It proved to be a heartbreaking afternoon for the Borussia Dortmund U23s. At home to the team placed third in the league table, the Black & Yellows put up an excellent fight, had several chances to grab the all-important opening goal and then, shortly before the final whistle, endured the pain of watching their opponents score the only goal of the match to grab all three points. BVB's good performance proved in vain as Essen's Alexander Hahn forced the ball over the line in the 88th minute.
The scenario before the match: RW Essen arrived at the Rote Erde stadium placed third in the league table. The Ruhr-based club have their sights firmly set on promotion this season but both Rödinghausen and Verl are making life difficult for the Red & Whites. BVB went into the match in ninth-place and with the wind in their sails after their win over Bergisch Gladbach last weekend.
Personnel matters: BVB coach Mike Tullberg was once again able to call on reinforcements from the first-team squad. Leonardo Balerdi, who made his Bundesliga debut just yesterday, Mateu Morey and Tobias Raschl were all named in the 18-man squad, with the former two lining up in the starting XI and Raschl sat on the bench.
The match & analysis: Both sides seemed to need time to adjust to the challenging weather conditions, but at the very least, it was clear from the first kick of the ball that both the Black & Yellows and the Red & Whites were up for the fight. Today's match certainly wasn't one for the footballing purists. The first real goal-scoring opportunity of the match fell in the 21st minute, when Chris Führich made headway down the left wing and played a pass from the byline towards Taylan Duman, whose ensuing shot was too tame and placed too centrally to really trouble Golz in the Essen goal.
The first 45 minutes were plagued by several breaks of play, with numerous minor fouls preventing the match from really taking off. It was the side in Black & Yellow who had the only real chances of any note, with Essen's attacking play essentially restricted to the occasional set-piece delivered into the area. BVB came close to opening the scoring in the 40th minute: after some tidy play from Steffen Tigges, the ball came to the feet of Taylan Duman, who slipped as he fired a close-range effort which went wide of the target. After a single minute of injury time, the two sides went in at the break with the score tied at 0-0.
BVB coach Mike Tullberg chose to mix things up at half-time: on came Maximilian Hippe to replace Steve Tunga. Hippe slotted in at the heart of defence, with Balerdi moving forward into midfield. After the interval, the match remained much the same as in the first 45. The first chances of note came in the 57th and 58th minutes respectively, with BVB goalkeeper Oelschlägel forced into good saves to keep Essen at bay. The Black & Yellows chose to attack on the counter in this phase of the match and the tactic almost paid dividends in the 66th minute: Führich was played through on goal by Boyamba, but his effort ended up flying over the Essen crossbar. Not long afterwards, Boyamba embarked on a solo run and looked to be bearing down on goal before being denied by a Red & White defender. The resultant corner found the head of Balerdi, whose effort on goal was deflected over the bar by Essen goalkeeper Golz.
BVB were now in the ascendancy and pushed hard to find the opening goal. In the midst of this period of Dortmund dominance, it was nonetheless Essen who managed to first get the ball into the back of the net. However, referee Alexander Ernst annulled the goal due to a hand-ball in the build-up. The Essen technical area was up in arms. One of their assistant coaches was shown a red card due to excessive protestations. After this flashpoint, the match cooled down somewhat, with both teams seemingly wary of making a costly mistake.
Just as it seemed the match was going to end in a share of the spoils, the away side managed to grab the all-important goal: Alexander Hahn managed to force the ball over the line after a cross was delivered into the danger area. The Black & Yellows did all they could to pull one back in in what remained of the match but their efforts proved in vain. RW Essen picked up their first win in Dortmund since 2011. BVB were the better side for long periods of the game but were ultimately denied a point, which would have been the very least they deserved.
Here's what BVB coach Mike Tullberg had to say: ''I think both sides had to get to grips with the conditions out there in the first 20 minutes. I think we controlled the game and should have been a goal up at half-time. My team played really well today. I want to praise the lads for that, but at the end of the day we've come away with a defeat. We've been moving in the right direction over the past few weeks. That's the most important thing for me. Now we just have to focus on the match against Lotte next week.''
Next on the agenda: The U23s are next in action this coming Saturday, 14 December, when they travel to face Sportfreunden Lotte in their last match of the year (kick-off 14:00 CET).
BVB U23: Oelschlägel – Morey, Balerdi, Rente, Bünning (90. Ruprecht) – Tunga (46. Hippe), Hober, Duman (88. Rizzo) – Boyamba, Tigges, Führich (81. Finnsson)
Goals: 0-1 Hahn (88.)