Surprises and fireworks
The first surprise of the day was the stadium in Saarbrücken. It is one of these old, traditional grounds with the charm of the good old times. Instead of expensive parking spaces, they have the police to block the whole main street for parking and woods and driveways and similar alternatives in the residential area. Instead of a roof, they have these nice terraces covered in mud that we accessed from the grass covered hill. Instead of electronic admission, they have helpful and friendly stewards (they actually have a nice humour in the south-west of the republic if you manage to understand what they are saying). Instead of sound systems and video walls, they have old-fashioned cracking loudspeakers and a rough-pixel two-colour scoreboard. It was like travelling back in time, the feeling of a true football game with the true smell of mud and grass and the true freezing cold of a winter night outdoors. As much as I love our mighty Westfalenstadion with all its comfort, magnitude and uniqueness (and truly believe that it is indeed the best stadium in the world), every now and again one should visit a stadium like the Ludwigspark just to go back to the roots.
The second surprise of the day was our team. Even though Klopp made a joke about us “injuring us down” to the level of the opponent for the fairness of the game, the second team still would have been the favourite in this cup clash as they are a few points above the opponent in the table of the third division. But Sarr and Amini were the only members of the second team in Saarbrücken yesterday and they were sitting next to Weidenfeller and Piszczek on the bench. It came somewhat as a surprise that we actually managed to send a team on the pitch that was a 1B-team rather than an upgraded second team with Hummels, Subotic, Schmelzer, Gündogan, Sahin, Reus and Bender not even travelling and Lewandowski and Kuba on the bench, not completely fit. The 1B team, however, still read quite comfortable: Langerak, Grosskreutz, Sokratis, Friedrich, Durm, Kehl, Kirch, Hofmann, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and Schieber. And it was up to them to beat the opponent that has already eliminated Werder Bremen and Paderborn in the first two rounds.
Due to the fact that the Ultras were back again, the away support was very good from the start, but also the home supporters had some surprises in petto. The choreo was a little funny to watch and everyone already agreed that it was a bad idea to make a choreo on a standing terrace without having tried it out before, when the ultimate goal of this became clear. When the players entered the pitch, the banner read “Entzündet den Funken Hoffnung!” (Light the spark of hope!), but it wasn’t a spark, the whole terrace burst into flames. It started very small with a few flares and ended in a real New Year’s Eve fire show. Very, very nice to watch and very, very much against the rules of all the modern football associations, another part of the journey back in time. A time when everyone in football agreed that a little firework never hurt anybody. And after all these surprises and fireworks, the game started.
And then there were no surprises and fireworks anymore. At least not from the host. From the first second on, Borussia controlled the game, the opponent and the sphere in the stadium. Saarbrücken actually hardly ever got to see the ball. The first chances for Borussia came quickly, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan had the two biggest in the first 15 minutes and then the ball finally hit the goal. It was a nice pass from Mkhitaryan to Hofmann who eventually handed the goal to Schieber on a silver platter in minute 19 and not even 10 minutes and some more big chances later, the exact same attack led to the 2:0. Only the referee didn’t agree and gave a free kick because he had seen a foul from Schieber that no-one else had seen. And Schieber continued to strive for the second goal, only he didn’t have luck on his side. In minute 38, the hosts had the only, the first and the best chance all in one when they hit the post. And then they were watching again how our second string played as if they had done nothing else in the past months. And also the away support was amazing. Even though there were a lot of locals that enjoyed to see “their” Borussia play live once in their lifetime and were not familiar with the songs (to say the least), the Ultras managed to keep the whole section next to the main stand and part of the big section behind the goal singing for most of the game. The lead after 45 minutes was not high enough by far, but other than in the past two cup games, we were leading at halftime.
The second half started as the first one. Only the goal came even earlier. This time it was Schieber to Hofmann and after 48 minutes it was finally 2:0. If Saarbrücken ever had a plan to come back into this came, it was dismissed at that point. The final 45 minutes were a simple warm-down for the following difficult tasks to come, interrupted only by some more chances. The biggest was by Duksch in minute 78 when a defender needed a diving header to get the ball from the goal line. It stayed 2:0 in the end and even though this was far from representing the game, it was a good enough result in a surprisingly good game. 84% ball possession, 27:4 shots on goal, 9:1 big chances, there was not one statistic that wasn’t clearly in favour of Borussia Dortmund on that day and when the referee finally blew the final whistle, we hadn’t had one second of doubt about who would progress to the quarter final.
It didn’t happen too often in the past that a cup tie hardly cost us any energy. Further to that, we could even permit us to leave most of the star players at home or on the bench which should have given them the possibility to get fit again for the game against Leverkusen on Saturday. What remains is a nagging feeling that the game may have been that easy because the opponent was bad and not because of our own strength and the certainty that we only need two more cup victories to go to the final in Berlin again.
1. FC Saarbrücken: T. Ochs – K. Falkenberg, Knipping, N. Fischer, Marque – Forkel (79. T. Kruse), R. Korte – Plut, Deville (63. Humbert), P. Hoffmann – Ziemer (46. Rathgeber)
Borussia Dortmund: Langerak – K. Großkreutz (66. Piszczek), M. Friedrich, Sokratis, Durm – Kirch, Kehl – J. Hofmann, Mkhitaryan (76. Ducksch), Aubameyang (66. Blaszczykowski) – Schieber
Goals: 0:1 Schieber (19.), 0:2 J. Hofmann (49.)
Yellow cards: Knipping, R. Korte
Spectators Ludwigspark: 30931 (sold-out)
Referee: Marco Fritz