Reborn Dortmund have good reason to be happy

Posted by Stephan Uersfeld

The funny thing about Borussia Dortmund these days is you believe they can do better. Yet, having witnessed where they have been, seeing them on the brink of extinction and then fighting relegation during what feels like only yesterday, complaining about Wednesday's 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk during the knockout stages of Champions League feels a bit odd.

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Discussing the same thing time and time again and repeating the question: Do people get sick of that Dortmund tale of rags to riches? And does anyone supporting die Schwatzgelben care? Whereas the former might be answered yes, the latter certainly has to be answered no. The past few seasons BvB supporters have been handed the gift of one of the most romantic comebacks in football history.

Back-to-back championships, with even winning the double in the second year. Could you ask for more when a couple of years ago you would stand on the Sudtribune and all you'd ask for was one decent tackle by Dortmund legend Tinga (who, to put things straight, never was a legend). But the Sideshow Bob lookalike was Borussia Dortmund at that time. He'd give it all for the club and despite lacking tactics he turned himself into a fan favourite just for being the lad he was. Dortmund fans weren't asking for much. They wanted a decent game of football every once in a while and where satisfied with the way things had turned out after the near-bankruptcy in 2005.

Borussia Dortmund was about to become a solid Bundesliga club which would at some point be relegated and was hoping for Cup glory to make it to Europe again. Reluctantly, fans had adjusted to that. Players came and players went. Mladen Petric, a Fulham player these days, formed a good partnership with local boy Giovanni Federico, who had been brought in after a breakthrough season at Karlsruher SC.

Despite scoring several goals, Petric never won the hearts of the Dortmund supporters. Even while playing his best games he'd be signalling he wanted to achieve greater things than wearing the Dortmund jersey. At the same time, Federico tried. This season, Federico, 32, signed for fourth-tier club Viktoria Koln.

That was Borussia Dortmund in 2008. Tinga, Petric, Federico – all decent players, but never more than decent players. Borussia Dortmund in 2013 certainly is different. Everyone who follows football knows about it. Everyone who follows football is willing to show his appreciation for what the club has become. But, really, having been there and having seen it and not only reading about it does make a difference.

Against Shakhtar, Robert Lewandowski took the position Petric (and Switzerland legend Alex Frei) had played back in the day. The sought-after forward shook off not only the steady rumours linking him with a move to league rival Bayern Munich but also a three-match ban handed him following his sending off in the 2-1 loss to Hamburger SV at the weekend.

Dortmund, in control until the 20th minute, conceded from a Dario Srna free kick after 31 minutes. Unimpressed Dortmund continued to play forward and, after Poland skipper Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski missed a few good chances, Robert Lewandowski equalized four minutes from half-time.

What looked like sheer luck was nothing but perfection. Mario Gotze, who during most of the game lacked precision, got a second chance at a cross after a bad clearance, and then Lewandowski did a perfect Bud Spencer impression. All the Polish international intended was to get rid of Fernandinho and Dimitro Chrygrynsky, but gave the appearance of trying to score from the volley. He succeeded and did a nice job equalizing.

During the second half Dortmund decided to defend the 1-1, but Shakhtar was looking for holes in the Dortmund defence which they subsequently found when Yaroslav Rakitskiy played a long ball behind Hummels and Douglas Costa finished perfectly.

Hummels, one of the few players at Dortmund before Jurgen Klopp, has, at times, been not completely up to it recently. One of his attacks in midfield led to Hamburg’s win and Wednesday, his misjudgement of the ball led to Shakhtar's lead.

It was not deserved, but all a Dortmund fan could hope was they could someone survive and not run into any counter-attacks, especially after Lewandowski put a Gotze cross past the wrong side of the post. But Dortmund continued to put through their game and Moritz Leitner, brought on for Kuba, won two consecutive corners. In the end, Marcel Schmelzer swung in a corner from the left and Hummels headed it home, after hitting the crossbar early on.

Not even old Borussia Dortmund fans could complain about the draw, but they felt die Schwatzgelben had the chance to get into an even more comfortable position when Dortmund host Shakhtar in three weeks. Still, Dortmund have not lost a single match this Champions League season and Shakhtar hasn't seen Neven Subotic, Kevin Grosskreutz and Ilkay Gundogan yet. Things could be worse, and things have been worse for Borussia Dortmund.

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