It had to happen one day, but better this way than in one of the upcoming big finals: Borussia's U19s lost for the first time this season in domestic competition as they were beaten 1-0 (0-0) away at FC Schalke 04 in the second leg of the semi-final of the German Championship play-offs at the Gelsenkirchen Parkstadion, but it was of little consequence in the end thanks to their clear 5-1 victory in the first leg. Mike Tullberg and his young charges achieved their first big goal of the season, making it into the final of the U19 German Championship play-offs, having already qualified for the final of the youth DFB-Pokal. In addition, they could also triumph in the Westfalenpokal.
"It's amazing that we will be in the finals of three competitions at the end of the season," said Tullberg, who had an idea that the impressive run of victories could come to an end in Gelsenkirchen. "After the 5-1 win, this has been my toughest week since I started coaching the U19s. I had to raise my voice a few times, because one or two players thought they were already one step further and their heads were already in the finals," said the Dane.
It was certainly understandable that they wanted to get through the game in Schalke without any injuries and without pushing themselves beyond their limits. After all, the prizes for a long, hard season will be awarded over the next 14 days. It will be vital to be physically and mentally at full capacity on Friday 20 May for the U19 DFB-Pokal final in Potsdam against VfB Stuttgart (kick-off is at 18:00 CET) and on Sunday 29 May in the final of the German Championship play-offs against Hertha Berlin. Kick-off in that one is at 13:00 CET. And then on top of all that, they have the as-yet unscheduled Westfalenpokal final against Schalke 04 to contest.
In the Parkstadion, they seemed to have everything under control. "They are very alert and playing well," said Lars Ricken, head of the youth performance centre, during the half-time break. While BVB kept Schalke at bay, they also did relatively little to create chances of their own. Their only chance resulted from a corner taken by Göktan Gürpuz, but Colin Kleine-Bekel was denied by Schalke goalkeeper Justin Treichel on 12 minutes. "We lacked precision in the final third," said Ricken, analysing the game.
Borussia had expected Schalke to go all out attack to overturn the heavy deficit from the first leg, but the hosts took very few risks. Instead, they battled hard in duels and waited for BVB to make mistakes. Their biggest opportunity came after a questionable decision to award them a free kick. Sane stepped up and struck the crossbar from 18 yards out with half an hour on the referee's watch. "We were completely controlling the game at that stage," said Mike Tullberg.
A more lively second half
Things heated up a little in the second half. BVB replaced Julian Rijkhoff, who had a quiet game, with Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, fresh off playing 45 minutes for the first team, and Borussia gained the upper hand a little more, without completely dominating the game. Nnamdi Collins sent a header from Tom Rothe's free kick just over the crossbar on the hour mark, Bradley Fink was denied by Treichel on 66 minutes, but overall the Black and Yellows were clearly playing with the handbrake on.
Schalke became a little more adventurous, but no more dangerous. In the end, Guzy's goal to give the hosts a 1-0 lead on 70 minutes was more down to Borussia's inattentiveness than Schalke's own class, as the goalscorer benefited from a misunderstanding between Nnamdi Collins and Silas Ostrzisnki. In any case, the Royal Blues were rewarded for an solid, battling display. "This was an achievement that goes a long way to healing the wounds of the second half of the first leg," said coach Norbert Elgert, who congratulated BVB "for deservedly making it into the final".
"The first half was okay, in the second we were going through the motions a bit," said Mike Tullberg in summary. The head coach is now looking forward to a "week in Berlin" with his young charges. Friday's cup game sees a repeat of the last championship play-off final against VfB Stuttgart at the Karl-Liebknecht-Stadion in Potsdam. "Now we have the chance to round off an extraordinary season in style by winning titles. We want to bring the U19 DFB-Pokal back to Dortmund for the first time," explained Mike Tullberg. As he said that, the 1-0 loss to Schalke already seemed like a distant memory.
BVB: Ostrzinski – Collins, Kleine-Bekel, Husseck – Semic (Ludwig, 75), Walz (Blank. 90), Cisse, Rothe – Gürpüz (Mengot. 85) – Rijkhoff (Bynoe-Gittens, 56), Fink