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U23s secure 3. Liga survival with 3-3 draw at Erzgebirge Aue

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Borussia Dortmund's U23s will be playing 3. Liga football next season too. The Black & Yellows and Erzgebirge Aue rounded off the Matchday 36 action with a wild clash. Both teams played with enthusiasm in a game that ended 3-3 (1-1), which means that Dortmund now have 42 points and mathematically cannot finish in the relegation zone.

The scenario: The U23s spurned their first match point last week. By drawing 1-1 away to Viktoria Cologne in the last round, the Black & Yellows missed out on sealing their survival prematurely but were very close. Coach Jan Zimmermann's team went into Matchday 36 with a six-point lead over 17th-placed VfB Oldenburg, who won 3-1 in Mannheim. That meant Dortmund had another opportunity to seal their place in the division at Erzgebirge Aue. A point would be enough to achieve it. A win in the 3. Liga's final Monday match for the game being would even see the U23s leapfrog their table neighbours, who had only two points more on the board. The Black & Yellows lost the reverse fixture against the Violets 1-0.

Personnel matters: Borussia coach Jan Zimmermann did not see much reason to change the starting XI that drew 1-1 in Cologne: Bjarne Pudel was the only new face and replaced Soumaïla Coulibaly in central defence. It was the 22-year-old's first appearance since the home win over SV Meppen on Matchday 32. 

The match & analysis: The U23s started courageously in the opening minutes and took a tough-tackling approach too. But it was the hosts who registered the first good opportunity. Aue's first moment of danger in front of the Dortmund goal came in the fifth minute, but Dimitrij Nazarov fired wide from close range following a cross from the right flank.

Dortmund looked livelier in attack in the period that followed – but without really pushing for the first goal. They were too often stopped in their tracks by the defence in front of the penalty area. That meant that Ole Pohlmann's corner-kicks were initially the only dangerous situations in front of the Aue goal.

Ultimately, it was a counter-attack that caught Zimmermann's team out. Marvin Stefaniak over on the left flank picked out the run of Paul-Philipp Besong, who slotted home the opener for the hosts. The former Borussia player, who became an U19 champion with BVB in 2019, had initiated the attack himself with an artistic Rabona pass (26).

BVB would not be discouraged by the deficit – and were rewarded for their efforts with an equaliser. This goal was also well worked: Michel Eberwein gathered the ball after a Ted Tattermusch flick and placed it into the bottom right corner (33).

The Dortmund lads got off to a dream start after the interval, with Aue's Sam Schreck turning a Tom Rothe cross into the back of his own net (47). The home team appeared to be overrun at this point, as wave after wave of attack rained down on their goal. A volley from Falko Michels flew into the arms of Aue shot-stopper Martin Männel (49), before top goalscorer Justin Njinmah proved to be too selfish (52). The attacking player opted to shoot himself rather than pass the ball to the unmarked Michel. It was the wrong choice and the attempt was blocked.

Aue needed several minutes to recover from Dortmund's spell of pressure. But then the hosts turned it on, with Borys Tashchy restoring parity at 2-2 following a corner-kick (62).

The Black & Yellows showed spirit once again in this turbulent third-tier match, Njinmah re-establishing the lead after Michel had done well to win the ball back. The forward chipped the ball into the net for 3-2. His 12th goal of the season. That drew him level with Marvin Ducksch, who netted 12 goals in the 2013/14 season. Only Tamme Harder has scored more goals for the U23s in a third-tier season (13).

But there was one final twist: Besong scored his second goal at the other end and made sure BVB endure another jittery finish (85). Aue continued to apply pressure and created further chances. But BVB shot-stopper Marcel Lotka made two strong saves as Borussia held to prematurely seal their survival.

Coach Jan Zimmermann: "This was a really amazing game. We certainly didn't do everything right; however, we played some really good football at times. And we did that against a motivated opponent that was waiting for us to make mistakes today. We fact that we got that final mathematically significant point makes the return journey very, very enjoyable for us. It will be my task to teach the lads how we can decide such games in our favour at the right moment in the future. I believe that after going 2-1 up we could have wrapped it up by scoring a third goal. But the way we came back after going to 2-2 was really good. The young players can take a real lot away from today."

Outlook: The U23s will play host to SpVgg Bayreuth at Stadion Rote Erde on Saturday 20 May (14:00 CET). It is now clear that the Upper Franconians' 3. Liga adventure is already over after only one year.

U23s: Lotka – Özkan, Papadopoulos, Pudel, Rothe (Bueno, 89) – Pohlmann (Suver, 86), Pfanne – Njinmah, Eberwein, Michel (Elongo-Yombo, 89) – Tattermusch (Otuali, 69)

Goals: 1-0 Besong (26), 1-1 Eberwein (39), 1-2 Schreck (own goal, 47), 2-2 Tashchy (62), 2-3 Njinmah (74), 3-3 Besong (85)

Phillip Oldenburg