St. Petersburg (dpa) – Lucien Favre acknowledged the end of the income crisis with a lasting smile. Visibly relieved, the coach of Borussia Dortmund went from pro to pro after the final whistle and thanked for the happy ending in the final effort in the preliminary round.
After the last three competitive matches without a win, the close 2: 1 (0: 1) at Zenit St. Petersburg won the group in the Champions League and increased the chance of a supposedly easier opponent in the draw for the first knockout round next Monday.
“It was a dirty victory, but finally another victory”, Marco Reus said at DAZN and spoke of a “hard-fought match”. In front of about 16,000 spectators in the stadium, which was heated to 15 degrees, Lukasz Piszczek (68th minute) and Axel Witsel (78th) scored a hard-fought victory. “We are very happy, we really wanted to stay first”, said former St. Petersburg pro Witsel, who barely celebrated his goal. Sebastian Driussi (16th minute) had previously put the Russians ahead. “It wasn’t great now,” said Reus, “but it was important to be the first to finish the group.”
After three bad performances against Cologne (1: 2), Lazio Rome (1: 1) and Frankfurt (1: 1), Borussia seemed to be inhibited at the start of the match. Even the rotation of coach Lucien Favre with six changes in the starting line-up could hardly liven up the game of the team at first. Initially, returnees like Reus and Thorgan Hazard provided little incentive.
Although the Russians had already bet all chances of progress, they turned out – just like in the first leg (2-0) – to be uncomfortable opponents. They were rewarded early on for their dedicated start. After a pass from Aleksei Sutormin, the Argentinian Driussi was on the spot and, with the help of Mats Hummels, who slightly averted the ball, he took the lead. Marwin Hitz, who filled in for regular goalkeeper Roman Bürki, had no mistake.
Only this goal worked as a wake-up call for BVB. He gradually took the lead, but without the still badly missed goal guarantee, Erling Haaland again did not find his usual attacking power. There were at least two options for Hazard (19th) and Reus (23rd) to see a target hazard.
Shortly before half time Dortmund was very close to the equalizer. After Nico Schulz’s cross, the detached Jew Bellingham (43.) crossed the gate. Two minutes later, Reus hit the post with a placed shot from the edge of the penalty area. BVB was not really awake at the beginning of the second half either. Only the good reaction of goalkeeper Hitz prevented the 0-2 from a shot by Daler Kuzjaew (47th).
Given the ongoing pause in the attack, BVB coach Favre reacted and set the young Dortmund star Youssoufa Moukoko another record. More than two weeks after his debut as the youngest Bundesliga professional, he set a similar record in the Champions League at the age of 16 and 18 days.
This measure enlivened the BVB game. After Poland’s Piszczek equalizer, the guests got new hope. However, it was not the young stars who made the decision. The seasoned Witsel scored an untenable 2-1 from about 18 meters.