MÖNCHENGLADBACH, Germany — Christian Pulisic starred in his final game in Germany.
Borussia Dortmund defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0 in front of an announced 54,022 visitors Saturday at the Borussia Park. It was the big title decider in Germany. For the first time since 2010, the Bundesliga title was decided on the final matchday of the season. Going into matchday 34, Borussia Dortmund was just two points behind Bayern Munich, who played at the same time about 400 miles away.
“We had excitement for the first time in a long time,” Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre said after the game.
For Pulisic, who will now move on to Chelsea, the season had been full of ups and downs with Borussia Dortmund. A preseason injury and Jadon Sancho on fire meant that the 20-year-old American served as mostly a rotation player this season. He played a small role as Dortmund at first marched through the Bundesliga, quickly building a nine-point lead over rival Bayern Munich. Then came the collapse against rival Schalke, a match that saw captain Marco Reus sent off with a red card.
Reus’ ban meant Pulisic was back in the starting XI.
Dortmund fell four points behind Bayern heading into Matchday 32, when a Pulisic goal secured a big point. Then on matchday 33, Pulisic scored again in Dortmund’s 3-2 victory over Fortuna Düsseldorf. That result, closed the gap to just two points. It was an emotional affair, Pulisic’s last game in front of the 81,000 faithful — who frenetically celebrated the American’s time with the Black and Yellows — at Dortmund’s SIGNAL IDUNA Park.
“It was a very emotional day for me,” Pulisic said after the Düsseldorf game. “It was difficult ahead of the match, of course, but then it became easier as the game progressed, and, obviously, it was great for me to get a goal.”
The job, however, was not yet done. Everyone in Dortmund, including Pulisic, hoped for a happy ending on the final day of the season.
“We can only focus on ourselves . . .We keep our belief. If we win, then we’ve got a chance,” Pulisic said ahead of the final match against Borussia Mönchengladbach, commonly known as Gladbach. “It depends on Bayern’s result, but hopefully we’ll do it.”
Four minutes into Saturday’s matches, Bayern took a lead in Munich.
And Dortmund’s opponent started well. In the 11th minute, Gladbach had the first chance of the game when Ibrahima Traoré hit the crossbar with a curled effort from outside the box. It was one of the few highlights in the first half, during which both sides neutralized each other.
Most of the action in the first half was in the stands. Gladbach fans celebrated Bayern scoring a second goal in its match, and then they grew silent when video review took the goal back.
Meanwhile, BVB took the lead in the 45th minute. Jadon Sancho hammered home a cross from Reus. But in dramatic fashion, the goal was only allowed after a lengthy check to see whether the ball had crossed the line.
And Pulisic? He had a quiet first half. He produced two crosses and 17 accurate passes in the first 45 minutes.
Then just after the halftime break, Dortmund found its second goal. This time, Pulisic was right in the center of the action. A pass from the edge of the box left the 20-year-old wide open. Pulisic broke into the box on the right, looked up once and spotted Reus, who easily tapped home Pulisic’s cross.
“Overall, we made a big step forward,” Reus said after the game. “But in some matches, we lacked greed to make that final step and win the title.”
Dortmund may have not won the title, but the club was expected to have a difficult, transition year. Instead, the club went toe-to-toe with Bayern until the final matchday.
But in the parallel game, Bayern held a massive lead and eventually beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 to cruise toward its seventh consecutive Bundesliga title.
On the final two days of the season, all games take place at the same time. It provides plenty of drama, but can be difficult for the players.
Every time Bayern scored, Gladbach fans celebrated at their game. They needed Frankfurt to lose in order to keep up their hopes to qualify for the Champions League.
“It was brutal hearing the result from the other stadium,” Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki said after the game.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Favre said. “We tried to focus on our game. Nonetheless, we are disappointed, but we should be happy with this season.”
Not exactly the send off Pulisic hoped for in his final match for Dortmund. But statistically, Pulisic was one of the best players on the pitch. He finished the game with 45 accurate passes (80.4 percent) and played four key passes, one of them leading directly to Reus’ goal that finished the game.
He finished his last three games of the season with two goals and an assist.
Perhaps not quite the happy ending that Pulisic was hoping for, but on a personal level, it was a strong finish to a season that was not always easy for the American national team player.
You came to us as a boy and left as a man. Thank you, Christian 💛 pic.twitter.com/xluTDthU1O
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) May 18, 2019