Dortmund's players, fans stunned after falling short in German title race

AP , Saturday 27 May 2023

It takes a lot to stun Borussia Dortmund's Yellow Wall of fans into silence, even for a moment.

Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund s players react after the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and FSV Mainz 05 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, May 27, 2023. Photo: AP


One of the most famous crowds in world soccer fell quiet Saturday as Dortmund missed the chance to win the German league title when it was held to a 2-2 draw by Mainz, making Bayern Munich the champion for an 11th consecutive year.

At the final whistle, the atmosphere resembled a funeral as Dortmund players sprawled on the ground in ones and twos, trying to process missing out on the title. Lines of security personnel holding ropes blocked off the edge of the field, ready to hold back a tide of fans which never came.

“Thank you to all fans for your support,” read a message on the screens and advertising boards. “Only BVB (Dortmund)! Whatever may happen.”

Dortmund started the day with a two-point advantage over Bayern, but a nervous start to the game gave way to disbelief. Mainz scored first once, then doubled the lead after a missed penalty by Sébastien Haller, the striker who returned mid-season from cancer treatment to power Dortmund's title challenge.

The crowd was again loud as ever in the second half as Dortmund started creating chances, eventually rewarded by Raphael Guerreiro's goal in the 69th minute. Dortmund coach Edin Terzic threw caution to the wind, replacing defenders with forwards and bringing on a 17-year-old, Julien Duranville, for his first Bundesliga game.

Then a hush descended over the 81,000-plus crowd as news filtered through that Bayern had scored a second goal in the 89th minute of its game, enough to win the title unless Dortmund won its game too. Dortmund needed two more goals, but only scored one.

It took time for Dortmund's fans to find their voice after the final whistle as the players were consoled by Mainz's squad. They eventually gathered in a line in front of the Yellow Wall to pay German soccer's traditional tribute to the fans. The only obvious sign of disorder was a single drinks cup hurled at Mainz players as they left the field, which fell short and splashed the roof of the dugout.

Fans had been filling the bars around Dortmund's stadium since the early morning. Among the sea of yellow-and-black shirts were plenty with the name of star players — Erling Haaland, Ousmane Dembélé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — who came and went without a title during Bayern’s decade of dominance, and then had greater success elsewhere.

That list could soon include Jude Bellingham, the England midfielder who was an unused substitute Saturday with knee pain, and who is widely expected to leave the club in the summer after three seasons.

The most popular name on the shirts in and around the stadium was that of Dortmund-born forward Marco Reus, who joined his hometown club in the summer of 2012, weeks after its last Bundesliga title win. He is still waiting for a title of his own after 11 seasons.

A parade had been planned in Dortmund for Sunday, to be attended by up to 250,000 people. The wait goes on.

Dortmund may not get a better chance in a while to end Bayern's title run. No team has won the German title with a points title as low as Bayern's 71 in the last 13 years, and few clubs have disrupted their own seasons in the way Bayern's management did by firing Julian Nagelsmann in March and hiring Thomas Tuchel.

After Dortmund drew with Mainz on Saturday and lost out to Bayern, the Bundesliga trophy was to be taken away from the stadium with no presentation. Bayern had to celebrate its unlikely triumph in Cologne with a copy of the trophy.

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