Dreams can become nightmares. Holstein Kiel found out how true that was as Borussia Dortmund ended their DFB-Pokal run in the most brutal of fashions.
Going into the game, Kiel had plenty of cause for optimism. They had already seen off Bayern Munich earlier in this competition and have had a superb season in the league. Confidence would have been even a little more higher when the name Erling Håland was conspicuously missing from the team sheet, the Norwegian struck down with muscular problems.
Not even half an hour had passed before it was clear the road to Berlin would end here for the Storks. The individual qualities of Giovanni Reyna, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus had combined to make it 3-0, and any last spark of hope was extinguished by half time by Thorgan Hazard and Jude Bellingham.
Kiel were far from faultless in the 5-0 scoreline. Their defence was always one step behind, the wide players could do little to stop Dortmund’s assaults, and a suicidal back pass from Lee Jae-song, which directly led to the fourth goal, was never going to be left unpunished against a team of this class.
It’s hard to get past the impact of the last few weeks. The entire squad has twice been sent into 14-day quarantine due to COVID-19 cases at the club, and at least one of the starting line-up (Jannik Dehm) had had to suffer virus’s effects.
They had only been training a few days before they played in Osnabrück seven days earlier, and had a tough away trip to Nürnberg in between. The relatively small squad has given its all this season to put the club in the position it’s in – it’s only natural that they were more battle-weary then against Bayern back in January.
The second half was about damage limitation. Why else would they take off Fabian Reese? The ex-Schalke forward had easily been their best player in the first half, hitting the post when, at 3-0, there may have still been a way back into the game. Assuming he wasn’t injured, there is only one explanation.
On Tuesday, they will be back in league action against Sandhausen, a team who have showed incredible resilience since coming out of quarantine themselves. Three days after that, they have a derby with St. Pauli, in the hottest form in the league. And three days after that, they play Hannover.
If that schedule isn’t tough enough, the DFL have now arranged the one remaining outstanding match against Jahn Regensburg three days after that, with yet another game against Karlsruhe to come three days further on. It’s a run-in that’s enough to send teams into the ground.
The point is, they couldn’t let themselves get butchered any further for fear of all confidence being sucked away, and there was no point running dry players like Reese or Dehm, also replaced at the break. That Dortmund went easier on them, without scoring anymore, was a small mercy.
There will be no time to drown their sorrows or feel sorry for themselves. They have to go again, as if this night in Dortmund never happened. There can be no hangover whilst they remain perfectly placed for a top three finish in the 2. Bundesliga. The disappointment will linger though. It will be easier said than done.