from The New York Times
We used to say that soccer was a game that isn’t over until the 90th minute.
But time has become elastic. In Dortmund, Germany, on Tuesday night, the home side, Borussia, appeared to be going out of the Champions League. It needed two goals to turn around the contest against Málaga, and the 90 minutes was over.
Then, amid a frenzy that seemed to get to everyone — even the match officials — Borussia’s swarming attacks overcame Málaga’s defenses. The Bees, as Dortmunders call their team, scored twice in the time that the referee adds for stoppages, including injuries and deliberate time wasting.
This turnaround beats even the comeback in 1999 in which Manchester United scored twice against Bayern Munich in the dying moments of the Champions League final played in Barcelona.
That was a legendary finish. Tuesday was something else. Neither team had scored during the first leg in Málaga, but when the official hour and a half was over in Dortmund’s cavernous stadium, there was a gathering despair, a desperation, among the vast majority of the 65,000 fans.
Just 2,500 were cheering. They had come from the Spanish resort city, and their team was leading, 2-1. All Málaga’s players had to do was run down the clock for those precious minutes of stoppage time.
They couldn’t do it. Dortmund abandoned its smooth passing game and launched the ball high and long into the Málaga goal mouth. One goal brought parity, and the second broke the deadlock. With the score 3-2, the Scottish referee Craig Thomson blew the final whistle.
Do we call it the greatest comeback of all time? The eternal spirit of the Germans? Or something else?
“It is crazy,” said Dortmund Coach Jürgen Klopp. “Absolutely crazy. I cannot describe what is happening inside me. I would have to ask a doctor.”
“It’s like something out of a Hollywood movie,” said Dortmund defender Neven Subotic. “I really never had such an experience in my life.” And it has been some life, as Subotic was born in the former Yugoslavia, moved to Germany as a refugee from the Bosnian War, went to school in the United States and at 24 represents Dortmund and Serbia at soccer.
As Subotic spoke, he saw and heard Málaga’s players gathered around a television screen in the tunnel beneath the stands. Some were in tears, while others were screaming at television replays that showed that not one but four Dortmund players were in an offside position in the buildup to the final goal.
“Yeah,” Subotic acknowledged, “it does seem to be offside. But this is football. You know what? I don’t even care if it was deserved or not.” And with that, he rejoined the celebration.
The furor that becomes almost commonplace when one team loses and another gets lucky took due course.
The darkest view came in the dead of night, when Málaga’s owner, Sheik Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani, posted this judgment on Twitter: “Thank you very much for the team you have been Champions on the pitch. I’m sorry to go out this way injustice and racism.” “This is not football,” the Tweets continued, “but racism and clear of all.”
There is already an ongoing feud between UEFA, which governs European soccer, and Thani. They are fighting in court over UEFA’s decision to ban Málaga from the Champions League next season because the club’s debts were not paid in due time.
Maybe, like everyone else, the sheik’s view of Tuesday night was affected by emotions. Maybe the referee and his assistants were not the only ones struggling to keep their eyes and minds on the task at hand, because not only was Borussia’s final scorer, Felipe Santana, offside when he bundled the ball over the line, but Málaga’s second goal, by Eliseu, was a good yard offside.