3-0 – Berlin, Berlin, we're heading back to Berlin!
Yes! For the sixth time – and the third year in a row – Borussia Dortmund have reached the DFB Cup final in Berlin's Olympiastadion, with Tuchel's side recording a very comfortable 3-0 (1-0) victory against Hertha BSC in the last four.
76,233 fans saw Gonzalo Castro fire the Black and Yellows ahead with a stunning shot into the top-right corner after 21 minutes. Then, in the second half, BVB capitalised on a slip from Hertha's Brooks and countered, clinching victory through Reus (75') before Henrikh Mkhitaryan added a late third (83').
Felix Ulrich reports
On one side was a euphoric Berlin team that had last reached the DFB Cup semi-final around 35 years ago and were aiming to fulfil their dream of reaching the final in their own stadium, cheered on by 60,000 of their own fans; on the other side, a BVB team that were looking to put their UEFA Europa League exit behind them by overcoming the last obstacle en route to the DFB Cup final. In the league this season Borussia beat Hertha 3-1 at home and drew 0-0 away. Referring to BVB's matches since the international break, Thomas Tuchel said: "We'll need to really up our performance if we are to prevail against Hertha."
BVB coach Thomas Tuchel had given some of his key players a rest in their 3-0 victory over Hamburg, so it was hardly a surprise to see five changes made to the XI that started tonight's Cup match in Berlin. Schmelzer, Piszczek, Weigl, Reus and Mkhitaryan returned to the starting XI in place of Passlack, Ginter (not in the squad), Sahin, Gündogan and Pulisic (all three were on the bench). Aubameyang was sidelined through injury (chipped bone).
BVB lined up in a 4-2-3-1 when Hertha had possession. When the visitors attacked, left-back Schmelzer moved forward out of defence and supported Reus, Kagawa and Mkhitaryan, thus transforming Borussia's formation into a 3-2-4-1. Hertha BSC also opted for a 4-2-3-1 system, but with a considerably larger emphasis on defence. When the Black and Yellows had the ball, it was more of a 4-4-1-1 with Haraguchi and Kalou dropping back. When Schmelzer broke through down the left flank, Hertha even played with a back five at times.
The match & analysis:
73 percent possession, 91 percent pass completion, a 10:1 shot and a 3:1 corner ratio – Borussia Dortmund could hardly have been more dominant in the opening 45 minutes in Berlin. From the off they seized the initiative in the style of a home team, playing the ball around patiently and waiting for the gaps to appear in a very close-knit Hertha defence.
Castro fires spectacularly into top-right corner
Following a relatively calm start to the match, the Black and Yellows struck in the 21st minute when Mkhitaryan found Kagawa on the right flank. The Japan international squared to Reus, whose shot on goal was blocked. But the ball landed directly at the feet of Castro, who put BVB 1-0 ahead with a shot into the top-right corner. For the 28-year-old, who had had to receive treatment for a head wound 09 minutes earlier, it was a third goal in four Cup games for BVB.
The 60,000 odd Hertha fans, who had produced a wonderful choreography prior to kick-off, looked no less shocked than the home team. Thereafter the "Old Lady" remained focused at the back but offered far too little in attack. BVB were making all the play, but remained patient, did not take unnecessary risks and were almost rewarded with a second goal shortly before the interval. After Reus had missed a gilt-edged opportunity (25'), Schmelzer had a shot blocked by Stark (41') and Hummels somewhat fortuitously beat three opponents, only for Hertha's Brooks to clear it for a corner (also 41'). Shortly afterwards, Reus' attempt from 23 metres was saved by 'keeper Jarstein (43').
Then came the first chance for Hertha. Weiser passed the ball into the centre to Hegeler, whose shot landed straight in the arms of Roman Bürki (45'+1).
Hertha quicker to disrupt BVB build-up
Virtually nothing changed after the interval. The hosts were slightly quicker to disrupt BVB's build-up play, but Tuchel's charges were never really troubled by it. Although the Black and Yellows continued to enjoy the lion's share of the ball, they had considerably fewer shots on goal. There were only three shots in the first 20 minutes of the second period. None of them were particularly clear-cut.
But then a Hertha attack brought BVB to their senses. When Kalou fired narrowly wide following a flicked-on header – he was offside anyway – BVB went up a gear. However, Ramos (68') and Mkhitaryan (69') failed to beat Jarstein.
The deciding goal came a good 15 minutes from time. After a Weiser cross, Kalou missed by a matter of centimetres from a diving head (74'). BVB then countered immediately, with Reus scoring the all-important second (75'). Hertha's Brooks had slipped over, allowing Kagawa to counter and find Reus, who finished off the move.
Gündogan strikes the upright
Thomas Tuchel made his first change after the goal, replacing Castro with Gündogan – who made an immediate impact by striking the upright from around 23 metres (78'). However, it was not he who scored the third and final goal; an unmarked Mkhitaryan made it 3-0 after Reus' build-up play (83'). BVB were heading back to Berlin.
And so it goes on, with BVB travelling to Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Saturday (15:30 CET). The Black and Yellows' next home match comes on 30 April, when they welcome VfL Wolfsburg to SIGNAL IDUNA PARK. The DFB Cup final will take place on 21 May, with BVB set to face FC Bayern.