northThat emotional sweet that tastes especially good in this passionate stadium was not even missing. BVB victory over SC Freiburg took on increasingly concrete forms. The joy over Niclas Füllkrug's goal for the final 3-0 had just died down when Mateu Morey, a full-back who has had a contract with BVB for four and a half years, entered the field.

A footballer who had already played 13 Bundesliga games and seven Champions League games with the Revierklub, and who still had a surprising debut: after a serious knee injury that kept Morey out of the competition for almost three years, He played in front of a crowd for the first time at BVB. Before his accident, spectators were not allowed to come due to the pandemic.

Now, for the first time, the packed south stand celebrated Morey's destiny. sports director Sebastian Kehl reported on “many personal crises” the 23-year-old Spaniard had previously gone through, and coach Edin Terzic said emotionally: “He is our secret hero.” very happy. We couldn't finish the job like we hadn't done in a long time.

“Last week was different”

“That was the best performance we've shown in months,” Kehl said, “It was fun today.” BVB not only started 2024 fifth in the table, but also in a state of rehabilitation, and it was unclear whether they would recover from the numerous setbacks in December with six games without a win. Now Füllkrug managed to make a surprising provisional balance for the new year: “We have achieved 13 points in five games, no other team has achieved it, at least not yet. It's very nice.”

Especially because not only did these numbers look good, but also the football that night against Freiburg, which was plagued by many injuries, especially in the defensive aspect. “We have taken good steps and now we feel very comfortable with the ball,” said Donyell Malen, author of the first two goals (minutes 16 and 45). This was the most important development of the night. “I think today we realized that we all had the same idea at the same time, that last week was different,” summarized Edin Terzic. And in many previous games too.

After Marcel Sabitzer and Felix NmechaAlthough the two midfielders who arrived last summer were unable to improve their football level, winter newcomer Ian Maatsen (on loan from Chelsea) is increasingly becoming a key player.

His usual position is in the left back of the defensive line, but when he has the ball he plays in spaces. Emre Can in the central midfield, which gets carried away a bit. Maatsen shines with clean technique and intelligent solutions that raise the entire level of the game. “This is a tactical variant that we were comfortable with and that worked very well,” Kehl said.

Donyell Malen (left) and Niclas Füllkrug harmonized especially well.

Donyell Malen (left) and Niclas Füllkrug harmonized especially well.

Image: AP

Füllkrug is equally enthusiastic about his Dutch colleague, with whom he had a good relationship from the beginning. “I must say that I get along well with Ian on the field,” said the striker after Maatsen, intuitively, prepared his goal to make it 3-0 with a cross without looking into the area (87th). Füllkrug, for its part, assisted in the goals of Malen, who is also getting better and better after many poor performances in the autumn.

Caution is advised when drawing final conclusions, as Dortmund's rivals are Darmstadt, Cologne, Bochum, Heidenheim and Freiburg were conducive to this recovery process, but statistically the most dangerous forward pairing in the league currently plays for BVB: Füllkrug is averaging five goals and two assists in the five games in 2024. And Malen scored four goals and set up another during this time.

“Today he played an extraordinary game,” Kehl said of Malen, “he laughed a lot on the field, that's always a good sign when a player is happy.” This is another difference with many phases of the first half of the season. when the team did not seem very harmonious and when conflicts were repeatedly visible from the outside. At the moment, everyone seems interested in the work that needs to be done. Füllkrug highlighted “diligence” in both defense and attack.

“We help each other,” said Malen, who presented Füllkrug with a birthday cake decorated with candles in front of the substitutes' bench: “Great action! “Today I also gave him two, so it's a good revenge,” Füllkrug thanked. Dortmund's mood has not improved since the traumatic championship loss last May.