To describe the atmosphere within Signal Iduna Park last Tuesday is a task best-left to the truly, veritably eloquent. However, pictures do speak a thousand words; the digital camera roll of a particularly well-positioned in-stadium supporter attending last week’s DFB-Pokal semi-final between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg would likely paint an exquisite story of the 2-0 finish for the yellow men of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Yellow Wall, the main grandstand of the Westfalenstadion, 25,000-strong, stood bouncing emphatically with the golden tails of supporters’ gear billowing above their heads, and handfuls of carefree confetti raining down in ecstasy, even pre-match. The ever-charismatic Jürgen Klopp embraced his fellow staff in a wash-over of relief and pride at the blowing of the final whistle, having secured a result that brought more meaning to the 3-0 victory over already-champions Bayern Munich over the weekend, and revived the spirits of the rambunctiously passionate Dortmund supporters, who now have their sights set on a trophy.
The Twelfth Man
80,200 fans gathered beneath the roofed grandstands of Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night to watch their respective clubs battle for a trip to Berlin for the DFB-Pokal final and hardly anyone was shy about creating a propelling atmosphere for the teams contested. Supporters of Dortmund’s yellow and black are notoriously unrivaled in their valiant, choreographed displays of fandom, and the in-sync bouncing of the Südtribüne (South Bank) grandstand terrace proved to be no exception. Though a more focused spotlight shined on those victorious Dortmund faithful, Wolfsburg supporters weren’t hesitant to release streamers of green and white down at their end of the pitch, either. The away fans executed a proud and equally-enthused tifo, despite the hostility of their venue, and were steadfast in their chanting, far after the match’s inevitable result became clear. With their supporters’ presence yesterday, Wolfsburg bowed out of the DFB-Pokal with dignity, and to an overwhelming chorus of support.
Criticism rang through the social world last week following a particularly unpolished finishing display by Mkhitaryan, which led to Dortmund’s plummet from their within-reach Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid. However, the Armenian attacker has since sharpened his presence in the final third, claiming the opening goals of both Dortmund’s 3-0 weekend rout over Bayern Munich and yesterday’s match against Wolfsburg, after placing a ball from the visionary Marco Reus past goalkeeper Max Grün with redeeming timing and finesse, 13 minutes after kickoff.
A bittersweet sight for Dortmund fans that all but rubbed salt in the forming wound of his impending departure, Robert Lewandowski revealed a celebratory t-shirt from beneath his kit yesterday, upon scoring his 100th competitive goal with Dortmund, from a suave assist from the man on fire, Marco Reus. The Polish frontman has now reached his centurion in yellow after almost four complete seasons with the club, rendering the sentiment even greater ahead of his move to Munich in the summer. Despite his finalized deal with Bayern, Lewandowski boasted his yellow and black proudly, putting the scoreline at a comfortable 2-0 to distance Dortmund even further from the Wolves just ahead of the half-time whistle.
End to End Brilliant Wolves
Despite heading into the locker rooms at halftime having already surrendered two goals to the home side, Wolfsburg began the game with an admirable passing-oriented game plan, centering their attacking attempts around the young Belgian duo of Junior Malanda and Kevin De Bruyne. While both teams strove to execute forward-thinking objectives over the 90 minutes, Wolfsburg took a more a patient, composed, and disciplined approach in the first half, in contrast to the signature countering speed that Dortmund dominated with. Opportunities arose on both ends of the field, with Wolfsburg gaining even more possession and chances before the face of goal during the second half.
While Malanda and De Bruyne both tested Dortmund’s defensive fortress, their efforts did little to outweigh those of Weidenfeller, as the Dortmund no. 1 consistently forced their attempts wide of the goalposts. Although wasted opportunities became the subsequent downfall of Wolfsburg yesterday, Malanda was a standout in maintaining possession, providing a fulcrum in midfield, recovering second balls, and even coming close to the goal on two occasions, skying one attempt, and narrowly forcing an attempt off of the crossbar on the other. Kevin De Bruyne tested the Dortmund defense several times as well, sending the rebound of Junior Malanda’s header attempt just wide of the goal and adding a new dimension to Wolfsburg’s attack with his spectacular touch in motion and eye for passing.
The Revival of the Counterattack
Marco Reus has been unfathomably good in midfield for Dortmund this season, especially shining in recent weeks with intelligent runs and awareness when possessing the ball on the break. During the Pokal semfinal Reus was the ring leader of BvB’s counterattacking pressure, and the architect of a unique, layered rotation of players that penetrated Wolfsburg’s defense at pace and with ease on both scoring occasions. It’s a defining characteristic of Jürgen Klopp’s men to stay true and disciplined to their integral style of play, and yesterday, the pride of North Rhine-Westphalia certainly wasn’t swayed by the visitors’ compact, passing game. Involvement from players located deeper on the pitch, including Miloš Jojić, Kevin Großkreutz, and Mats Hummels, stretched Dortmund’s play to the flanks, and opened seams for the attacking midfield to exploit, relentlessly. The pacy breakaways overwhelmed Wolfsburg in transitional positions, leaving their defense exposed, and allowing Dortmund to reap the rewards of their dominant countering tactics once again.
Header courtesy of wolfsburgsportbuzzer.de