Ugly penalty shoot-out
Arriving in Mainz has changed dramatically in the last years. It used to be a nice walk through a park from the city centre, arriving in the middle of a residential area, sitting in one of the pubs nearby and then finally go into the old-fashioned, traditional German football ground. Well, none of this is true anymore. When coming from the motorway, this IKEA-building in red is towering over a sea of nothing in the middle of nowhere. Through farmer land one arrives at the “arena” with some or another sponsor name on it, going through the entrance, passing a tunnel, arriving in a soulless, sphere-less stadium. The only positive thing to mention is that the standing area for the away supporters is extraordinary large and nicely put to the left of one of the goals. And unfortunately, the stadium was not the only thing in Mainz that was ugly yesterday. First, there was the stadium speaker, looking like a fat mascot in his red trainings suit and speaking like one, too. Then there were the infamous sponsored clapping-cartons which mute the singing in every stadium and which are loved so much by the sitting visitors, also in Mainz... And finally, there was the game which was also pretty ugly, but let’s have a closer look anyway.
Klopp tried to give Sahin and Mkhitaryan a well deserved break, even though there weren’t a lot of players left who were able to play. Iron Manni, of course, played with his broken nose and didn’t even need a mask. He returned to the midfield because Friedrich is allowed to play in the Bundesliga and so Klopp was not the only one facing his old club yesterday. He put a slightly different system on the pitch that was a 4-3-2-1 in defence and 4-3-3 in offensive with Kuba and Aubameyang between the striker and the midfield positions. Grosskreutz and Kehl completed the defensive midfield alongside the unbreakable Bender. And last but not least, we could celebrate the very welcome comeback of Lukasz Piszczek in the starting XI. So the day started very good, despite the ugly circumstances.
When the players entered the pitch, both fan sides protested together against the likes of Viagogo by presenting "Ob vorm Stadion, Ebay oder Viagogo" (Mainz), "das ist Schwarzmarkt und ein No Go!" (BVB), translated "If in front of the stadium, on ebay or viagogo, that is black market and a no-go!". And how right they are!
Mainz had a better start in the game. In minute 9, 17 and 19 they had some small chances and they had a lot more grip on the game than we did. Friedrich, even though quite strong in defending, does not (yet) have the ability to control the balls he wins and with Piszczek also still a little shaky after his long break, we gave away the balls in the defence far too early and therefore, our strong offensive forces had no chance to shine in the first half hour of the game. They hardly ever had the ball, in fact. This chanced for the first time in minute 26. Lewandowski got the ball and controlled it in his inimitable way, but he stood on the wrong foot and had no chance to turn the ball towards the goal. A little later, Bender the offender had to leave the pitch because he had problems with his thighs. It was more of a precaution measure than a real injury, so there’s hope that he will be able to play in the cup on Tuesday. Sahin had to take a break from his break and came in for Bender. Mainz didn’t keep up the good fighting from the first half hour and so Borussia could finally get a foot in the game that was getting even uglier to watch. A lot of misplaced passes on both sides and some slapstick misunderstandings from Borussia made us wonder if this was really Bundesliga or if we accidentally drove a little too far and were watching a relegation battle in the French Ligue 2 instead. Towards the end of the first half, there were at least two more big chances. One on each side. First there was a header on the crossbar from Mainz after a corner kick and then there was a wide shot from Aubameyang that the goalkeeper could deflect to the crossbar. And then there was the break. Finally.
Klopp had to make his last two substitutions in the break. Kuba and Reus, both with muscular issues, left for Mkhitaryan and Kehl and also Mainz made its first substitution. Müller, their most dangerous striker, left for Choupo-Moting, also for injury reasons. And this very Choupo-Moting had the first chance in the second half. After only 3 minutes, he slightly missed the goal with his shot. Then the game was back to the level of the first half and watching became a pain again. The sphere in the away stand was also fitting the game. Due to the absence of part of the Ultras and their equipment, it was a struggle to get the whole stand singing and even though that worked every now and again and then it got quite loud, it was not the usual support that one got used to in the past ten years of travelling away with our Borussia. (The protest against the exclusion of the Ultras was nicely put by the BVB fans with a banner reading "Ultras in, Nazis out".) And the home support, as already stated above, was drowned out by this unnerving clapping from the sitting stands. A picture the FIFA would have loved, but no football atmosphere.
And then it came. Out of nowhere. With a bang. We finally got to see a real football game! It started with Borussia getting a little stronger after 65 minutes of the game, finally being able to gain control and make these nice little pass combinations in the half of the opponent, immediately awakening the away support. And it only took about five minutes to reap the rewards. Durm got fouled 5 meter outside the penalty box at the left side and we were all very positive as a Reus free kick is almost the same as a Reus penalty kick as someone had put it lately, suddenly realizing that Reus has left the pitch at half time. But there’s still Sahin, of course. The Turk put the ball to the right spot, got himself in place and then let Aubameyang shoot the ball into the corner of the goalpost. What a beauty! And what a relief!
We couldn’t celebrate it very long, though. After a little clumsy defending of Piszczek, the referee started the penalty shoot-out. Mainz had no problems to score and in minute 74, only 4 minutes after the lead, it was 1:1. But this was only the beginning. A beautiful attack of Borussia was ended by Soto in a nice goalkeeper-manner. Lewandowski gave a tremendous pass to Aubameyang who passed the goalkeeper and shot towards the goal where Soto was with his hand to deflect the ball to a corner. As Soto is not the goalkeeper of Mainz, he had to leave the pitch with a red card and we were awarded our penalty, too. Lewandowski, without a goal for some time now, had no issues to stay cool and we were leading again. Mainz tried again to come back but except for a free kick that was quite close but no real danger as Weidenfeller would have had it anyway, they didn’t succeed in creating anything remotely dangerous in front of our goal. Instead, it was Borussia playing some “handball “by playing the ball around the penalty box of the opponent for several minutes without Mainz having the energy and power to interfere. They were awarded several corner kicks and finally also another penalty kick. If Durm was really fouled is not exactly certain, but in the course of what the referee had decided so far, it was logic that he showed to the point for the third time in this game. Mkhitaryan, Lewandowski and Aubameyang were all ready to take the ball. Lewandowski had it first, giving it to Mkhitaryan who put it on the point and when walking back to shoot, being overruled by Klopp and finally Lewandowski shot it. It was no wonder that the goalkeeper couldn’t catch it, he probably didn’t know who would shoot until the shot. And that was the end of the game.
Even though this was certainly no beauty and we had to fight hard to even get into the fight with Mainz on that day. Even though we lost more tackles than we won. Even though Mainz may get the feeling that they deserved more, I think it was a deserved victory. We had more chances, more ball possession and more goals than Mainz in the end. Once we finally got into the game, we had no difficulties to control the opponent and they hadn’t had a real chance after minute 48 – even though they scored afterwards.
It should give us some confidence that we are able to win these ugly games this season with half of our team out and the other half having to be substituted in halftime. They say that’s what top clubs are about and I would like to believe them...
1. FSV Mainz 05: Karius – Pospech, Bell, Noveski, Park - Geis, Soto - Polter, Zimling, Müller – Okazaki
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Sokratis, Friedrich, Durm – Blaszczykowski, Bender, Großkreutz – Aubameyang, Lewandowski, Reus
Substitutions: 46. Choupo-Moting for Müller, 63. Malli for Zimling, 89. Saller for Polter - 32. Sahin for Bender, 46. Kehl and Mkhitaryan for Reus and Blaszczykowski
Goals: 0:1 Aubameyang (70., free kick), 1:1 Choupo-Moting (74., penalty, Piszczek to Malli), 1:2 Lewandowski (78., hands penalty, Soto), 1:3 Lewandowski (90.+4, penalty, Karius to Durm)
Referee: Aytekin (Oberasbach)
Red card: Soto (77., hands)
Yellow card: Bell
Spectators: 34.000 (sold-out)