As one of only two sides with a 100 per cent record in this season's Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund's start to 2022/23 also includes an impressive DFB Cup first round win - and with Edin Terzic's title hopefuls boasting a crucial mix of youth and experience, the omens look good for the Black-Yellows for the months ahead.
Rivals Bayern Munich are the only other side in Germany's top tier to have won both of their opening Bundesliga games so far this term. For Dortmund, the encounters against Bayer Leverkusen and Freiburg presented Die Schwarzgelben with plenty of challenges, but that they responded at key moments to claim three points in both games is a tribute to the team's mental toughness.
Against Leverkusen, it was 33-year-old Marco Reus who netted the all-important winner, while in Freiburg last weekend, talented teens Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Youssoufa Moukoko helped to turn what at one point looked certain to be a defeat into a stunning late victory.
Praising his players, whom he said "showed how good this squad is," last Friday, Terzic can't but be pleased with the mix of wily old pros and ravenous young upstarts he has at his disposal. With ex-Bayern defender Niklas Süle missing the start of the Bundesliga campaign with a thigh injury, Dortmund have fielded the 33-year-old five-time division winner Mats Hummels alongside new arrival Nico Schlotterbeck (22) in defence. The pair have formed a solid partnership to date, helping to ensure that Dortmund have conceded just once in two Bundesliga games.
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"We have to play as even more of a unit in defence, that will make it easier for us to do our job," Schlotterbeck - who recently moved to BVB from Freiburg - said after victory against his former side. Terzic once describing Hummels as, "...strong in tackles and clear in the passing game," it is interesting to note that Dortmund's central partnership has managed to win a combined total of 48 tackles, 32 aerial duels and together have successfully completed 177 passes in the opening two rounds of matches.
Ahead of them, it is Reus and the club's recently appointed third captain, the 19-year-old Jude Bellingham, who are among the BVB stars pulling the strings in an eye-catching midfield. The former was in the right place at the right time to net the game-winning goal - and his 145th in Germany's top division - at Signal Iduna Park on Matchday 1 while his teammate Bellingham - involved in that winner against Bayer - has played every minute of Dortmund's three games in two competitions to date.
The versatile box-to-box England international even struck what was his 11th goal in Borussia colours during the slick 3-0 Cup victory at 1860 Munich at the end of July. There may be 14 years difference between Reus and Bellingham, but the pair's hunger for trophies this season is clearly matched.
"He’s been one of our most consistent players over the last couple of years," Terzic said of Bellingham, who is rapidly approaching a century of games in Black-and-Yellow. "He has developed really well both physically and in terms of his character," the tactician added. Reus recently explained that "There are no cliques" within the current Dortmund squad, within which, he added, "There's a lot of quality." With young and old currently blending so well, the challenges facing the five-time Bundesliga champions both domestically and in Europe should be met with all the more confidence.
And while on the subject of confidence, Dortmund's attack is currently overflowing with good vibes after veteran forward Anthony Modeste arrived to team up with some of the Bundesliga's most exciting youngsters, who have been combining to deadly effect in the campaign to date. Enjoying his first Bundesliga appearance on Friday since moving to Dortmund from Cologne, the much-travelled Modeste can't help but have been impressed by the energy and movement around him by BVB's young forwards, who combined superbly to turn the game against Freiburg on its head.
Trailing at the Europa-Park Stadion late in the game, the visitors were back in the contest when substitute Bynoe-Gittens saw his long-range shot squirm through the hands of home goalkeeper Mark Flekken. The attacker only recently turned 18 and celebrated in style in what was his fifth Bundesliga appearance by brilliantly conjuring the opening that led to Julian Brandt teeing up one more outstanding BVB teen, Moukoko, who put Terzic's men in front.
Marius Wolf completed a memorable come-from-behind win for Die Schwarzgelben with a third goal but it was Dortmund's energetic teenage sensations who would go on to capture the headlines.
"I didn't even sleep to be honest; I was so overwhelmed and happy that we won the game, it was the best gift I could get, and for it to come around my 18th birthday, it was just amazing to me," an ecstatic Bynoe-Gittens said after his key contributions in Dortmund's second Bundesliga win of the season. "The first five seconds [after scoring my first Bundesliga goal], I was just running around in circles; I was happy, cheering and shouting," the England U19 European Champion - who on Tuesday agreed terms on a new deal with Borussia - added.
"Jamie has incredible abilities to accelerate the pace of the game and to find solutions in tight spaces," coach Terzic continued. "We reminded him of that [before he came on against Freiburg] and he did very well and got his reward with the goal. If he continues in this way he has a bright future ahead of him."
And as for the 17-year-old, Germany U21 international striker, Moukoko, Terzic explained, "We are very pleased that Youssoufa was involved in the three goals." The player himself oozed self belief, saying, "I always had the feeling that we could turn the game around."
With the 34-year-old Modeste - he of the 83 goals in 191 Bundesliga games - quickly finding his feet at his new club, BVB's exciting combination of youth and experience across their talented squad looks set to be one of the highlights of a season that has started very positively for the North Rhine-Westphalia-based team, who have Werder Bremen and the Old Lady of Hertha Berlin still to come this month.
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