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‘So stupid’: How Borussia Dortmund threw it away in Stuttgart – twice

  • April 16, 2023

VfB Stuttgart 3-3 Borussia Dortmund
(Coulibaly 78′, Vagnoman 84′, Silas 90+7’– Haller 26′, Malen 33′, Reyna 90+2′)
Neckarstadion, Stuttgart

The pain in Edin Terzic’s face was clear to see.

“There’s too much anger, too much disappointment,” he said, staring out blankly into the press room at the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart, his gaze averting the eyes of reporters and settling on the rain-soaked window behind, and the dreary building site beyond.

“This is the place in which I normally want to defend my team, protect us as a group and maintain a positive energy,” he continued, slowly, softly. “But I’m finding it very difficult, because it’s just so unnecessary, so stupid.”

The Borussia Dortmund head coach is a good communicator: attentive, precise, honest and calm as he explains his decisions and thoughts, rarely breaking eye contact. But not in Stuttgart. In Stuttgart, the 40-year-old looked emotionally drained.

Seemingly speaking into a void as he attempted to digest what had just happened, however, he was more honest than ever before.

“Everything we’ve invested since July,” he lamented. “Our pre-season preparations, how we dealt with problems in the first half of the season: illness, injuries, dropping down to sixth. And all the hard work and the fury with which we came back in January, putting us in the position we’re in now.

“And then we just throw it away.”

Terzic: ‘Everything was set up for us’

About an hour earlier, Borussia Dortmund had been 2-0 up away at relegation candidates VfB Stuttgart, who had been playing with ten men since the 39th minute. Donyell Malen had continued his return to form with another goal and another assist. Jude Bellingham had hit the bar. So had Marco Reus.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich were heading for a 1-1 at home to Hoffenheim, a constellation which would see Dortmund go level on points with the Bavarians at the top of the Bundesliga, reigniting the title race.

“Everything was set up for us to head home with three points,” said Terzic. But then came the 20 most dramatic minutes of the season so far:

Tanguy Coulibaly cut inside onto his right foot, his shot deflected off Emre Can and flew past Gregor Kobel into the Dortmund net. The rain came down, and the volume went up.

“So long as we stand on the terrace, your flag will continue to fly!” bellowed Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Kurve, seemingly sucking the ball into the net again five minutes later when Josha Vagnoman fired home after Salih Özcan had failed to clear from a corner.

Discipline, discipline, discipline

“At half-time, we spoke about all the right things and explicitly addressed what must not happen, but it still happened,” Terzic told DW. Briefly, the meticulous head coach re-emerged.

“The only way the opposition were going to get back into the game was if we lost our discipline,” he said.

“Our discipline in possession, which we had in the first half, playing out two-touch from the back and playing it deep, the discipline to switch straight into our gegenpressing when we lose the ball, and our discipline in defense, particularly down the Stuttgart left, where we knew they’re dangerous from crosses.

“But that only works when we see it through to the end, when ever individual player takes responsibility and doesn’t just think: ‘The guy next to me will deal with it somehow.'”

Stuttgart striker Silas celebrates his 97th-minute equalizer
Last-gasp: Stuttgart striker Silas celebrates his 97th-minute equalizerImage: dpa

Super-sub Gio Reyna: not this time

Incredibly, there was still time for Borussia Dortmund to demonstrate two of their defining characteristics this season: one good, one bad.

First, Gio Reyna appeared to repeat his super-sub heroics from Mainz in January when he restored the visitors’ lead in injury time. Throughout this season, Terzic has emphasized the depth of his squad and the potential he can bring off the bench, and so it proved again.

Until, in the 97th minute, 19-year-old center-back Soumaila Coulibaly, who had replaced the sick Mats Hummels at half-time, inexplicably sliced a clearance into the path of Silas, who equalized once more.

Instead of being level on points with a wobbly Bayern Munich with six games to play, Borussia Dortmund remain two points behind. And all the old debates, questions and accusations are as omnipresent as ever.

Mentality? There wasn’t even the chance to ask a haunted-looking Marco Reus about the famous M-word as he hurried through the mixed zone. Even Terzic seemed at a loss.

Terzic: ‘We thought it couldn’t get any worse’

“There are reasons why we haven’t managed to reach the very top in the last ten years,” he admitted.

“There are reasons why I’ve been criticized for being so modest about the position we’re in [regarding the title race]. It hurts because I, because we, only have one wish.

“It’s difficult for me to know where to start today, but I can promise you: despite the disappointment, there is still so much which is worth fighting for. It’s still only two points. It’s just one goal that one team has to concede, and one goal which we have to score to turn the situation around.

“We have to finally start learning from these needless setbacks. No-one will do it for us. It’s my responsibility to put my chest out and look forward. But it hurts.”

Back in August, Terzic saw his team throw away a two-goal lead at home to newly promoted Werder Bremen. “We thought it couldn’t get any worse. And then came today.”

Edited by Michael Da Silva

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