The Borussia Dortmund U23s continued their winning run in the Regionalliga West against Fortuna Cologne. Steffen Tigges scored in the 50th minute to hand BVB the victory over the Rhinelanders and maintain their nine-point cushion over second place.
The scenario: This was a meeting between first and fourth. Prior to kick-off, BVB topped the table with a nine-point lead over RW Essen. They were already 19 points above opponents Fortuna Cologne.
Personnel matters: BVB coach Enrico Maaßen made two changes to the team that had won away to Düsseldorf, with Alaa Bakir and Dominik Wanner replacing Aday Ercan and Ansgar Knauff respectively.
The match & analysis: BVB dictated the opening minutes of the match, dominating possession, varying the tempo and pushing the visitors back into their own half. Fortuna struggled with their build-up play as they were hardly afforded any time. The Black & Yellows pressed early, in turn forcing Fortuna to play long balls downfield for the most part. The first good opportunity fell to Steffen Tigges on the 13-minute mark, though his header from a Dominik Wanner cross flew just inches wide of the back post. The next good chance came approximately 10 minutes later. Alaa Bakir won the ball back but then both Richmond Tachie and Tigges were denied as the Fortuna goalkeeper pulled off a double save. The Black & Yellows pushed for the goal that would put them ahead, upping the ante once more midway through the first half, and their next good opportunity fell to the captain on the half-hour mark.
It was not until the dying embers of the first half that Fortuna had their first sight of goal. But three corners in a row brought no reward and were all comfortably defended by the Dortmund rearguard. With the score still goalless, the half-time whistle sounded shortly afterwards. BVB opted against making any personnel changes ahead of the second 45 minutes. It was the visitors who made the brighter start after the interval, with Luca Unbehaun forced to make his first critical intervention following a 47th-minute counter. But the Black & Yellows dominated again thereafter and were rewarded with the opener in the 50th minute. Alaa Bakir won the ball back deep in the opposition half, beat three opponents and set up Steffen Tigges, who himself went past two players before firing home with his left foot. It was a deserved opening goal, especially given that BVB were investing significantly more than Fortuna.
BVB shuffled their pack for the first time around the hour mark, with Aday Ercan and Kolbeinn Finnsson replacing Steffen Tigges and Dominik Wanner. Cologne now became more attacking in a bid to level the scores. But rather than withdrawing into their own half, the Black & Yellows went forward in search of their second goal of the game. A good opportunity fell to Aday Ercan in the 72nd minute of the match, though his shot went well over the crossbar. Enrico Maaßen made another substitution thereafter, with Tobi Raschl making way for Florian Krebs in defensive midfield. The game became slightly more erratic, with neither team playing as calmly, and it became more of a battle as both sides fought for every inch on the pitch. Coach Maaßen switched things up one last time with four minutes remaining, introducing Cebrail Makreckis in place of the excellent Alaa Bakir. Fortuna threatened the Dortmund goal in the closing stages and had one last clear-cut opportunity with a header from captain Jannik Löhden, but the home side managed to keep a clean sheet and get the reward in the form of three points.
The match reactions:
Alaa Bakir: "It was a difficult match; that was clear from the beginning. We knew that we would have to keep going until the end. We did that outstandingly and in doing so secured a deserved three points. We're now looking ahead to the next match. We have another difficult opponent coming up on Wednesday."
Steffen Tigges: "I might've scored the decisive goal, but the team clearly deserves to be in the foreground today. The boys all gave it their all again. You could see our togetherness and our team spirit. That's why I'm happy that we put in such a good team performance. It doesn't really matter who scores the goals. The team is the match-winner today."
Outlook: The U23s will travel to the Preußenstadion to take on Münster on Wednesday (18:30 CET).
Team & goals
BVB U23s: Unbehaun - Bah-Traore, Maloney, Bakir (Makreckis, 86), Tachie, Weigelt, Tigges (Ercan, 63), Pfanne, Dams, Raschl (Krebs, 72), Wanner (Finnsson, 63)
Goals: 1-0 Tigges (50)