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Football Reporting

Borussia Dortmund

U23s face final promotion hurdle in Wuppertal on Saturday

BVB can crown what has been a mammoth season at the weekend by securing promotion to the third tier. They have played 39 games in a campaign that was disrupted from the beginning by corona quarantines and match cancellations. And yet the Dortmund youngsters have still managed to overcome all these obstacles as well as a series of long-term injuries to key players. As a collective, coach Enrico Maassen’s charges have managed to play attractive and successful football week-in, week-out. Saturday sees them play their 40th and final match of the season – with the potential reward of a place in the third division next season.

But before we look ahead to Saturday’s match, let’s take a little journey back in time and cast our minds back to 2012 – specifically the 19 May. A beautiful early summer’s day, the sun shining brightly on the Stadion am Zoo in Wuppertal. That day marked the final round of fixtures of the 2011/2012 Regionalliga West season. Borussia Dortmund’s U23s went into their game away to Wuppertaler SV as league leaders and within touching distance of promotion to the third tier. Over 4,000 BVB fans travelled to the Wupper to support then-coach David Wagner and his team, providing a worthy setting for the season finale. BVB were locked in a title race with Sportfreunde Lotte, who went into the final round trailing the Black & Yellows by only one point. With Lotte expected to win their final game, BVB needed to triumph too. It proved to be an historic match that day at the Stadion am Zoo.

Before we go any further: the dream of promotion to the third tier became a reality that day – the deserved reward for an outstanding second half-season. But before the celebrations got under way, the nerves of the team, coaching staff and fans were tested to the hilt. The final game bore all the hallmarks of a dramatic football match. BVB surged into a 2-0 lead inside the opening quarter of an hour, even though it was the hosts who had had the better of the opening stages. Wuppertal pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go before half-time, but had to play the final hour with 10 men following a red card. BVB scored the fourth goal before that dismissal and the game seemed over. But Wuppertal launched a late fightback, setting up a nervy final few minutes. It was not until Mario Vrancic made it 5-3 with the final kick of the game that BVB’s promotion was sealed. “It was such a brilliant victory, a 5-3. It was so exciting. We would have liked the game to pan out in a different way, but what the hell,” said Vrancic. BVB goalkeeper Zlatan Alomerovic, who had shared the role between the sticks with Johannes Focher throughout the season, only had positive words to say about that day. “It was an incredible atmosphere, the match demanded all our mental energy. We had a home game in Wuppertal, it’s brilliant what happened. We played an outstanding second half-season.”

The aim will be for a similarly successful and emotional day on Saturday. Nine years after that achievement by Mario Vrancic, Jonas Hofmann and Marcel Halstenberg’s team, Steffen Tigges, Franz Pfanne, Niklas Dams & Co. will be targeting another big triumph in the same location on Saturday (14:00 CET). BVB will not be playing the permutations game, with head coach Enrico Maassen outlining his crystal-clear approach for Saturday: “If you only play for a point, it mostly goes wrong. So we will try – as we do in every game – to win the last match as well.” Nothing should be taken for granted against a Wuppertal side currently in 12th place in the table. WSV have won their last five matches in all competitions and will want to bid farewell to their fans – who will be allowed back into the stadium for the first time on Saturday – with a good result. Five hundred supporters are permitted at the Stadion am Zoo. 

BVB will be offering a live-stream of the match in Wuppertal so that all the fans can follow the game on Saturday.

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