The DFB-Pokal was expected to be a tightly contested affair. However, Borussia Dortmund completely swept RB Leipzig away, and Die Roten Bullen never stood a chance. In the end, Dortmund fought their way to a 4-1 win, with goals from Haaland and Sancho, and a masterclass from their captain – Marco Reus.
Borussia Dortmund have had a roller coaster of a season. From the sacking of Lucien Favre in December to the team’s narrow UEFA Champions League exit against Manchester City, the season has been filled with highs and lows for the Black & Yellows. Edin Terzic was not necessarily expected to keep the job for the entire season after being appointed as the interim manager. But in the end he has done a remarkable job for the team, inspiring them to what is now a six-game unbeaten run. In the cup final, the Black & Yellows played their best game of the entire season and mesmerized a normally brilliant RB Leipzig team.
It all started with a bit of intensity and defensive solidity in midfield, which has been a common trend for Dortmund in recent matches. Emre Can and Mahmoud Dahoud have added the necessary gusto to get back to their best, while Jude Bellingham’s energetic running has complimented their abilities to a tee. Terzic’s more defensive approach ever since the UEFA Champions League fixtures against Manchester City has been a welcome change for a team that struggled so greatly with their defensive record earlier in the season. His decision to play 4-3-3 in the cup final as he did against City was an intelligent decision, and one that paid off right away. Mahmoud Dahoud was given greater license to go forward, knowing Emre Can was in behind, and provided the assist for Jadon Sancho’s early goal. It was the perfect way for the Black & Yellows to start off the match, and gave Sancho the confidence he needed to continue to dominate the wing.
After the first goal, Emre Can’s fire boiled over, both inspiring Dortmund to push faster and simultaneously earning himself a yellow card. Luckily for the German international, he settled down after that and turned up the heat on his box to box play and elegance in possession instead. Manuel Akanji also eased his way through the first half, completely shutting down Hee-Chan Hwang and Alexander Sorloth up front for Leipzig. With the class of Marco Reus further forward and the assist king’s magic touch in the final third, Dortmund simply couldn’t be stopped.
It was the Dortmund captain who assisted Erling Haaland’s goal in the 28th minute to make the score 2-0, after the Norwegian shrugged off Dayot Upamecano’s last-ditch attempt to win the ball. Haaland has a habit of making very good players look like very average ones, and the cup final was no different as even some of the strongest centre-backs in the league couldn’t cope with the Norwegian’s size and stature. Just before half-time Upamecano couldn’t cope once more, and threw himself into a rash challenge on Haaland just before the halfway line. But instead of the referee blowing for the free kick, Mahmoud Dahoud found the ball at his feet and drove the team forward to play in the on-side Marco Reus at the exact right moment. Reus ran through on goal and as you’d expect, he unselfishly played in Jadon Sancho instead. But with Halstenberg still recovering, Sancho intelligently took an extra touch before the finish to take the ball away from the German, and then tapped it in for three. Dortmund celebrated as though they had already won the trophy, and to be fair, they basically had. 3-0 down at half-time was going to be a mountain for Leipzig to climb, and a mountain that they ultimately could never ascend.
Die Roten Bullen threw on Yussuf Poulsen and Christopher Nkunku for Alexander Sorloth and Hee-Chan Hwang to try and turn around the tie, but it was no use. Nkunku and Leipzig started the match brightly and even hit the crossbar, but they couldn’t find a way past Burki. The Swiss keeper could have been a worry for the Black & Yellows, with Marwin Hitz succumbing to injury against Leipzig last weekend. However, Burki never put a foot wrong, and made three excellent saves in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, Manuel Akanji continued to play in beast mode, while Lukasz Piszczek showed everyone why age is just a number.
Despite not conceding, Dortmund started the second half slow. The change of system to 4-2-3-1 posed some early tactical problems for their ability to adequately track the runs made by Marcel Sabitzer in between the lines. Without Jude Bellingham in the team, the midfield balance had become lost, and Thorgan Hazard wasn’t able to offer the team much in the way in attack, given how much possession Nagelsmann’s team kept in the first fifteen minutes. Dortmund continued to look dangerous on the break, but it was a nervous start for the Black & Yellows, especially compared to the dauntless start they made in the first half. Despite that, it was Edin Terzic’s team that had the best chance of the second half’s opening period, when Thorgan Hazard missed a wide open net by inches. Marco Reus was starting to show signs of fatigue, but continued to trouble the Leipzig defense with his acceleration and verve, putting it on a plate for Hazard only for the Belgian to slip and slide the ball wide.
Dortmund’s slow start eventually caught up to them and Dani Olmo clawed the way back for Leipzig with a thunderous effort from outside the box. It was however an unlucky goal for the Black & Yellows to concede. The ball had clearly been out of play just moments before, but the referee waved the game on and die Roten Bullen found the back of the net just moments later.
Both sides continued to bring the fire as the second half wore on, with Leipzig continuing to look the more dangerous. But again it was the Black & Yellows with the best chance, as Jadon Sancho should have finished the game off in the 85th minute after he rounded Peter Gulacsi in front of goal. It wasn’t long though before Dortmund killed the game off, when Reus, Sancho and Haaland combined once more to find the Norwegian for the fourth goal of the game.
The likes of Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer dominated large spells of the game and were brilliant on the day, but they couldn’t inspire Julian Nagelsmann’s team back into the match. Dortmund on the other hand oozed class from the first whistle, and their leaders were instrumental in securing the win.
In the end, Borussia Dortmund eased their way to their first major trophy since the days of Thomas Tuchel, with Edin Terzic ending off his short-lived tenure at the helm of the club in style. Congratulations Borussia Dortmund on a hard-fought victory.