The DFB Pokal at a sold-out Olympiastadion in Berlin Saturday offered viewers a match featuring two clubs looking for a trophy to cap their seasons amidst great emotional motivation. For Borussia Dortmund, a season of ups and downs saw them at least earn a Europa League play-in berth, but more importantly, it was the club’s final game with the irrepressible Jurgen Klopp at the helm. For VfL Wolfsburg, the car accident that caused the death of young, popular teammate Junior Malanda during the winter break seemed to bring the players together and motivated them to a fine Ruckrunde — and altogether a fine season deserving of hardware.
And, despite Dortmund opening the scoring barely five minutes into the contest, it was the Wolves who scored three unanswered goals during the remainder of the half to lift the trophy that they so richly deserved, capping their best season since the Felix Magath squad’s Bundesliga title in 2008/2009, by beating Dortmund 3-1.
With backup goalkeeper Mitch Langerak and retiring captain Sebastian Kehl in the starting XI for Dortmund, Klopp’s side looked on their way to a win early on when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang latched onto a ball from Shinji Kagawa, beating Wolfsburg defender Naldo with a high boot, knocking the ball past Diego Benaglio from close range. Five minutes in, and Kloppo’s boys had a 1-0 lead.
Wolfsburg almost rang the bell themselves shortly thereafter as striker Bas Dost fed former BvB attacker Ivan Perišić with a fine pass, but the Croatian international’s left-footed low shot was smothered by Langerak. This gave Dortmund the opportunity to go up by two goals later, but Marco Reus shot high on a ball from Kagawa in the 17th minute.
The football gods often punish missed chances, and indeed, it took less than five minutes for Wolfsburg to knot the score. A well-struck low free kick from Naldo was saved by Langerak, but the rebound was gobbled up and dispatched goalwards from VfL’s Brazilian international Luiz Gustavo. Tie game.
Gustavo’s goal opened the dam protecting the yellow-blacks. Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, probably the best performer in the Bundesliga this season, gave Dieter Hecking’s club the lead in the 33rd minute when his low shot went between the legs of BvB defender Mats Hummels and into the net, giving the Volkswagen team a lead they wouldn’t surrender. Five minutes later, the flood continued while the day’s scoreline was finalized as Dost headed in a quality cross Perišić from the right flank.
At the restart it didn’t particularly appear that Dortmund were doomed to lose this match. Klopp’s side had chances, but as too often this season, their finishing was flat. Langerak did his part, stoning Daniel Caligiuri twice on golden opportunities in the second half to keep BvB in the match, but Benaglio was in top form, too, making key saves on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Kagawa (big saves by Benaglio have been key for Wolfsburg all season) following earlier 2nd half misses by the Japanese midfielder and Reus. Dortmund supporters felt twice that they had a call for a penalty kick in the game’s waning minutes, but Dr. Felix Brych declined to walk to the spot on both occasions, leaving Hecking and company to lift the Cup.
In the end, it was a fairly evenly played match statistically, although Wolfsburg were superior in defending, creating chances and finishing them. Possession shifted back and forth, with the yellow-blacks ending up with 55% as Wolfsburg concentrated on defending towards the end. The two clubs were even (or close to even) in shots taken, fouls, corner kicks and offsides committed. But that most important statistic, goals, tilted heavily towards Wolfsburg as they won their first Pokal championship ever.
The fairy-tale ending of Klopp’s magnificent tenure in Dortmund was not to be, but one feels that Wolfsburg were the deserving side, with Hecking winning his first major trophy in over fifteen seasons as a manager.
And somewhere, Junior Malanda has a wide smile on his face.
Borussia Dortmund: Langerak – Durm (68′ Blaszczykowski), Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer – Kehl (68′ Piszczek), Gündogan – Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Reus (79′ Immobile) – Aubameyang
VfL Wolfsburg: Benaglio – Vieirinha, Naldo, Klose, Rodriguez – Arnold (81′ Schürrle), Luiz Gustavo – Perisic (74′ Guilavogui), De Bruyne, Caligiuri (84′ Träsch) – Dost