The Borussia Dortmund U19s have become champions of the A-Junioren Bundesliga West thanks to a 2-1 away victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen on the final day of the season. This means coach Mike Tullberg successfully retained the title they won last year.

“It’s amazing what this team are doing again this season. We were unbeaten in the Bundesliga and are among the top eight youth teams in Europe. The boys have dealt with all the blows they have taken and still put in a top performance on the pitch, time and time again,” said Mike Tullberg after the final whistle, beaming in the March sun.

The match at the Ulrich Haberland Stadium was a real game of two halves. Filippo Mané missed the game through illness, but with captain Nnamdi Collins taking his place, BVB initially dominated what was a one-sided game until the half-time whistle. Leverkusen allowed the away side extended periods of possession, played very passively and waited for their chances on the counter-attack. Dortmund controlled the game as they exchanged passes throughout the team and got added peace of mind after Julian Rijkhoff latched on to Paris Brunner’s pass in the 20th minute to score his 15th goal of the season to give the Black and Yellows the lead.

BVB created far more chances, but wasted good opportunities through Hendry Blank after Rafael Lubach’s corner after just 5 minutes, Michel Ludwig, who shot past the right post in an ideal position from 14 metres out on 38 minutes, and Nnamdi Collins, who put his header wide in the 44th minute. At the other end, the hosts created only one opportunity in the first half, when Marian Kirsch misjudged Anton Bäuerle’s cross and Emre Aksoy got his head to it, but Vasco Walz did enough to put the Leverkusen man off.

Vincenzo Onofrietti scores the winner

The second half was an entirely different game: Leverkusen became much more aggressive and took more chances, forcing BVB into their own half. They found an equaliser as early as the 47th minute, when Jardell Kanga converted Bäuerle’s cross to make it 1-1. That goal changed the game. BVB lost their grip on the match and had Marian Kirsch to thank in the 50th minute as he denied Melja Marsenic to prevent his side from falling 2-1 behind. “We allowed Bayer to put us to sleep a little bit. It would have been easier for us if we had taken advantage of our chances before half-time,” said Mike Tullberg, summing up the game.

A mistake by Leverkusen goalkeeper Oleksandr Petrenko, who had previously reacted brilliantly to deny Paris Brunner, gifted BVB the lead on 66 minutes. Substitute Vincenzo Onofrietti made no mistake to give his side a 2-1 lead. Shortly afterwards, BVB’s Michel Ludwig, who had already been given a yellow card in the first half, saw a second yellow card for a foul on Leon Köhl and was sent from the pitch.

The Dortmund boys put in a great effort to fight off wave after wave of attacks from Leverkusen and seal victory at the final whistle. Mike Tullberg had modified the tactical setup once again, switching to a 4-4-1 system to stabilise his side’s defence. “We stood together. They all fought for the one another – that was really good,” said Tullberg.

BVB will face Hertha Berlin in the semi-final of the German Championship play-offs. Those games are scheduled to be played on 9 and 16 April. The other semi-final will be contested by 1. FC Cologne and Mainz 05.

BVB: Kirsch – Cisse, Collins, Blank, Korzynietz – Walz, Bamba (Krevsun, 88), Ludwig, Lubach (Onofrietti, 46), Brunner (Campbell, 67) – Rijkhoff (Rashidi, 83).