Borussia Dortmund have won the DFB-Pokal thanks to a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Saturday. Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang provided the goals in a tighter game than many expected.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel served up a surprise with his starting XI, selecting Matthias Ginter over Nuri Sahin in defensive midfield. Turkey international Sahin was not even in the matchday squad. Tuchel explained before the match that he expected a lot of long balls from Frankfurt and wanted to prioritise athleticism and aerial prowess in his team selection.
Other than that, the 43-year-old went with what looked like his best XI, including starts for Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek, who had been somewhat doubtful throughout the week.
Dortmund started well, aiming to fulfil their status as clear-cut favourites for the match. Marco Reus looked lively and threatening in the opening moments and it was the 27-year-old who initiated the first goal with a superb cross-field pass towards the right flank, where wing-back Piszczek advanced with force.
The Pole played on to Dembele, who charged into the box, put Frankfurt defender Jesus Vallejo on his behind with an elegant shot faint and finished with an emphatic left-footed shot past Lukas Hradecky in the eigth minute.
Dortmund remained in control for another 10 or so minutes but suddenly let off towards the mid-point of the first half. Frankfurt got a foot into the game and slowly but steadily managed to shift most of the play into Dortmund’s midfield zone. Even without clear scoring chances, the Eagles looked threatening — and conversely, the BVB defence seemes to grow less and less sure with every touch.
It was not a huge surprise, then, that the equaliser came from an individual mistake of a defender, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos giving the ball away carelessly with an attempted dribble. Marco Fabian won the ball of him and played on to Mijat Gacinovic. The Serbian midfielder did well to identify a vacant space towards the right side of Dortmund’s defence and released Ante Rebic with a well-timed pass.
Rebic made no mistake and put the ball away safely out of Roman Bürki’s reach to give Frankfurt a not at all undeserved equaliser.
The Eagles were the better side for the rest of the first period, hitting the post through Haris Seferovic six minutes from intermission.
Apart from Frankfurt’s surge, Dortmund had to worry about the fitness of Reus, who was receiving treatment multiple times during the first half. Both he and team captain Schmelzer remained in the locker room for the start of the second half, on came Gonzalo Castro and Christian Pulisic.
Ginter moved to a position in the three-man defence with Castro operating at the base of midfield, while Pulisic took Dembele’s spot with the Frenchman moving up a bit to support Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whom his team-mates had failed to set up well even once during the first 45 minutes.
Dortmund looked better coming out of the gates, with Shinji Kagawa seeing a first warning shot cleared by David Abraham after five minutes. Pulisic made many positive runs that also brought wing-back Raphael Guerreiro into the game more, albeit without any tangible rewards.
The celebrated Dembele-Aubameyang combination almost delivered another masterpice out of the blue in the 64th minute, with the Gabonese attempting an audacious bicycle kick that Fabian just about managed to clear onto the crossbar.
The ultimately decisive moment of the cup final came three minutes later, when Guerreiro released Pulisic in Frankfurt’s box. The American super sub played the ball past Hradecky, who clumsily stopped Pulisic’s run — referee Deniz Aytekin had no choice but to point to the spot.
Aubameyang, his up-and-down record from 12 yards notwithstanding, was to take and Dortmund’s star striker delivered, scoring a cheeky Panenka right down the middle to give his team a deserved lead.
Frankfurt threw everything forward but hardly troubled Bürki with shots from distance, while Dortmund failed to capitalise on counter-attacking opportunities. Aubameyang hit the top of the bar with five minutes of regulation to go.
Dortmund defended cleverly and managed to keep the ball in Frankfurt’s half for much of the four minutes of stoppage time and, after a terrible final free-kick wasted the Eagles attempt at a last-gasp equaliser, the game was over.
Captain Schmelzer received the cup out of the hands of noted Schalke fan and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
For Tuchel, Reus and many others, it was the first major trophy in their professional career. For Dortmund, the first since the 2012 cup win over Bayern Munich.
The Black and Yellows were deserved winners despite putting forth a fairly underwhelming performance in Berlin.
Still, it was the crowning jewel of a long, difficult season and, seeing as it is widely believed both Tuchel and Aubameyang will leave the club in the summer, a perfect goodbye.