Borussia Dortmund advanced to a club-record-extending fourth DFB-Pokal semi-final in a row thanks to a 3-0 win over third-division side Sportfreunde Lotte. Christian Pulisic, Andre Schürrle and Marcel Schmelzer scored Dortmund’s goals in the second half. The Black and Yellows will face rivals Bayern Munich on April 25th or 26th.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel again made a number of changes from the Bundesliga defeat to Hertha BSC on Saturday, with Julian Weigl and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the two most prominent names missing from the team sheet. Initially thought to having been given a rest, it was later revealed that Aubameyang, like Weigl, suffers from adductor problems which could also make him a doubt for Friday evening’s match against FC Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga.
The Gabonese striker was replaced by Schürrle up front, with Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele manning the wings. With Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended, Tuchel changed his defensive formation to a back four.
Despite the game taking place in Osnabrück, roughly 12 kilometres from Lotte’s own home ground, after the game had been cancelled on February 28 for heavy snowfall and the pitch subsequently being deemed unplayable, the “hosts” came out with a lot of intent and clearly got the better start of the game. Other than an offside goal from Schürrle, who looked on-line with the last defender, Lotte dominated all the action.
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They benefited greatly from another uncertain performance from Matthias Ginter in central defence, the young Germany international looking unsure of himself both in terms of direct duels and his decision-making, for example when to leave his spot to win balls higher up the pitch. The biggest chance of the game for Lotte came in the 11th minute, with midfielder Tim Wendel getting on the end of a good pass from Jaroslaw Lindner and forcing a save out of Roman Bürki, who once again played over Roman Weidenfeller.
The Switzerland international stood firm and didn’t go down too quickly, thus taking away an obvious shooting lane for Wendel, who ended up hitting the ball right into Bürki.
Dortmund slowly but steadily won control over the match without converting it into clear-cut scoring chances, with hopeful efforts from range from midfielders Raphael Guerreiro and Gonzalo Castro their most dangerous attempts before half-time.
They looked much stronger right out of the gate and were almost rewarded for their improvements early in the second period, with Shinji Kagawa — arguably the best player on the field — seeing a shot from a tight angle saved well by Benedikt Fernandez before a goal-bound Ginter header was cleared away by Matthias Rahn.
Importantly, Dortmund didn’t let up and kept the pressure on Lotte, who were starting to tire down towards the hour mark. BVB broke the deadlock with a rare counter-attack, as Dembele suddenly broke free in midfield. Crucially, Lotte’s Andre Dej failed to commit a tactical foul on the Frenchman, who raced deep into enemy territory and cleverly led the opponent to believe he would play in Schürrle to his right, when in fact he found fellow teenager Pulisic, who had made a clever run to the open left side of the field. A smart finish through Fernandez’ legs later, Dortmund were well on their way to the semi-finals after 57 minutes.
The goal did a world of good for the visitors, who never gave away control the rest of the way. Nine minutes after the opener, Kagawa smartly found Guerreiro’s head at the far post with a lovely chipped cross. The Portuguese Euro 2016 winner headed down towards Schürrle, who then smashed home emphatically — probably fueled by anger and frustration over his poor performance on the weekend and in the first half.
The question was now by how many goals Dortmund would beat valiant but ultimately hopeless Lotte. They got a third goal from the unlikeliest of sources, with team captain Marcel Schmelzer scoring from a long-range free-kick — with ample help from Fernandez, it has to be added. Still, a goal from Schmelzer remains a rare occasion that has to be duly celebrated: It was the #MagicOfTheCup
The game largely fizzled out with Dortmund showing their superiority on the ball. One thing to note was the club debut for winter signing Alexander Isak, the 17-year-old getting a four-minute cameo in which he showed his technical skills if little else.
Another substitute made the most of his appearance off the bench, with Mikel Merino confirming his upward trajectory following the Bundesliga’s winter break. The Spaniard showed his quality on the ball as much as a ball-winner and cannot be far away from an appearance in the starting XI in his preferred midfield spot. Should Weigl be unable to play against Ingolstadt, Merino’s hour could finally come.
All in all, it was the expected tough game against a third-tier side that, as Tuchel said before the match, clearly has the quality to play in the 2. Bundesliga. In that regard, going home with a fairly comfortable 3-0 has to be considered a job well done, even if the first-half performance was nothing to write home about.