Borussia’s U19 were unlucky not to make it into the Final Four of the UEFA Youth League. Mike Tullberg’s team lost 9-8 to Hajduk Split in a dramatic penalty shoot-out after drawing 1-1 in the normal time. 

“I have to pay the lads a huge compliment. They deserved to make it into the final tournament. Hajduk were not the better team, but they were the luckier team. We have now reached the quarter-finals for the second time in a row, and it cannot be overstated how impressive that is,” said Mike Tullberg in summary, as he comforted his players, Filippo Mane in particular. Mane was the ninth Dortmund penalty-taker and his penalty was saved by Split’s goalkeeper Buljan, after Farouk Cisse, Julian Rijkhoff, Michel Ludwig, Göktan Gürpüz, Paris Brunner, Abdoulaye Kamara, Samuel Bamba and Nnamdi Collins had all calmly scored from the spot.

Before the drama of the shoot-out, it had been an intense game, with both sides putting in a great effort. Hajduk were compact in defence and did not allow Dortmund any opportunities for a long time, while showing impressive quality up-front throughout. Both sides remained very patient, not taking unnecessary risks, and so a highly interesting game developed in front of the impressive backdrop of 16,000 spectators in the stadium. Mike Tullberg had trusted the team who had put in such an impressive performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Farouk Cisse played on the right of a back-three, with Filippo Mane, who had missed the 2-1 in Leverkusen due to illness, on the left. Samuel Bamba and Prince Aning flew down the wings, with the back line protected by Vasco Walz and Abdoulaye Kamara in central midfield.

Hajduk, roared on by a large fan contingent, started confidently and showed little respect for the German champions. Silas Ostrzinski in the BVB goal was called into action for the first time in the fourth minute after a corner-kick. BVB then took control, keeping the away side out of their penalty area and searching for spaces in the tightly packed defence of the Croatians. But Hajduk did not shy away from the challenge. The Croatian side neutralised Paris Brunner and Samuel Bamba and allowed goalscorer Julian Rijkhoff only a few touches of the ball, restricting the Black and Yellows to shots from range. The first came from Farouk Cisse in the 11th minute, but Split’s goalkeeper Buljan made the save. Göktan Gürpüz beat two Split defenders and came close to opening the scoring, but the ball landed on the top of the net on 24 minutes.

Bamba brought down, but nothing given

On one rare occasion, BVB did manage to work the ball into the opposition box in the 31st minute when Samuel Bamba was played in by Farouk Cisse. Unfortunately, no one managed to get on the end of the pacey winger’s cross. And when Bamba dribbled into the penalty area in first-half injury time, he was unceremoniously forced off the ball. Mike Tullberg vociferously demanded a penalty, but Welsh referee Robert Jenkins’ waived away the protests.

BVB was the more active and better team, but the away side also had a few opportunities, predominantly created by their star strikers, Brajkovic on 21 minutes and Vrcic just before half-time. The two attackers caused Collins, Mane and Cisse problems throughout. They did just that in the 42nd Minute, when Vrcic had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Samuel Bamba prevented his side from going behind with an incredible slide tackle. Nine minutes later, Brajkovic found space and floated in a precise cross, and Antunovic gave Silas Ostrzinski no chance of saving his perfectly-placed header. That goal had in fact been coming, as BVB had let their performance slip a little.

Yet the Black and Yellows proved their resilience and the great morale within the team, fighting back, and they found a reply just three minutes later, when substitute Michel Ludwig was brought down by Arkovic. This time, the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Julian Rijkhoff kept his nerve and restored parity at 1-1. It was the prelude to a fast-and-furious final phase, in which the BVB embodied the phrase “fortune favours the brave” during injury time. Michel Ludwig slipped into the ball after a cross and the ball violently rebounded off the bar. So the tie went to penalties, just as it had against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round. This time, however, the Black and Yellows were on the losing end. 

“The team gave it their all and came back brilliantly after going 1-0 down. The players can be proud of their performance. As last year against Atletico Madrid, they lost out by the finest of margins. It’s a pity,” said Lars Ricken, director of the Youth Performance Centre. 

BVB U19s: Ostrzinski – Cisse, Collins, Mane – Walz (Ludwig, 70), Kamara – Bamba, Gürpüz, Rijkhoff, Aning (Blank, 85) – Rijkhoff, Brunner