Borussia Dortmund's U23s suffered a 2-1 defeat away to relegation-threatened MSV Duisburg. The Zebras caused the Black & Yellows major problems from the beginning. But because MSV squandered too many opportunities, things got exciting once again. The crossbar ultimately denied BVB an equaliser in stoppage time.

The scenario: BVB had made the journey to Duisburg brimming with self-confidence. The U23s had lost only one of their previous 11 third-tier games. On the road in particular, the Black & Yellows have been almost unbeatable this season. BVB had not left the pitch on the losing side since their match in Aue in November 2023 and had won each of their last three away games in a row. Duisburg, meanwhile, had claimed victory in only four of their 14 home games to date.

Personnel matters: BVB coach Jan Zimmermann was without nine players for the game away to MSV Duisburg, including the recently outstanding Ole Pohlmann. Falko Michel started in place of the top scorer (nine goals, nine assists). Zimmermann made three changes to the starting line-up compared to the spectacular 4-3 away victory in Unterhaching last time out. Back in between the sticks was Duisburg native Marcel Lotka, who had been among the substitutes for the first team's 2-0 win at Union Berlin on Saturday. Also among the starters was Antonis Aidonis.

The match & analysis: Duisburg got off to a flying start in front of 13,114 spectators (among them 340 BVB fans), who provided a great backdrop. The Black & Yellows had their first hearts-in-mouths moment after a matter of seconds. The eye-catching Niklas Kölle powered his way down the left flank, but the midfielder attempted to cross into the box instead of going for goal himself.

BVB came through the incident unscathed but the same could not be said of the next one. A ball in behind from Thomas Pledl picked out Alexander Esswein, who laid it off to former Dortmund player Daniel Ginczek. The striker fired the ball at Dortmund's Lion Semic from a matter of metres and it took a deflection off him onto the left upright. Esswein reacted instantly and slotted the rebound under the crossbar to put the hosts 1-0 up (12). Having taken the lead, the Zebras continued to apply pressure. Esswein's shot from a good 20 metres out was comfortably saved by Lotka (15). But as the U23s had little to offer Duisburg in reply, the latter struck again a short while later: a cross from Ginczek into the penalty area was slotted over the line by Pledl to make it 2-0 (17).

BVB, however, offered nothing going forward. A deflected long-range effort from Ayman Azhil was the only notable attacking action in the first period (26). The home team's match-plan continued to pay dividends, however. In particular, they caused the Dortmund players, who lost possession too many times, major problems with their quick switch-play. But despite some very good chances, a third goal did not materialise. The best opportunity saw Lotka come out on top against Esswein in a one-on-one battle. Pledl fired the follow-up narrowly wide of the top right corner (35).

Coach Jan Zimmermann made one change at the break: Franz Pfanne replaced Mateu Morey, who did not have a good day two days after turning 24. Dortmund's coach hoped the introduction of the veteran would provide the team with more stability. And BVB did indeed gain more confidence, but continued to have major problems imposing their own game. Zimmermann's team were completely unable to cope with Duisburg's intense and aggressive style of play.

The bar saved BVB from another setback in the 53rd minute, with Ginczek thundering the ball against it from 20 metres. Shortly afterwards, the attacker made way for another ex-Dortmund player: Alaa Bakir. Duisburg subsequently took some of the tempo out of the game, but remained the more dangerous team. A shot from Jonas Michelbrink was fished out of the corner by Lotka (70).

BVB did regain some hope out of the blue. Central defender Papadopoulos headed a free-kick from Azhil into the net to pull a goal back unexpectedly (75). While MSV increasingly withdrew, BVB gave it everything – and came agonisingly close to getting their reward. Rodney Elongo-Yombo unleashed a powerful shot from 18 metres out. The ball rebounded off the crossbar and onto the back of MSV goalkeeper Vincent Müller, but it did not cross the line.

Coach Jan Zimmermann: "Congratulations to MSV on their ultimately hard-fought but not undeserved victory. It was definitely a spirited performance from them all. I unfortunately can't say the same for my team. We didn't have a good first half at all; we got everything wrong that you can get wrong. We really brought Duisburg to life and woke up the stadium. But I think we showed a good reaction in the second half. Even if not everything worked out. Nonetheless, we tried everything to turn the game around. We gave away one or two counter-attacking chances, but with a bit more luck we could have gotten a point. But in the end, we didn't make enough of our possession."

Michael Eberwein: "It of course went extremely unfortunately. When you go 2-0 down so early on and are not in the game at all yourselves, then it gets very difficult. We tried everything again in the second half, but we clearly lost the game in the first 20 minutes. It's incomprehensible to me how you cannot turn up for the first few minutes of a game like that. There's no excuse for the opening phase. We knew that Duisburg would be aggressive today and embrace every challenge, but we simply couldn't hold out. On top of that, we lost the ball a lot and had to keep chasing it."

Outlook: The U23s will play host to Arminia Bielefeld at Stadion Rote Erde on Saturday (9 March). Kick-off is at 14:00 CET. The reverse fixture ended 2-2, with Elongo-Yombo scoring twice for BVB.

Goals: 1-0 Esswein (12), 2-0 Pledl (17), 2-1 Papadopoulos (75)

U23s: Lotka – Morey (Pfanne, 45), Papadopoulos, Aidonis (Otuali, 60), Semic (Tattermusch, 78) – Roggow (Pudel, 87), Azhil, Eberwein – Hettwer, Elongo-Yombo, Michel

Phillip Oldenburg