After the derby win against 1. FC Köln, Breel Embolo sits down to talk about the empty stands in the Borussia-Park, his goal to make it 1-0 and the scenes after the final whistle.
Breel, what was it like to play in front of empty stands?
Embolo: Of course, it was an unusual situation, but we just have to accept that that’s the way it is. We really wanted to win the derby, and we wanted to keep pace at the top. Despite everything else, there were three important points up for grabs. The surrounding circumstances can’t be an excuse. The tension was there right from the start, and we were highly focused. We trained in the empty stadium the previous day in order to get a feel for what it would be like. That worked well.
How did the game go, from your perspective?
Embolo: The match got off to an intense start. We started well, and were aggressive from the start. That’s really important, especially in a derby. We played well, which allowed us to find our way into the game and we took control of the match after scoring the opener. We started the second half strong and deservedly made it 2-0. By that point, we had Köln firmly under control. After that, we lost control a bit. There was a weird ten-minute stretch where we made things difficult for ourselves. Allowing Köln to score was unnecessary. We could have put the game to bed earlier, so that we wouldn’t have had anything to worry about in the closing minutes. Overall, it was a good, aggressive performance from us. That’s exactly what you need to win a derby.
You played a decisive role in the result after scoring the opener and contributing to Jorge Meré’s own goal.
Embolo: The goal to make it 1-0 was pure instinct. After Oscar’s cross I thought that Flaco would dummy the ball, allowing me to take it on my right foot with two quick touches. But, I got it on my left foot. I spoke a lot with our assistant coach Alexander Zickler this past week. He told me that, as a striker, you can’t spend too much time thinking, but rather have to shoot and trust in yourself. That’s why I just took the shot. You also spend time practicing what to do in such situations. It’s good that it paid off so quickly. It proves that I’m on the right path.
How important was that goal for you on a personal level?
Embolo: It hasn’t been easy for me recently. I didn’t play a lot in the last few weeks. This game goes to show how quickly things develop in sport, and that you need to continue to give your all and not lose sight of your personal goals. That’s exactly what I did. Of course I felt disappointed at some points, that’s part of the process. Every player has the desire to be in the starting line-up. The team also played well in that time – that’s another thing you have to accept. As a young player you always need to work to better yourself in order to be rewarded with playing time and to get things going right for you. The entire team played really well, which also gave me the confidence I needed right from the start. Of course, I’m also pleased to be able to give something back to the team as well.
What was it like seeing the support from the fans outside the stadium?
Embolo: What happened after the final whistle was a special moment for both the team and me. The fans also welcomed us to the stadium ahead of the game and we heard them singing. That showed us again just how important the game was, what it meant to the fans and what was at stake. We knew that we had to bring the fight ourselves because it would be a special game, not just because of the derby but also because of the surrounding circumstances. We were ready and the fans gave us that final push. We can be very happy with the results of the game. We wanted to give the fans, who weren’t allowed into the stadium, something to celebrate. We managed to do so. Football needs fans that cheer on the team.
Sunday’s away game in Frankfurt will also be played behind closed doors. Are you worried that there will be more games without fans?
Embolo: Of course, it’s nicer to play in front of fans, there’s no doubt about that. However, we have to accept the current situation. No one knows what will happen in the future. We can only prepare ourselves for the games to come in order to pick up three points and continue keeping pace with the top of the table. Everything else is out of our hands. We will definitely continue to give our all, and will hopefully return home from Frankfurt with a win.