Borussia’s U19s will be involved again when the draw for the UEFA Youth League play-off round is conducted in Nyon on 9 November! Mike Tullberg’s charges came out on top in their winner-takes-all clash away to FC Copenhagen, winning 1-0 thanks to a brilliant combative performance and a “headed golden goal” from Paris Brunner. They finished Group G in second place with eight points, behind Manchester City (14).

The team – which Tullberg had described as having “special character” at his pre-match press conference – once again showcased their heart and passion at the Österbro Stadium in Copenhagen. They had been written off by the halfway point of the group stages – following a 2-0 loss to Copenhagen, a 3-2 defeat at Manchester City and a 1-1 draw away to Sevilla – but they fought back and, along with Eintracht Frankfurt, became one of only two German clubs to progress through the group in this elite competition. “I’m very happy, the boys earned this,” said a beaming Mike Tullberg after the final whistle.

The spirited Danes initially dominated on what was a difficult surface to play on at the Österbro Stadium. The Black & Yellows predominantly posed a threat down Copenhagen’s right flank. Silas Ostrzinski denied a potential early opener in the fourth minute when Thomas Jörgensen played the ball into the path of Victor Froholdt, who was kept out by the brilliant reactions of the Dortmund goalkeeper. BVB benefited from another stroke of luck a short while later, with Noah Sahsah missing out on Jörgensen’s cross. “We knew that Copenhagen were a very good footballing side. They posed us several problems,” analysed Tullberg.

By the time the quarter-hour mark rolled around, BVB had better adapted to the pitch and their opponent. Lion Semic initiated the first forays downfield, but they were not seen through properly with the final ball tending not to reach the intended recipient. However, the alert and uncompromising Danes also defended compactly. The first real danger for Copenhagen came on the 29-minute mark when Samuel Bamba embarked upon a run and then curled the ball narrowly wide of the upright from a less-than-ideal angle (29). The next opportunity came 10 minutes later. The lively Bamba played a long ball towards Julian Rijkhoff, who failed to get the better of goalkeeper Dithmer. But the biggest chance of the opening half was missed by Noah Sahsah, who fired a penalty awarded for a handball by Prince Aning against the left upright.

Mike Tullberg’s changes make an impact

BVB head coach Mike Tullberg reacted in the break and made some tactical and personnel tweaks. Hendry Blank replaced Prince Aning on the left flank, while U17 player Kjell Wätjen came on in place of Rafael Lubach in midfield and made his first appearance of the season in the UEFA Youth League. Samuel Bamba moved over to the right side of attack. And those changes worked: Samuel Bamba’s powerful strike was turned onto the post by Dithmer. Hendry Blank has a go from a similar distance a short while later but missed the target by just half a yard. “We wanted to make the game slightly wilder; ultimately, we managed that,” said a delighted Mike Tullberg, reflecting on his successful changes.

The Black & Yellows had a much better foothold in the game, were more aggressive in the challenges and showed more determination in defence. Though Copenhagen still appeared in the ascendancy, the defence marshalled by the again outstanding captain Nnamdi Collins hardly gave their opponents a sniff. Wätjen also slotted in nicely and helped to structure the midfield play.

Mike Tullberg went into full risk mode in the final stages. He brought on another attacking player in Noa-Gabriel Simic before later introducing Filippo Mane, who was wearing a face mask to protect his broken nose. Farouk Cisse pushed up into midfield – and in the 87th minute, the entire Dortmund bench were up on their feet: Julian Rijkhoff played a long ball into the box towards Paris Brunner, who won the aerial battle against a Copenhagen player and steered a looping header over Dithmer and into the back of the net. The Black & Yellows’ celebrations knew no bounds, with the scorer of the “golden goal” almost crushed. Copenhagen’s final forays forward fizzled out, with Collins & Co. keeping a cool head and seeing their lead over the line with savviness and skill.

“The boys are allowed to celebrate in Copenhagen, but our preparation for the next Bundesliga game begins on Thursday,” explained Mike Tullberg. BVB are away to Bundesliga leaders Fortuna Düsseldorf on Sunday. 

U19s: Ostrzinski – Semic, Collins, Cisse, Aning (Blank, 46) – Bamba (Ludwig, 90), Walz (Mane, 80), Lubach (Wätjen, 46), Gürpüz (Simic, 71) – Brunner, Rijkhoff

Wilfried Wittke