Borussia Dortmund defeated FC Augsburg away from home to overtake Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga, with Sébastien Haller scoring twice.
In what has been one of the most dramatic weekends in recent Bundesliga memory, the 2022/23 title race took yet another twist as Bayern Munich lost to RB Leipzig, which allowed Borussia Dortmund to overtake them at the top of the standings after a hard fought 3-0 win against FC Augsburg. Sébastien Haller led the charge with two very important goals in the second half.
The goals, and the team’s overall performance were a testament to the growth both Haller and Dortmund have experienced this season. For Haller, his performances as of late have been a meaningful victory over the health issues he faced at the start of the season. His desire to fight and eventually win his battle with cancer allowed him to come back and play a very special role for a Dortmund side that have seen both the highest of highs and lowest of lows this year.
After the game, Haller emphasized that Dortmund could be “very proud” of what they achieved on the day, but at the same time seemed very level headed, knowing that there is still one more hurdle to get over. In talking about the goals he scored, he acknowledged that the first in particular wasn’t the easiest to convert:
"“Let’s say that I prefer to score some of the most difficult goals [laughs]…sometimes it’s even easier when you don’t think too much. It’s just natural. You want to hit the target. You know that you will need to cross the ball a bit more because the keeper is in your way…I was just happy that it went through because it was really important for the team and [our] confidence.”"
Haller also underlined that scoring the second goal, which was more of a tap in, could be considered the more difficult of the two:
"“When you score the first goal and you are really tired, you need to stay focused on your movement to score another one…I was happy to be there at a good moment, good place, good timing, and then with the second one we knew it would be even easier [to win].”"
Staying focused wasn’t just on the agenda for Haller, but for the rest of his teammates. Augsburg were down to 10 men and yet at times it didn’t feel like they were playing a man down, as they still did their best to make a nuisance of themselves in Dortmund’s half. They put together some threatening opportunities, especially after Dortmund opened the scoring via Haller.
With the game being as physically demanding as it was against Augsburg, it only added to the weight of the occasion. Dortmund knew coming into the fixture that they had the opportunity to leapfrog Bayern, and there were certainly strong mental and emotional factors for the players to address, both as as team and individually. Dortmund have often been criticized for not having the “mentality” to come up big in high pressure situations, and Haller provided some insight into his mind prior to the match, knowing that there were those watching that expected his side to slip up due to said pressure:
"“Lets say that we’ve wasted a few chances in the past, and thanks to this we are experienced so the first thing I thought in my mind was ‘Ok, but we are still second’ so now we just need to just keep the same principle, keep the same investment, try to stay patient ands enjoy the game like we did over the last weeks.”"
Haller stressed that not making the game “too emotional” was also a key factor in how his side performed and prevailed away to Augsburg. He emphasized that there was a togetherness on the pitch that was extremely important for them to be in the position that they are now.
In one of the other post match interviews, Edin Terzić described Haller as miracle due to the trials he’s faced, how far he’s come and how important he is to this Dortmund side’s success. Haller was quite humble when asked how he felt about the situation the team found themselves in today, with their current position at the top of the Bundesliga certainly not an expected scenario six months ago:
"“If someone would have told me that six months ago, I wouldn’t believe them…but now we just need to believe and stay positive…because a lot of things are possible if we believe and if we stick together, and the last months since I’ve been here I’ve seen a lot of good things in the group and I can tell you it’s not finished.”"
Haller is certainly correct in his assessment, as there is still one more game for Dortmund to overcome; a home game against Mainz. Dortmund’s home record is the best in the league this year, with only one loss recorded.
Die Schwarzgelben will have to win to assure their status as Bundesliga champions, but they have every reason to be confident going into the game. It would only be fitting if Haller himself were to have the decisive say in Dortmund’s final game. He has gone from strength to strength and looks set to help paint a wonderful piece of history for the club in one week’s time.