Dortmund - Felipe Santana stood out from crowd in Borussia Dortmund’s historic UEFA Champions League win over FC Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night in more ways than one.
Playing in the flu-stricken Mats Hummels' stead, BVB’s Brazilian centre-back scored the all-important opening goal - his first at Europe’s top table - leaping above his peers to power an unstoppable header into the top corner.
The 26-year-old also completed 84 per cent of his passes and played a large part in ensuring that compatriot Luiz Adriano of Donetsk barely had a sniff at goal. After the match the likeable defender talked about his freshly shaved head, but more importantly his return to former strengths and the reigning Bundesliga champions’ chances in Europe’s elite club competition.
Question: Felipe Santana, tonight was a very convincing win for Dortmund.
Felipe Santana: For all but a few minutes, we put in an almost perfect performance. We gave our opponents very few goalscoring opportunities and converted our chances, so you have to congratulate the whole team. I’m delighted with the match, the victory and of course the goal that I scored.
Question: Your recent performances had drawn some criticism. Was your goal the perfect response?
Santana: The win and my goal did me a world of good. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t perform to the level I expect of myself in the last game against Hannover. That annoyed me, but I was pleased to get another chance to demonstrate what I’m capable of and I have to say I'm satisfied with my performance. It was a superb outing from the whole team, but I’m pleased with myself too. Against Shakhtar I managed to show everything that was lacking in my recent displays, especially in terms of playing the ball out from defence. The fact that I also had the chance to score was fantastic. Fortunately I made it count (laughs). Now I’ve got a bald head again, everything’s good.
Question: Was there an element of superstition behind you decision to shave your head?
Santana: I’m the kind of guy who thinks a lot about things, especially when they aren’t running so smoothly. I just wanted to shave my head again because I’ve had some great times in Dortmund with that hairstyle and we’ve also had a laugh about it already.
Question: Are you referring to letting substitute Leonardo Bittencourt kiss your freshly shaven head after you scored?
Santana: Leo had joked with me earlier in the day that I’d definitely score with my head. When the ball hit the back of the net I ran directly to the bench and he kissed me on top of my head. But we'd already had a lot of fun in the dressing room before the match. The boss asked whether we had signed a new player. That new player made has now completed his debut against Donetsk (laughs) and he did an excellent job!
Question: Dortmund are now in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and being referred to by some as the dark horses for the title.
Santana: We’ve performed incredibly well up to this point and we’re well aware of what we’re capable of. It's fantastic that we now belong to the best eight teams in Europe. We can all be very proud of that.
Question: What’s next in Europe for BVB? What are you aiming to achieve?
Santana: Our target is [the final at] Wembley - of course it is. But we obviously know how hard it’s going to be to get there. If we really want to make it, we’ve got to maintain our level of performance. There are still some tough games ahead of us and for now we’ve got to take things step by step. First and foremost we’ve got to concentrate on our Bundesliga fortunes.
Question: Saturday is going to be a very special game for BVB isn’t it?
Santana: It’s against Schalke, which says it all. It’ll be a completely different encounter once again, which isn’t any less important for us. It’s the derby and after losing the first one this season, we’ve got something to make up for. This win against Donetsk has done us a world of good, though. It was important for our self-belief and confidence. That goes especially for me.
Interview by Dietmar Nolte