When Sebastien Haller opened the scoring for Borussia Dortmund against 10-man Augsburg at the WWK Arena on Sunday, it was a powerful moment for football, not just the Bundesliga title race.
The Black and Yellows beat their opponents 3-0 to give themselves the advantage over Bayern Munich in the title race heading into the final game of the season. Former Dortmund boss Marco Rose had done Edin Terzic’s side a massive favour as RB Leipzig beat the reigning champions 3-1 on Saturday to give BVB the edge.
Dortmund’s destiny is in their own hands and they need to just better Bayern’s result at the weekend to claim their first Bundesliga title since 2011-12. Their triumph 11 years ago was special, but this one would be even more spectacular because of two particular players, Haller and Marco Reus.
For Haller to play a starring role in the game that has his team on the cusp of ending Bayern’s 10 years of dominance was incredible to see. The striker had to face the toughest of personal battles shortly after joining the Black and Yellows as he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
The club, the fans and the footballing community were all behind him. He had to undergo two surgeries and chemotherapy in the second half of 2022, and his fighting spirit prevailed. On January 2 he was given the green light to return to training, and his contributions have been great in Dortmund’s title charge.
The 28-year-old has scored nine goals in the top flight in 18 appearances since his debut towards the end of January. His physical presence has been most welcome in attack and his eye for goal has ensured the Black and Yellows have stayed in Bayern’s peripheral vision, waiting for Thomas Tuchel’s side to hand them an opening. Since the season restart in January, Dortmund have dropped just nine points from a possible 54, winning 14 out of 18 to keep themselves in the hunt for glory.
Haller’s goal return in this run has been exceptional given the nightmares that he has been through this year, nightmares that many of us can’t even comprehend. To go from that, to then easily rediscovering his form on the pitch has been a truly inspiring story, one that will go down in history should Dortmund lift the Bundesliga Meisterschale on Saturday.
When you think of Dortmund over the past decade, there is one player who probably comes to mind as effectively the face of the club. Reus has been Dortmund’s talisman for the period of Bayern’s dominance, joining them from Borussia Monchengladbach after their last title win.
Reus has been a remarkable servant at Signal Iduna Park. The 33-year-old has been involved in 282 goals in 386 matches across all competitions in the famous black and yellow. He has been one of the Bundesliga’s biggest stars for many years and, with his career starting to wind down, winning his first Bundesliga would be so fitting for a player who has given this club everything.
The versatile attacker has experienced a Champions League final with Dortmund, won two DFB-Pokals and three DFL Supercups. The league title has long evaded him, with Dortmund going closest to Bayern in 2018-19, finishing two points behind the serial champions.
Reus is also a player who has been plagued with injuries at the worst times during his career, mostly ahead of international tournaments. In 2014, when Germany won their fourth World Cup, Reus was named in the squad but a foot injury sustained in the final friendly before the tournament saw him miss out on what would have been the greatest accomplishment of his career.
This misfortune followed him for Euro 2016 when he was once again ruled out. He made his World Cup debut in 2018 but later missed Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup. Reus’ injury list over the years is not the prettiest but his determination and character has always seen him rise above the many physical setbacks he has faced. That is why a Bundesliga title would be most deserving.
Everyone connected with Dortmund will feel like they're holding their breath for 90 minutes on Saturday, and should they get themselves over the line, this title triumph will be hugely enhanced due to the fairytales it would create for both Reus and Haller.