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Fan protests at Borussia Dortmund’s 1-1 draw with VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga

Shortly after the end of the game, Niklas Süle seemed petrified. He had his arms on his hips. The experienced defender’s gaze went blank. Having achieved a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund at VfL Wolfsburg obviously didn’t feel good at all for Süle and his disappointed teammates.

Dortmund’s early lead, which Niklas Füllkrug had achieved in the eighth minute, was followed by a strange and disjointed football game. The game had to be interrupted repeatedly because of objects being thrown onto the field. One consequence of this was: Dortmund lost the thread. And the brave Wolfsburg team fought for a well-deserved draw thanks to substitute Yannick Gerhardt’s 1-1 draw (64′).

Even the experienced professionals at Borussia Dortmund still have to get used to the new circumstances in German professional football. In their guest appearance in Wolfsburg, the first half lasted almost an hour instead of the industry standard 45 minutes. The fact that some of the fans repeatedly threw tennis balls and sweets onto the field in protest against the investor plans of the German Football League (DFL) turned out to be a disadvantage for Dortmund.

“Sometimes the flow gets lost”

Their concentration waned every minute in front of 28,917 spectators, the majority of whom endured the annoying interruptions in silence. And perhaps it wasn’t helpful that players like Süle were involved in keeping order on the playing field and collecting tennis balls. “Sometimes,” said Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, “the flow gets lost.”

The game in Wolfsburg had initially made a subtle difference visible before the many interruptions. Dortmund were more clever and elegant when it came to combining. Füllkrug’s opening goal for Borussia was thanks to an opening pass from Marcel Sabitzer, a quick cross from Marco Reus and a little luck in the finish.

Niclas Füllkrug scored Dortmund’s opening goal. : Image: dpa

Even on defense, Dortmund initially always acted a little faster than Wolfsburg. Nico Schlotterbeck and Julian Ryerson in particular were able to slow down their racing colleagues thanks to a mixture of high commitment and clever duel behavior. As usual, Süle shone with good positional play. For a long time, BVB played as confidently as a team that has not lost a single one of six league games in this calendar year and has only conceded two goals. But when he still had to improve in Wolfsburg, it didn’t work.

There was this one tactical device that had an impact in this hard-fought game. Whenever VfL Wolfsburg had the courage to disrupt Dortmund early and aggressively, they were rewarded with promising ball wins. When Borussia was put under pressure, they wanted to find playful solutions. What was mostly nice to look at caused a few mistakes. Unfortunately for Niko Kovac, this was punished too rarely.

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The head coach of VfL Wolfsburg should gradually despair given six games in a row without a win and too many missed scoring opportunities. But he doesn’t do it publicly. “We did really well today. What we are missing is the small detail,” said Kovac. Despite the 1:1, he can feel like a small winner. His team didn’t give up, stayed focused, created many scoring chances and then forced the equalizer from a corner.

The search for the reason why Dortmund started strongly in Wolfsburg and then lost control of the game also leads to their own fans. Supporters traveling from Dortmund repeatedly threw tennis balls onto the playing field. Referee Martin Petersen had to interrupt the match several times and reached his limits in his attempts to keep the game flowing.

Objects had to be cleared from the field again and again. : Image: dpa

The protests from the stadium stands in the second half led to the oddity that the game continued, even though hard-working Wolfsburg stewards were busy collecting tennis balls and putting them in white buckets. “This is a new challenge. We have to accept them,” said BVB goalkeeper Kobel about the chaos in the stadium.

When he tried to initiate a quick Dortmund counterattack, stewards on the pitch stood in the way of a sense of success. “Play continued, even though it felt like there were 50 stewards on the pitch. That’s also dangerous,” complained Dortmund coach Edin Terzic. He didn’t like to see the interruptions in the game as the reason why the lead was lost.

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