Borussia Dortmund’s U19s have sensationally reached the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals: Mike Tullberg’s team eliminated favourites Paris Saint-Germain on penalties.
BVB emerged 5-4 victors in the shootout following a 1-1 draw in normal time. Farouk Cisse, Julian Rijkhoff, Michel Ludwig, Cole Campbell and Samuel Bamba clinically converted their spot-kicks, before Silas Ostrzinski ultimately marked himself out as the hero by saving the fifth and final PSG penalty from forward Ilyes Housni. “We knew Silas would save at least one penalty and that put us at a slight advantage,” beamed Mike Tullberg. BVB now face another home tie in the quarter-final, where they will take on Hajduk Split on 14/15 March. The Croats ran out surprise 2-1 winners against Manchester City.
It was the team’s reward for their courageous display in an exciting encounter. The back line defended with focus, while going forward BVB were direct and powerful. The perfectly set up Black & Yellows could have even decided the match in their favour within 90 minutes, but were at times lacking the rub of the green with their finishing. One such incident came in the 74th minute when Bamba, who had earlier levelled at 1-1, struck the bar with a free-kick from 25 metres.
Mike Tullberg had reacted to the suspension of captain Nnamdi Collins by changing up the system: Filippo Mane, Farouk Cisse and Hendry Blank formed the three-man defence, with Samuel Bamba and Prince Aning on the flanks and the duo of Vasco Walz and Abdoulaye Kamara in central midfield. Julian Rijkhoff played alongside Göktan Gürpüz in a deeper role behind lone frontman Paris Brunner. The switch to roles that were unfamiliar for some of the players came off, with the team approaching the Herculean task in confident and committed fashion. “Everything we set out to do worked out. The lads put the plan into practice excellently. They deserve a big compliment for that,” declared the coach contentedly.
BVB set the tone from the beginning, carving out some good chances for themselves and commanding great respect from their opponents. The French outfit, who went in as heavy favourites, appeared taken back by the courage shown by the Black & Yellows, who produced the first moment of note around five minutes in. Bamba, the standout player of the afternoon, initiated the attack with Gürpüz playing in Aning, whose shot from 20 metres flew wide of the upright.
That marked the start of a whole series of spectacular attacks. Brunner struck the outside of the post following a through-ball from Gürpüz (22), who then played a one-two with Rijkhoff in the penalty area. Borussia’s star forward found himself unmarked, but he could not get the ball under control and PSG custodian Louis Mouquet managed to thwart the danger (35). Rather than being 2-0 up, BVB surprisingly found themselves 1-0 down in the 40th minute.
Samuel Bamba levels at 1-1 after solo run
The defence, which was extremely alert to the dangers posed by the pacey French and were aggressive in the tackle, let their guard down just once, allowing PSG goal-getter Housni to cross from the left flank for Pascal Lemina to slot past Ostrzinski (40). The Dortmund lads took a brief moment to collect themselves and then hit back, with Bamba embarking upon a stunning solo run and leaving the visiting shot-stopper with no chance via a well-placed left-footed shot.
It was a similar pattern in the second half. Borussia gave away little, showed tactical discipline and kept the game under control. Bamba struck the bar with a free-kick from 25 metres, before Gürpüz was denied by Mouquet from a similar position. But the biggest chance fell to the visitors towards the end of normal time, with the unmarked Ismael Gharbi latching onto a low cross and firing the ball over the goal. As was the case in last season’s round of 16 away to Manchester United, progression to the next round was determined by penalties. And once again there was a happy ending for BVB.
“We have once again brilliantly represented the club in this competition. The entire youth performance centre, every coach and every staff member can be proud of what we’ve achieved in the Youth League this season,” explained Tullberg. But the quarter-final does not have to be the final stop on this successful adventure.
BVB: Ostrzinski – Mane, Cisse, Blank – Walz, Kamara (Ludwig, 87) – Bamba, Gürpüz (Campbell, 90), Rijkhoff, Aning (Korzynietz, 70) – Brunner