Borussia Dortmund were forced to settle for a point in their hard-fought draw with Hertha Berlin on Friday night, in a game which saw 20-year-old Mikel Merino make his Bundesliga debut.
Spanish Under-21 international Merino became the latest young talent to be handed a Bundesliga start by Thomas Tuchel on Friday. A midfielder by trade, Merino was deployed as a centre-back against Hertha, and showed remarkable composure on his Bundesliga bow - even if his Dortmund side had to settle for a draw at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK. He spoke to bundesliga.com after the game...
bundesliga.com: Mikel Merino, this was your first match for Borussia Dortmund. How did you feel when Thomas Tuchel said you would play today?
Mikel Merino: I felt great because it was my first match with the team, with my teammates – and it was at home, with the crowd and all the people. At the beginning I was a little bit nervous, but I think it's normal to be nervous with this stadium, with it being my first match. I think that in the second half I played with more confidence. My teammates helped me a lot and I was very happy to be in the squad, and to help the team.
bundesliga.com: It was a difficult match today. Hertha played very physically, and so did Dortmund in the second half. Was it hard for you to come in, in this kind of game?
Mikel Merino: Yes, because it was my debut, and it was against one of the best clubs in Germany, in the world. Hertha are a great club with some very strong players. Physically it was very difficult because they were on top form – they didn't get tired, they were able to run around a lot. But in the second half we played with more speed. We moved the ball very quickly and they were forced to run more, so it was easier.
bundesliga.com: Was it one point gained, or two points dropped?
Mikel Merino: Well looking at how the match went, you could say we won a point because we equalised at 1-1, but at our stadium, with our fans, it should have been easier to win. But you have matches like that, and I think the team has to be happy for the fantastic effort we put in.
bundesliga.com: Can you tell us a bit about how the last weeks have been for you? It was your first appearance today, but it perhaps hasn't been so easy to come into this Dortmund squad – how do you feel about it?
Mikel Merino: No, it wasn't easy, but I'm very happy to finally be able to play, to be with the squad, to have played my first match. I'm very, very happy to be here.
bundesliga.com: Today you played alongside Matthias Ginter, who's also very young. How did it work, playing together? You're 20, he's 22...
Mikel Merino: Well it's easy to work with my teammates, whether they're young or old. We're all good players and we can understand each other, so it's easy to play together.
bundesliga.com: Did he help you a little bit?
Mikel Merino: Yes we were talking throughout the whole match, about how to move, how to defend, things like that. The whole team helped me out.
bundesliga.com: How did Thomas Tuchel prepare you for the match? Did he say anything special, because it was your first time in the squad today?
Mikel Merino: Well he talked with all the players and told us what he wanted us to do. The staff prepare all of us for every game. We prepare very well for our matches, and I think that helps us to play better and know what we have to do.
Interview by Dietmar Nolte.