Even the biggest of optimists would not have dared to dream of such an outstanding result in the first leg. Borussia Dortmund's U17s drew 1-1 at SV Werder Bremen – described by Lars Ricken as "the standard-bearers of German B-Junior football" – and will now reach their fourth German B-Junior Championship Final in a row if they win the return leg against the Green & Whites on Sunday (kick-off 11:00 CET at the Brackel Training Centre).
"Our plan worked perfectly," beamed coach Sebastian Geppert following an intense and high-quality match in front of 1,757 spectactors – among them Hans-Joachim Watzke – on one of the pitches beside the Weser Stadium.
BVB delivered an outstanding performance – especially in the second period – and would have claimed victory had they been more consistent in front of goal. Geppert lauded his team's "hard running and power" before singling out their opponents for praise. "This Bremen team have brutal quality," he said.
The men from Bremen, who won 25 of their 26 competitive matches in the Bundesliga this term, really showed their class in the first half. But thanks to shot-stopper Luca Unbehaun and their intelligence and resilience at the back, the Black and Yellows never really found themselves in unsolvable situations. Bremen's opener came from a David Philipp free-kick. "We could have defended that better" conceded Geppert, who was nonetheless delighted with the reaction shown by his charges. "We continued to believe in ourselves rather than losing our heads."
Unbehaun made a spectacular save from a Hackethals header to stop Werder from doubling their advantage, and in the aftermath the visitors grew into the game and could have even restored parity before the interval. Yassin Ibrahim was denied by the lightning reactions of Werder custodian Plogmann in the 37th minute and defender Dettir blocked a powerful Alaa Bakir effort three minutes later.
Bakir coolly converts from the spot
However, BVB were clearly the superior side after the restart, delivering a focused and disciplined display, consistently making an impact and causing problems for the hosts. They were rewarded for their efforts in the 52nd minute when Plogmann brought down Ibrahim and Alaa Bakir slotted home the ensuing penalty to make it 1-1. Werder lost their way and Borussia continued to push for the winner. Plogmann made a 64th-minute save to thwart Bakir and Osterhage bravely blocked the follow-up. Florian Rausch then squandered another chance from four metres out.
Werder resorted to counter-attacks during this spell and, although they still created one or two opportunities, the favourites from Bremen might consider themselves fortunate to have drawn 1-1, especially as Paul Besong came very close to making it 2-1 for BVB shortly before the final whistle.
"We're now at the halfway point. We need to give it everything we've got on Sunday if we want our dream to become reality," summarised Sebastian Geppert. Home advantage should help out in that respect.
In the first leg of the other semi-final, FC Bayern surprised Western champions Schalke 04 with a 3-0 victory. The winners of that match will have home advantage in the final on Sunday 18 June (13:00 CET).
BVB: Unbehaun – von Ciesewski, Ferjani, Knoop, Mißner - Fath, Aydinel – Ibrahim (Pintidis, 75), Raschl (El Gourari, 61), Rausch (Reimer, 70) – Bakir (Besong, 65)