Axel Witsel a super-sub for Borussia Dortmund in nervy DFB Pokal win
Late drama was required twice for Borussia Dortmund to reach the second of the DFB Pokal against Greuther Furth on Monday night. In the end, it was Marco Reus clean strike late in extra time that saved his team the possible blushes of a penalty shootout and a 2-1 win.
The Black and Yellows were in firm control of the game but failed to convert their own chances. In the 77th minute, Sebastian Ernst's goal shocked the favourites by handing the hosts a surprising 1-0 lead.
It looked as though Furth would see their slim lead through until BVB summer signing Axel Witsel's volley from close range averted the upset in the 95th minute, forcing extra time.
Then it took another 30 minutes before Jadon Sancho's dazzling solo run past three defenders connected with Reus for late salvation.
Furth had already played a prominent role in BVB's cup-winning run in 2012, when then-Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan secured the advancement to the cup final by a stoppage-time winner in extra time. On Monday, history somewhat repeated itself -- only that the Ruhr side have a long way to go to reach the final.
Overall, Dortmund looked defensively solid and created a very healthy amount of chances during the first 90 minutes. However,...
Neither of Marcel Schmelzer, Marco Reus, Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud, Christian Pulisic or Jadon Sancho could force the ball into the onion bag within 90 minutes, only provoking louder cries for an out-and-out striker by BVB's faithful.
Lucien Favre's team should have walked away with a comfortable win but efficiency was not on their side while Furth converted their first and only chance of the game, making it a tough grind.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Starting the season with a 120-minute slugfest is far less than ideal but it had more to do with football being a funny old game than with the newly appointed head coach.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 7 -- Not much the Swiss goalkeeper could do about Furth's goal in the second half. Burki grabbed the pre-assist for Witsel's equaliser, picking up the ball deep in the opponent's half after a botched set piece. Kept his team alive with a big one-on-one save in the second half of extra time.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 3 -- Too many lazy giveaways from the Polish right-back, whose early form was far away from convincing.
DF Manuel Akanji, 6 -- The Switzerland international was calm and collected on and off the ball and utilised his speed to close down opponents with a head start.
DF Abdou Diallo, 5 -- Made a few promising forward runs but then overhit the layoffs.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 4 -- The veteran could have made things much easier for his side, popping up alone in front of Furth goalie Sascha Burchert. Though Schmelzer won't magically turn into a goal scorer in his 11th season at Dortmund and thus was only running on fumes toward the end of 120 minutes.
MF Thomas Delaney, 5 -- A solid first match, but will need more time in midfield before things really click. The Denmark international acted well as a shield in front of his back line.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 4 -- Was caught napping in the 77th minute, spotting the danger too late as Ernst poked home the winner. Overall, Dahoud made his qualities evident while lacking end-product at the same time.
MF Christian Pulisic, 6 -- Early glimpses of what might be Pulisic's year. The 19-year-old was a menace whenever he could take on opponents with the ball at his feet.
MF Mario Gotze, 5 -- Looked reinvigorated during the preseason after not making Germany's World Cup squad. On Monday night, he was expected to be more dominant in midfield, however, he was the first to be subbed off shortly after the hour mark.
MF Marius Wolf, 6 -- After the preseason, the inclusion of Wolf in the starting lineup over Maximilian Philipp and Jadon Sancho was the only legitimate surprise. The 23-year-old proved his manager right by being one of the brightest in attack.
FW Marco Reus, 6 -- Usually known for reliably scoring Dortmund's first goal, the newly appointed captain just couldn't push the ball over the line despite having the best chances of his team. His luck, however, changed in the dying seconds of the game.
MF Maximilian Philipp, 4 -- Introduced after 63 minutes, Philipp was supposed to energise the attack but there was not much of him to see to justify his substitution.
MF Axel Witsel, 7 -- Talk about an impact player, the 29-year-old saved his team's bacon, being in the right place at the right time to volley home a crucial equaliser. The summer signing immediately took charge in midfield, showing early on in the season that he is capable of assuming a commanding role.
MF Jadon Sancho, 7 -- Came on for Pulisic toward the end of regular time. He deserves the lion share of the credit for Dortmund's winner in the 121st minute. His mesmerising dribble to the touchline with the ensuing cut-back produced the late chance to find the open Reus.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 4 -- Replaced Wolf in left midfield as Favre made use of his fourth option.