Borussia Dortmund's U23s scored a late equaliser in their 2-1 home loss to Waldhof Mannheim but ultimately came away empty-handed. It is the fourth defeat in a row for the Black & Yellows.

The scenario: BVB picked up 17 points from their first eight league matches of 2024. But the Black & Yellow youngsters have recently run out of steam somewhat. The Borussia reserves came away as the losing side in their most recent three league games prior to the meeting with Mannheim. The visitors from Mannheim were still in the thick of a relegation battle. Having taken seven points from their previous three matches, the Blue & Blacks were only one point away from safety.

Personnel matters: Following some major personnel shortages in recent weeks, BVB coach Jan Zimmermann had almost a full squad at his disposal. In attack in particular, the 44-year-old had significantly more alternatives thanks to the return of Paul Besong and Samuel Bamba. However, Michael Eberwein, Julian Hettwer, Ole Pohlmann and Rodney Elongo-Yombo were initially tasked with providing the attacking impetus. In total, Zimmermann made three changes compared to the 4-0 defeat in Essen: Mario Suver, Guille Bueno and Ayman Azhil started in place of Antonios Papadopoulos, Prince Aning and Paris Brunner. Silas Ostrzinski once again stood in for Marcel Lotka, who was with the first team, in goal.

The match & analysis: With 3,005 spectators watching at Stadion Rote Erde, both teams got off to a cautious start and initially felt each other out. There were no changes of tempo or surprising actions, with both teams repeatedly coming unstuck with their build-up play. As a result, there was initially little in the way of penalty box forays. It took until the 28th minute before things got dangerous for the first time – in front of the Dortmund goal. Terrence Boyd went for goal first-time following a cross from the left flank but the ball landed in the arms of BVB keeper Silas Ostrzinski. The second opportunity for the visitors also fell to the striker, who played for the Black & Yellow reserves in the 2011/12 season. This time, he curled the ball wide to the right of the goal (30).

BVB continued to struggle with their efforts on the ball against the weakest away team in the league. It was not until the 35th minute that the Black & Yellows first signalled their attacking intent with a harmless long-range shot from Franz Roggow. The focused back lines of both teams did not give away much more than that in the first half.

"It's a completely open game with very, very few chances to score. We're making an effort to play out from the back, but simply aren't compelling enough. I would like to see a little more creativity," said Ingo Preuß, the sporting director of the U23s, at half-time.

However, there was still a lot of disjointed play from both sides after the break. BVB became a little livelier, but the match continued to be characterised by many intense challenges. Eventually, Elongo-Yombo won the ball back in midfield and initiated Dortmund's best opportunity so far with the game a little over an hour old. The attacker threaded the ball through to Hettwer, who fed it on to Pohlmann. At the last moment, Mannheim's goalkeeper Hanin was able to steal the ball off the midfielder's foot. The chance marked the start of a very turbulent phase: Hettwer first failed to take advantage of a chance on the counter (71), then referee Fabienne Michel decided to award a penalty to Dortmund following a foul on Roggow but corrected her decision shortly afterwards, as her assistant had raised the flag (72). Elongo-Yombo was deemed to have been offside in the build-up. Midway through a mild spell of pressure from the hosts, Julian Rieckmann headed Mannheim into a 1-0 lead following a corner-kick (74).

Zimmermann reacted to going behind by making a double substitution and brought on two pairs of fresh legs in attack in Samuel Bamba and Paul Besong. Dortmund threw everything forward once again in the final phase – with success. In the final minute, goalscorer Rieckmann challenged substitute Falko Michel in the penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot once again, but this time her decision was upheld. Ole Pohlmann converted the penalty to level the scores at 1-1.

However, Rieckmann then had the final say in a memorable final phase, making up for his own mistake that gave away the penalty. Deep into stoppage time, the midfielder landed the lucky punch from another set-piece to make it 2-1 to Mannheim.

Coach Jan Zimmermann: "I'm sorry for the boys about the result, because we played better today than we did in previous games. The lads would have deserved the point. We lost the game through two corners. It's not the first time that's happened to us. But set-pieces are part and parcel of the game. We need to come up with a solution. Nonetheless, we have to take the positives from the game and not lose our nerve now because of the poor results."

Ole Pohlmann: "The result is ultimately very, very bitter for us. We're conceding far too many set-piece goals. Nonetheless, I think we produced a good performance. We can build on that."

Outlook: The U23s will continue their campaign with an away game in Sandhausen on Saturday 6 April. Kick-off is at 14:00 CET. BVB lost the reverse fixture 2-1 despite taking an early lead.

Goals: 0-1 Rieckmann (75), 1-1 Pohlmann (pen., 90+1), 1-2 Rieckmann (90+5)

U23s: Ostrzinski – Aidonis (Göbel, 63), Pfanne, Suver, Bueno – Roggow, Azhil, Eberwein (Michel, 63) – Hettwer (Bamba, 79), Pohlmann, Elongo-Yombo (Besong, 79)
Phillip Oldenburg