terzic and his second major trophy of his budding managerial career. What did you think of today’s match? Do Dortmund have the legs to go all the way again? Let me know your thoughts!