Jurgen Klopp’s final game as Borussia Dortmund manager will be the final of the German Cup, as his side secured a dramatic 2-0 penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal; the sides were tied at 1-1 after 120 minutes.
The hosts went ahead thanks to a first half goal from former BVB forward Robert Lewandowski, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s strike after the break took the tie to extra time.
The visitors clung on for penalties after Kevin Kampl was sent off in the 108th minute and triumphed 2-0 in the shootout as Bayern failed to score with any of their attempts at goal, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer missing the decisive kick.
For Klopp, the final—in which his side will play either Arminia or Wolfsburg—is a fitting way to end a distinguished spell at the Westfalenstadion. After eight years with Dortmund he will walk away from the club at the end of the campaign and while league and European success has alluded this team this season, there are few who would begrudge him one final piece of silverware.
Dortmund’s players went about their duties like men beset on giving their long-term leader the perfect sendoff too.
Even when they went behind, Klopp’s side were resilient against the Bayern juggernaut, a squad containing two of the players—Lewandowski and Mario Gotze—that helped expedite BVB’s progression from also-rans to Champions League finalists under the tutelage of the unrelentingly effervescent coach.
For a long time, the Pole’s predatory instincts looked to be the difference between the two giants of German football, just as they were when these two squared off in the Bundesliga last month. Lewandowski put the hosts in front after half an hour, finishing astutely from a tight angle after his initial effort came off the post.
Bayern seized control from that point on, peppering Mitchell Langerak’s goal time after time with stinging shots. But Dortmund remained resolute in the face of this immense pressure, before taking their own chance to get back into the game with the clock ticking down. Aubameyang was fastest to react to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross, prodding the ball over the line despite the best efforts of Neuer with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
From that point on, Klopp’s men had the better chances to win the match, but the German stopper kept them at bay in the latter stages. Extra time was pretty even, with neither side willing to commit too many men forward for fear of losing. But Bayern were handed a major boost, as Kampl—subbed on for Jakub Blaszczykowski in the 85th minute—picked up his second yellow and was dismissed.
Naturally, Bayern poured forward in the latter stages with a one-man advantage, but were unable to find a may past the imperious Mats Hummels and indomitable Sokratis Papastathopoulos at the heart of the Dortmund back line. It meant penalties were to determine who would make it to the showpiece final, with thrills inevitable in the final embers of this engrossing tie.
Few would have predicted quite as dramatic a climax, though. Philipp Lahm skied the opening penalty for Bayern after slipping, before Ilkay Gundogan rifled one into the top corner to put Dortmund in front. Staggeringly, the next two kicks followed suit, with Xabi Alonso also losing his footing, allowing Sebastian Kehl to put BVB two ahead.
The drama continued, though. Gotze had his penalty saved by Langerak, leaving Hummels with the chance to put Dortmund through, but Neuer got a hand to his kick to keep Bayern’s hopes alive. The ‘keeper would quickly relinquish his heroic status however as he elected to take the next kick, smashed his effort into the crossbar and sparked rapturous scenes amongst the Dortmund players.
While this BVB team may not be the finest ever to take the field under the watch of Klopp, it was a win emblematic of all traits that have festered at the Westfalenstadion under the former Mainz boss. The resoluteness in Dortmund’s effort, the incision in their attacking forays and the fundamental enjoyment of watching this team play was all on show in spades at the Allianz Arena.
It was also fitting for Klopp, a man who reeled in the might of Bayern to secure two league titles with Dortmund, to get one over FC Hollywood in his final Der Klassiker encounter. Granted, Bayern have evolved from a classy side to a footballing force of nature as of late, but the strides made by the German champions were prompted by the resurgence of the Ruhr Valley club.
Indeed, as formidable a side as they now are, you suspect that even the might of Bayern will finally be glad to see the back of Klopp; matches like the one this evening are an emphatic reminder of why.
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