By Preben Gietz
There are many truisms in soccer. One of them states that if you waste one scoring opportunity after another, you will pay for it. Teams that dominate games but squander their chances often times concede an unnecessary goal and drop points. In those moments, the fan on the couch all-knowingly exclaims, that’s what happens when you don’t capitalize on your chances. Only the very, very good teams manage to avoid this agonizing scenario. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson have become masters of winning those types of games. That is how championships are won. And, this is exactly what Borussia Dortmund is on the verge of achieving.
On Friday night, Dortmund beat FC Cologne 1-0. Borussia enjoyed 60 percent of possession, had an edge of 24 to 7 in shots and hit the crossbar twice. Michael Rensing, the once-upon-a-time heir to King Kahn at Bayern, had one of his more memorable performances. Again and again he denied the black and yellow offensive onslaught with mind-boggling saves. A nice strike by Robert Lewandowski just before halftime gave Dortmund the lead. Borussia continued creating chances throughout the second half. Most games have that one critical moment – the moment that both teams will look back on after the game. It happened in the 56th minute. Out of nowhere, Cologne’s Slovenian center forward, Milivoje Novakovic, popped up in a one-on-one situation with Dortmund’s goalkeeper. He went for the far corner and missed the target. It was Cologne’s first, and only, scoring opportunity in this game. Cologne’s coach, Frank Schafer, said after the game, “The only way we could have won this game was with a lucky punch. And we were on the verge of landing one through Novakovic.” They had their one shot at a draw and did not take it.
At the final whistle Dortmund collected another three points. By now it would almost seem wrong if this wasn’t the case. It was their 19th win in 25 games. They have conceded a ridiculous 14 goals. In comparison, the second lowest total in the Bundesliga is 29. As German tabloid ‘Bild’ pointed out this week, Borussia may well break a few all-time Bundesliga records this season. Bayern Munich won 25 games in 1972/73 and conceded 21 goals in 2007/08. To enter the record books, Dortmund needs to win six out of the nine remaining games and concede no more than seven goals. There is one more question. When are they officially going to be crowned Champions of Germany? Twice Bayern popped champagne bottles on game day 30. Ahead of the rest of the weekend’s action, Dortmund enjoys a 15 point and 23 goal cushion at the top of the league. If this lead does not shrink, the club will win its first trophy since 2002 on game day 29. This would be an unfathomable achievement from this youthful team. Their way of winning certain games, however, makes them look very mature.