Dembele, Pulisic deliver Dortmund from title drought in DFB Pokal final
BERLIN, Germany -- After a five-year hiatus, Borussia Dortmund won their first major trophy since 2012 as they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 in the DFB Pokal final Saturday night. It was also their first victory in the German cup finals after three consecutive defeats.
In the end, it didn't matter how Dortmund won the cup, only that they won it. For many players yet to win silverware with the Ruhr side, it was about getting over the hump after previous disappointments. The title celebrations Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the city of Dortmund will help boost the team's self-confidence, and knowing they have what it takes to see out a tricky final can be a big help in games to come.
Obviously, the cup win was the cherry on top for a group which not only had to stomach a summer overhaul that saw the squad lose three central pillars but which also had to overcome April's bomb attack on the team bus ahead of their Champions League first-leg tie with Monaco. It's an achievement the whole team can be proud of.
Even on a jubilant night such as Saturday's, the disconnect between players and coaches was still visible. While CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc again refrained from giving interviews to avoid any nitpicking questions concerning coach Thomas Tuchel, team captain Marcel Schmelzer was not exactly happy with the omission of longtime teammate Nuri Sahin from the matchday squad.
"I was surprised, shocked even [that Sahin was not in the squad]," Schmelzer said, adding: "I just cannot comprehend it. When a player like Julian Weigl is injured, then [Sahin] is the only adequate replacement. ... We [the team] are completely standing behind Nuri."
Strong words from the captain, another hint at the rift between Tuchel and his team. The 43-year-old, however, reiterated after the match that he would like to remain at the helm until the end of his contract, which expires in 2018.
"I want to stay, I want to keep working with the team, I want to honour my contract," Tuchel said. "We will talk like we did last season and see how that goes. I believe it will be open-ended."
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Omitting Sahin from the squad sure raised some eyebrows. Yet the midfielder's performance last week against Bremen, when the 28-year-old was outpaced time and again, did not warrant a start. Tuchel did have a tough nut to crack with Frankfurt and was forced to make two substitutions due to injury at halftime, as Marco Reus and Schmelzer could not carry on. The changes helped his team to wrestle back control of the match after giving it up during the first half.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Did not have a chance to keep out Ante Rebic's goal in the 29th minute. The Swiss keeper made some uncommon mistakes in his distribution throughout the game. In the late going he managed to nullify Frankfurt's set pieces with some courageous punches and also found a way to eat some time away.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 7 -- Picked up an assist early and otherwise displayed his vast experience throughout, making hardly any wrong decisions.
DF Matthias Ginter, 7 -- Started in defensive midfield instead of Sahin and was so static in his own team's possession he was hardly a passing option. Deployed as a centre-back in the second half, Ginter was much improved.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 5 -- Not a good time for Sokratis to have one of his worst matches of the season. He clumsily lost the ball in midfield, which led to Frankfurt's equaliser.
DF Marc Bartra, 7 -- The Spaniard played a formidable match until his substitution due to injury in the 76th. His distribution from the back was not sharp enough to cause serious trouble.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 6 -- Only recovered from a muscle injury in time for the cup final. "I knew before the match that something would break if I were to play. But that didn't matter," Schmelzer said afterward. It was clear in the first 45 minutes that the 29-year-old was not entirely fit.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 5 -- His pass into the path of Christian Pulisic led to BVB's winning penalty. Guerreiro, however, did not have a good game by any measure. The Portugal international was identified as BVB's weak spot by Niko Kovac's side. Too often Guerrerio shied away from tackles or let his opponents run away from him.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 6 -- Became more influential in the second half when teaming with Gonzalo Castro more centrally. His nifty footwork and defensive efforts once again showed his importance to the team.
MF Ousmane Dembele, 8 -- The 20-year-old won the official Man of the Match award. His opening goal after seven minutes was as extraordinary as Dembele's talent itself. Although he wasn't the mastermind behind every BVB attack, his defensive contribution made it a well-rounded performance.
FW Marco Reus, 5 -- He planted a long kiss on the golden cup after the match, his curse of always being the bridesmaid having been lifted. His injury luck, however, persisted, and he went off after the first half due to knee problems.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- A "Panenka" penalty in the 67th minute to win the match perfectly sums up the phenomenon that is Aubameyang. Almost grabbed a brace with a spectacular bicycle kick.
MF Christian Pulisic, 7 -- The 18-year-old was brought on for Reus in the second half to massive impact, as he managed to break through Frankfurt's defensive lines with his fast-paced dribbles. He drew the winning penalty as Lukas Hradecky brought him down in the box. A title at the end of the season seems appropriate for his stellar ascent this season.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 7 -- His presence in the defensive midfield in the second half brought some much-needed structure back into the squad.
DF Erik Durm, NR -- Replaced Bartra in the last quarter-hour. Had to help his team quite a bit to drag the lead over the finish line.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.