For a player brought in to bolster the Borussia Dortmund midfield, Axel Witsel is doing a pretty good impression of a striker.
The summer signing from Tianjin Quanjian was supposed to add meat to the bones of a side crying out for a midfield general. He's done that - but he's also picked up from where Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi left off last season, scoring in his first two competitive appearances in BVB colours.
"I don’t have a secret," Witsel told reporters, after helping Dortmund come from behind to beat RB Leipzig 4-1 on Bundesliga Matchday 1. "I just work hard. We have a really talented team, with really young players. Maybe I’m one of the older ones at 29 (laughs). I just try to bring my experience and do my best for the team."
Witsel’s experience is already rubbing off. Dortmund were on their way out of the DFB Cup at second-tier Greuther Fürth last Monday, when their ballistic Belgian struck in the 94th minute to force extra-time with a close-range finish every single one of BVB’s former leading men would have been proud of. He had only been on the pitch 21 minutes – but he turned the tie as Dortmund ran out 2-1 winners in extra-time.
In little over twice the time against Leipzig this weekend, he ingratiated himself with the fervent Dortmund faithful at Signal Iduna Park by netting a quite brilliant overhead kick in another stirring comeback win. That’s two games played, amounting 136 minutes; two wins and two goals scored at a rate of one every 68 minutes.
Watch: Axel Witsel reflects on his debut acrobatics
"I’ve scored liked this before for my old clubs - Liege, Benfica, in China and with the national team,” Witsel said of his audacious acrobatic attempt on his home debut in a Dortmund shirt. "I’ve played here before, but to score was crazy – the atmosphere is something else. I just saw the ball in the air and just did it. If I have the opportunity, I do my best to score. I’m not a striker, though! (laughs)"