The U23s have taken another step towards staying in the division. The Black & Yellows led for a long time in their game away to Viktoria Cologne thanks to Can Özkan’s dream strike but ultimately had to settle for a fair 1-1 (0-1) draw.

The scenario: The U23s travelled to Cologne full of confidence. The team pulled off a coup last week by beating league leaders Elversberg by a 2-0 scoreline and reached the 40-point mark in the process. Now, the U23s had the chance to mathematically seal their survival in Cologne. To do so, they needed to return home from the game with a victory and hope Oldenburg (1-0 loss against Saarbrücken) and Bayreuth (5-2 defeat in Elversberg) did not win. Before the game, Viktoria were six places above the Black & Yellows in eighth position (51 points). The U23s lost the reverse fixture 2-0. And the head-to-head record certainly did not favour BVB, who had only emerged victorious on two occasions in their 11 competitive meetings with Viktoria Cologne since 2015 in the Regionalliga West and the 3. Liga (three draws, six defeats).

Personnel matters: Dortmund coach Jan Zimmermann made two changes to the starting line-up that ran out 2-0 victors against Elversberg, with Soumaïla Coulibaly and Ole Pohlmann replacing Niklas Dams and Abdoulaye Kamara in the first XI. For Coulibaly, who occupied the second centre-back berth in the back four alongside Papadopoulous, it was a first U23 appearance since the start of April.

The match & analysis: Both teams initially looked to settle into the game in an unspectacular opening period. The hosts had the first glimpse of goal, but Franz Pfanne managed to clear the danger at the last moment (4). It was an important intervention. Because: If the BVB captain had not reached the ball, opposition player Simon Handle would have been clean through on Marcel Lotka.

The first shot for the Black & Yellows fell to Can Özkan. But his shot from range following a corner-kick flew well over the crossbar (10). A short while later Justin Njinmah, who has been in extremely strong form lately, won the ball back in midfield, dribbled at speed towards the box and fired a first warning shot (19).

Ultimately, it was a dream strike that put Dortmund in the lead. Pohlmann fired a free-kick from the edge of the box into the wall and the ball ricocheted off Cologne player Patrick Koronkiewicz’s head before arcing through the air towards Özkan outside the box. The Dortmund right-back went all out with his volley – and got the reward. Özkan leathered the ball into the top right corner (28). Spurred on by his first goal of the season, the 23-year-old tried his luck with another volley from range only five minutes later but didn’t properly connect with the ball this time.

And Cologne? The hosts made every effort but were lacking that little bit of fortune with their finishing. A double opportunity went begging on the stroke of half-time. Mike Wunderlich was initially denied by the strong reactions of BVB keeper Lotka. The move stayed alive because the ball bounced back to the Viktoria player and his chipped cross towards the back post picked out Handle, who simply had to nod it home from close range. But the attacker headed the ball against the crossbar (42). Shortly afterwards, the U23s got lucky once again when the unmarked Robin Meißner did not connect properly with the ball. His attempt from 14 metres flew wide of the left post (45).

Viktoria coach Olaf Janssen made three changes at once after the interval and the home side continued to keep the tempo up. But it was Dortmund that continued to create the greater danger going forward: Cologne goalie Ben Voll turned Njinmah’s left-footed shot around the post (52), with Pohlmann then narrowly missing the target from range (56).

It subsequently developed into an open game. Cologne gave it everything and pushed for the equaliser. The BVB defence, led by Antonios Papadopoulos, skilfully held firm. But in the 71st minute, every intervention came too late and Wunderlich finished off a pass in behind the defence to restore parity.

BVB were by no means taken aback. Only seconds after the goal for 1-1, Njinmah forced Viktoria keeper Voll into a spectacular save (73). The Black & Yellows subsequently failed to mount a late offensive. Instead, they had to fight to hold onto the point.

As Zimmermann’s team’s held out defensively against Viktoria’s attacks in the final minutes and Lotka showed all his skills to save a Becker header (87), BVB returned to Dortmund with a point. With three rounds of matches to go, the team now have an eight-point cushion over the relegation places.

Coach Jan Zimmermann: “The point is good, we’ll take it. To get a point in Cologne is absolutely in order. Cologne prepared well for us, Njinmah was often double-marked. We additionally lost too many challenges, especially in attack, and were not able to assert ourselves well enough. More than a point would not have been deserved today.”

Outlook: The U23s will travel to the Erzgebirgsstadion to face Erzgebirge Aue on Monday 15 May (19:00 CET).

U23s: Lotka – Özkan (Collins, 85), Papadopoulos, Coulibaly (Dams, 60), Rothe (Bueno, 60) – Pohlmann, Pfanne – Njinmah (Suver, 85), Eberwein, Michel – Tattermusch (Akono, 72)

Goals: 0-1 Özkan (28), 1-1 Wunderlich (71)

Phillip Oldenburg