A jaunt into the German Bundesliga: Yesterday afternoon, the 50th Bundesliga season has come to an end. While the first places have been already allocated for a couple of weeks, the bottom region of the standings was not decided yet. Fortuna Düsseldorf, FC Augsburg and 1899 Hoffenheim had still the chance to combat for the rescuing 15th and the 16th place that qualifies a team for two relegation matches against the third positioned team in 2nd Bundesliga. As Fortuna Düsseldorf were clearly defeated in Hannover and as FC Augsburg managed a safe and rarely threatened win at home, all 1899 Hoffenheim needed was a win - unfortunately away in Dortmund facing the Champions League finalists.
|Drees disallowing a goal after conversation with Brand (c) sky news|
DFB officials Dr. Jochen Drees (1970), Tobias Christ (1976) and Benjamin Brand (1989) were assigned to take charge of this decisive clash. What DFB could not know is that the youngest of those three match officials, 23 year-old Brand, would have to take the probably most important decision in his career under immense pressure, also exposing a paramount example for how to adequately deal with the offside variation "interfering with an opponent". But step by step.
Dortmund managed an early goal and controlled the game in its first 60 minutes. Then things changed and Hoffenheim became grittier, because they had to. One of their strikers was obviously fouled by BVB defender Hummels in the box in the 76th minute and Drees correctly and immediately pointed to the spot. Hoffenheim's Salihović scored the equalizer and his team nourished new hope and regained their strength. Only a few minutes later, Hoffenheim striker Schipplock appeared totally free in front of goalkeeper Weidenfeller, who fouled him and thus denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Drees correctly awarded the next penalty to the underdogs and sent off Weidenfeller with a direct red card. As Dortmund had already executed their three possible substitutions, midfield player Großkreutz took Weidenfeller's place, which however did not change anything. It was again Salihović who used the chance and scored the 1:2 goal which qualified Hoffenheim for the relegation match to be played next week at that moment. But then, the stoppage time commenced.
Please find this high-quality video and go to match-minute 90+2:20 (select the 2nd video)!
As you can obviously see, Robert Lewandowski was in an offside position when Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer executed the shot. For AR2 Benjamin Brand, it was obviously not clear whether he influenced or distracted the goalkeeper Casteels. For this reason, he stood still and did not move to the midfield line thus indicating doubts. Drees initially allowed the goal. Via micro, Drees was asked to come to him in order to consult each other though. Drees confirmed that there was an active movement by Lewandowski who attempted to reach the ball. The behaviour of Hoffenheim's goalkeeper obviously was influenced by this. Therefore, it's a clear case of interfering with an opponent meaning that passive offside has become active. Perhaps Lewandowski even touched the ball with his foot in a minimal manner, the replays are not clear enough to say so - but this does not matter.
Besides this correct and model decision taken by Drees and Brand, one has to emphasize the importance of this call. In a full stadium of 80.000 spectators, a 23-year old assistant referee, who is in his first season in Bundesliga, made this call totally right. And that under immense pressure. Flagging or not flagging decided on what team would go into 2nd Bundesliga and what team get a second chance. Respect!
Taking offside decisions in a correct way in additional time in Dortmund is possible, even though it seemed to be different in a Champions League match this season.