Scenes of jubilation greeted the full-time whistle at the Großaspach stadium as the Borussia Dortmund U19s completed a memorable comeback to beat VfB Stuttgart 5-3 and in doing so secure the eighth German U19 title in the history of the club. The picture was very different at half-time as the Swabian side, fresh off the back of their success in the DFB Cup final, led 3-1 and looked comfortably on their way to being crowned double winners.
''It looked like we were down and out at half-time, but then we showed that extra spark that makes this team special,'' said a visibly delighted Benjamin Hoffmann in his post-match interview. In his last game in charge of the U19s, the departing coach got all the key decisions right: Immanuel Pherai, relegated to the bench in recent weeks, was brought back into the starting line-up. He played in the offensive midfield position, where he was able to exert a decisive influence over the match. It was Pherai who provided the assist for the early equaliser, provoked the 53rd minute sending off of Stuttgart’s Luca Mack and scored the goal which brought the score to 3-2. Hoffmann’s half-time adjustments would also play a vital role, with the introduction of Paul Besong changing the complexion of the match. The powerful striker headed home the goal which made it 3-3 and then went on to rifle the ball in from 20 metres out to give the Black & Yellows a 4-3 lead. Enrique Pena Zauner then put the icing on the cake with a goal in injury time.
In the dressing room before the match, Hoffmann told his young side to: ''go out and enjoy the final.'' Any enjoyment didn’t last long. Within the first 60 seconds, Stuttgart’s first foray forward ended in a corner. Per Lockl stepped up to deliver a dangerous ball into the six-yard box which deflected off BVB’s Ramzi Ferjani and ended up in the back of the net. The early 1-0 lead meant VfB had the wind in their sails. On numerous occasions they were able to cause problems for BVB with their rapid transition play: any time the Black & Yellows gave the ball away in midfield, Stuttgart would capitalise and launch a counter-attack at lightning speed.
Two own goals early on
BVB, for their part, were also able to showcase their attacking prowess. In the ninth minute, the quest for an eighth German championship was back on track. Immanuel Pherai, brought back into the starting line-up to replace Yassin Ibrahim, went on a mazy run before sending a dangerous cross into the area. The Stuttgart defense were at sixes and sevens, and the ball ended up in the back of the net via deflections off both Luca Mack and Alexander Kopf. Nonetheless, Stuttgart’s midfield were still forcing BVB into various errors. This would prove decisive in the 15th minute, when Bätzner gave the ball away to Leon Dajaku. The Stuttgart frontman glided past Emre Terzi and left BVB goalkeeper Luc Hawryluk with no chance to make it 2-1 in favour of the Swabians.
The Black & Yellows responded well to going behind and were able to make life difficult for the Stuttgart rearguard, creating several good chances in quick succession. However, that extra bit of luck just seemed to be missing. Pherai’s shot at goal was cleared off the line by a VfB defender in the 23rd minute, while immediately afterwards, goalkeeper Sebastian Hornung did wonderfully well to keep out Niclas Knoop’s headed effort from Enrique Pena Zauner’s free-kick delivery. Hornung was on hand once more in the 44th minute to deny a shot from 16 metres out by Pena Zauner. Despite this promising attacking play from BVB, it was VfB who would be the next to score: a long ball in the 26th minute led to the goal which made it 3-1.
Pherai and Besong turn it around
The 8,000 spectators present in the stadium watched an entirely different match after the interval. ''Stuttgart 100 percent deserved to be in the lead at half-time, I told the boys: 'We have absolutely nothing to lose here,' ’’ said Benjamin Hoffman in his post-match interview. His words seemed to have the desired effect, as the Black & Yellows managed to turn the game entirely on its head – admittedly helped by the sending off of Stuttgart’s Luca Mack in the 53rd minute. Mack saw a straight red due to a dangerous challenge on Pherai.
In the 57th minute, it was Pherai who would pull BVB back to within a goal, applying the finishing touches after a fine individual action. Paul Besong, who had come on to replace Emre Aydinel at half-time, then grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck, scoring two goals in quick succession to give BVB a 4-3 lead. The first came from a header after a Pena Zauner corner in the 77th minute, while the second, just three minutes later, came from a powerful shot from 20 metres out which left the impressive Hornung with no chance.
Stuttgart did all they could to find an equaliser and send the match into extra-time. The closest they came was through a Bätzner free-kick in the 83rd minute. With the clock ticking past the 90 minute mark, Enrique Pena Zauner wrapped it up for BVB. Not long after being denied by the upright, the BVB playmaker found the back of the net after being teed up by Pherai to make it 5-3. Scenes of jubilation ensued. ''Now it’s party time,'' said Hoffmann as his U19s prepared to make the trip back to Dortmund with the trophy in tow. It's the very least this talented young side deserve.
BVB: Hawryluk- Terzi (62. Khadra), Ferjani, Knoop (46. Schell); Mißner, – Osterhage, Raschl – Pena Zanuer, Pherai, Kehr – Aydinel (46. Besong)