Sebastien Haller leaves Borussia Dortmund on brink of ending Bayern Munich’s 10-year reign

Striker, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, scored twice to send Dortmund top of Bundesliga with one match to go

Borussia Dortmund players celebrate after Dortmund's Sebastien Haller, right, scored his side's second goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund at the WWK Arena in Augsburg, Germany, Sunday, May 21, 2023.  (AP Photo / Matthias Schrader)
Powered by automated translation

At just before 9pm on Saturday, Joao Cancelo did not look remotely like someone who had just earned another Premier League winner’s medal.

The Portuguese full-back appeared to be on the brink of crying. If they were shed, the tears would have been ones of anguish rather than joy.

Wearing the new – mostly white – shirt of Bayern Munich, he stood on the edge of the area staring vacantly into the teeming mass of ultras behind the goal at Allianz Arena.

The fans were not for shifting, cheering their players to the echo, despite the fact it was well after the final whistle of a game in which Bayern had thrown away a lead to lose 3-1 to RB Leipzig. Neither was Cancelo.

At precisely the same time over in England, Arsenal were putting the cap on their own Premier League demise by losing to Nottingham Forest. It meant Manchester City, in absentia, were crowned champions again.

Cancelo is due one of the 40 winner’s medal the Premier League handed out to City, having played 17 times for them this season before he was exiled on loan to Munich midway through the campaign.

Joao Cancelo looks dejected after Bayern Munich's loss to RB Leipzig. Getty Images

And yet he was distraught at the turn of events in the job in which he is now most invested. Manchester City could not have been further from his mind.

Bayern’s loss to Leipzig confirmed Champions League football for the victors. More notably, however, it left Germany’s one great superpower on the brink of passing up their Bundesliga crown for the first time in over a decade.

At that point, they still held a one-point lead at the top of the table, but if Borussia Dortmund could take a win at nearby Augsburg a day later, they would assume first place with a game to play.

It was never a given. Augsburg’s 30,000-capacity WWK Arena has been a tough place for Dortmund to visit in recent seasons, and their away form has been indifferent during this campaign, too.

And yet, bayed on by extraordinary travelling support, they achieved it. Bundesliga clubs are obliged to hand over 10 per cent of tickets to the away side.

By rights, there should have been 2,200 standing and 800 seated Dortmund supporters. Instead, the new, compact stadium on the outskirts of the ancient Bavarian town was at least one-third yellow.

It wasn’t exactly the Yellow Wall of the Signal Iduna Park, but the Yellow Corner was impressive nonetheless.

Their side, who were without their injured talisman Jude Bellingham, needed them, too. Augsburg are not yet clear of relegation themselves, and are clawing for survival. They were by no means easy-beats.

The home side’s task was made harder when defender Felix Uduokhai was sent off in the 38th minute for denying a goalscoring opportunity, but Dortmund could not find a breakthrough until deep into the second half.

In the 58th minute, Sebastien Haller finally broke the shackles to allow Dortmund supporters to breathe. The striker, who is in remission after being diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, added another before the end and Julian Brandt struck a third in injury time.

“I am proud and satisfied,” Haller said. “We know that now it is in our hands. The game was not easy but we created a lot of chances. We played quite good but we didn’t score.

“We stayed together, stuck to the plan and stuck to the principals. We tried to stay patient. With one man down it is supposed to be easier, but we knew [from a previous game] against Stuttgart that is not the case.

“We learned from our mistakes. We tried to make them tired, and in the end we succeeded.”

Dortmund will host Mainz on the final day of the season on Saturday. At the same time, Bayern will be hoping to extend their run of Bundesliga titles to 11 when they take on Cologne.

“In football, anything is possible,” said Karim Adeyemi, Dortmund’s jet-heeled winger who is the Bundesliga’s rookie of the season.

“When Bayern lost it was good for us, and now we have won a difficult game. We are really happy, but we have one game left and we are excited for that game. At home, we are never nervous.”

Updated: May 22, 2023, 6:40 AM