St. Petersburg (dpa) – Empty batteries, full schedule – After returning late in the middle of the night from wintry Russia, coach Lucien Favre gave his weary professionals a day off.
In addition to the laborious 2: 1 (0: 1) in Zenit St. Petersburg, this helped improve the mood. Captain Marco Reus saw the mediocre group victory in the Champions League as a source of encouragement for the tight schedule until Christmas: “We have four more games to play and – if possible – should win them all.
But without an increase in performance, it should be difficult to meet Reus’s demands in the daily competition against VfB Stuttgart, Union Berlin and Werder Bremen and in the cup at Eintracht Braunschweig. The income crisis finally came to an end – much to the relief of all involved – with three failed games. That comforted the renewed playful shortcomings. “It was a nasty victory, but finally another victory,” said Reus. Even football fanatic Lucien Favre saw no reason to complain. “We won here – that’s all that matters. We have to accept that sometimes it is difficult and that we should not dream,” said the coach.
After all, the BVB rump squad showed stamina even without nine professionals and forced victory. “It was not glorious. But at this stage, where we are currently with so many injuries, it is important to win such a match,” said Reus. However, further failures are looming: both Mats Hummels and Thorgan Hazard were injured and replaced. Favre hopes for a speedy recovery: “I hope it was just cramps. It is normal that many players are tired.”
The coach reacted earlier than usual to his team’s poor attack attempts after trailing Sebastian Driussi (16th minute) and Youssoufa Moukoko fell in the 58th minute. At the age of 16 years and 18 days, the attacker became the youngest professional in the Champions League and replaced the previous record holder Céléstine Babayaro, who made his debut for Anderlecht in 1994 at 16 years and 87 days. The fact that Jude Bellingham (17), Ansgar Knauff (18) and Giovanni Reyna (18) were still on the field in the closing stages, enriched the history of the royal class with another anecdote.
But not the young stars, but two veterans slipped into supporting roles. 35-year-old fullback Lukasz Piszczek scored the first goal in his 54th Champions League match: “I had to wait a long time for that. But now I can finally check if I have scored in every competition”, the Pole said with one. Constant smile. His teammate Axel Witsel (78th), who was four years younger than him, made the 2-1 in his old workplace. After more than four years in St. Petersburg, the joy of his winning goal was rather restrained: “Out of respect for the fans and the club, I didn’t cheer.”