Dortmund - Less than an hour after his side’s encounter with Greuther Fürth, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke was already turning his thoughts towards Amsterdam. “It was good for us that we didn’t have to run an extra 20 kilometres against Fürth. It maybe wasn't always spectacular, but at least we’re fit to face Ajax.”
Indeed, it was a case of mission doubly accomplished for the reigning Bundesliga champions. The 3-1 home victory over the top-flight newbies ended with BVB emerging not only unscathed ahead of Wednesday's crucial UEFA Champions League group stage match against AFC Ajax, but also two points closer to league leaders FC Bayern Munich.
“I got the feeling that from the start of the second half both teams were satisfied with the result,” said Watzke, a comment in no way meant to be disrespectful to the opponents who in reality created so little going forward after the interval that Dortmund could themselves ease right off the gas. “Fürth didn’t want to open up any more, otherwise we’d have put a few more past them,” BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller summarised succinctly.
The hosts were accordingly able to cruise to victory, winding the game down “expertly”, as head coach Jürgen Klopp noted appreciatively: “We showed a lot of maturity.” First and foremost that was a case of maintaining possession courtesy with highly disciplined combination play, at the same time conserving energy for Wednesday’s tough trip to the Dutch champions.
Dortmund enjoyed a healthy 67 per cent of possession and twice as many ball contacts (893) as their opponents. More significantly perhaps, the players covered a relatively modest 114.4 kilometres in total during the encounter, their lowest figure of any match this season. “The team took a developmental step forward in the second half, they really played like old hands,” praised Klopp.
A similar maturity will be required of them in Amsterdam, along with a dose of that special Dortmund forward magic. “Happy is the man who has a Götze in his side," it might well be said, after the 20-year-old talent put on a sparkling first-half show against Fürth, capped off with a great solo effort to round out the scoring just before the break.
Sights on the Champions League
In contrast to his performance out on the pitch, Götze was keen to keep things low-key after the match though, noting: "We dropped a lot of points at the beginning of the season, which is why we're not up there looking at Bayern. We just have to keep collecting the points." Now they have 22, just one less than at the same stage of last season's ultimately record-breaking campaign. "Things are looking alright again," as Watzke put it.
Their recent domestic improvement notwithstanding, Europe is the pressing priority now for Dortmund. A draw against Ajax would be enough to take them through to the first knock-out stage of the Champions League. "We're in a good position, and we absolutely want to reach the last sixteen," Götze stressed in no uncertain terms.
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Dortmund