Borussia Dortmund’s U23s put in their best performance of the season so far to beat Waldhof Mannheim 4-0 (2-0).

The scenario: Leading up to game, new U23s head coach Jan Zimmermann had lost his second game in a row last week, falling to a 2-0 defeat at Rot-Weiss Essen, leaving the Black and Yellows on just 21 points after 23 league games, so BVB headed into the match lying 16th in the league. Mannheim, meanwhile, still had hopes of promotion and headed to Oberhausen, where the Drittliga duel was taking place due to the ongoing construction work in the Rote Erde stadium, in fifth place.

Personnel matters: Zimmermann made four changes from the eleven that started against RWE, with Franz Pfanne, Can Özkan, Abdoulaye Kamara and Falko Michel stepping into the starting lineup.

The match: Shortly after taking on the role as head coach, Zimmermann had worked meticulously with his team on the attacking side of the game. He wanted his side to go deep quickly to effectively set up his pacey forwards, and that work started to bear fruit against Mannheim. Right from the opening whistle, the U23s often went deep, causing Waldhof some serious problems.

A perfect example of this came in the 18th minute, with Antonios Papadopoulos exchanging passes with Michel and Michael Eberwein before a long ball up to Justin Njinmah. Dortmund’s striker kept his composure to skilfully lift the ball into the Mannheim goal to give his side a 1-0 lead. And the BVB fans didn’t have to wait long for goal number two. This time, however, it came not from open play, but from a set-piece situation: Ole Pohlmann had floated in a dangerous ball from a corner and Franz Pfanne met it to double BVB’s lead on 22 minutes.

After that, the Mannheim side showed glimpses of what they could do, with Alexander Rossipal firing off two shots. The first was cleared by the head of Pfanne on 28 minutes, before Dortmund’s goalkeeper Marcel Lotka made a strong save one minute later. So the Black and Yellows went into the half-time break with a well-deserved 2-0 lead, especially as BVB had come close with two more headers – another from Pfanne on 37 minutes, closely followed by an effort from Eberwein. Both flew just over the Mannheim goal.

Borussia came out of the dressing room brimming with self-confidence, rarely allowing the Mannheim side to make it into their attacking third, and even extended their lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute thanks to Njinmah. Eberwein had once again played in the BVB striker with a long ball and Njinmah made no mistake to score his second goal of the day. The impressive Eberwein could have got himself on the scoresheet on 77 minutes, but fired just wide.

So it was up to the substitute Pasalic to put the exclamation mark on the victory: Göktan Gürpüz had found Pasalic on the edge of the penalty area, and the Croatian U21 international fired the ball into the top-left corner with his wand of a left foot in the fourth minute of injury time. It was a fitting and beautiful conclusion to best performance of the season so far for the BVB U23s, and an important three points in the fight for Drittliga survival.

Head coach Jan Zimmermann: “Starting off with two defeats didn’t feel good. Now, of course, this deserved victory will help. We’ve shown what the lads can do if they have confidence and get into their situations. However, I also told them that we are only just starting. Today, a lot worked, but we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

Outlook: Next Friday, BVB will meet SC Freiburg II. Kick-off in Breisgau is at 19:00 CET.

Line-up: Lotka – Papadopoulos, Dams, Coulibaly – Özkan, Pfanne, Kamara, Pohlmann – Michel (Gürpüz, 65), Njinmah (Pasalic, 70) – Eberwein (Akono, 85)

Goals: 1-0 Njinmah (18), 2-0 Pfanne (22), 3-0 Njinmah (64), 4-0 Pasalic (90+4)