Football Features

Home comforts for former “flop” Luuk de Jong as PSV history made in draw with Borussia Dortmund

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:21, 20 February 2024

Luuk de Jong wrote his name in the history books as PSV drew 1-1 with Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

PSV were back in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since the 2015/16 campaign, when they were beaten in the last 16 by Atletico Madrid. They haven’t won in the knockout stages of the competition since February 2007, beating Arsenal 1-0 at home in the last 16.

At the same time, Borussia Dortmund were in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the sixth time in eight seasons, only failing to do sin in 2017/18 and 2021/22 during that time.

But form was on PSV’s side. Dortmund had lost eight of their last nine away games in the Champions League knockout stages, while PSV were unbeaten in their past 30 home matches across all competitions, since a 1-0 defeat to AZ Alkmaar in November 2022.

This game wasn’t easy though, and PSV went into the break trailing. It was a former PSV man putting them behind, with Donyell Malen scoring his first ever Champions League knockout stage goal.

Beating the goalkeeper with power and a bit of a deflection, Malen is the first Dutch player to score a Champions League goal against a Dutch side, since Arjen Robben did so vs PSV in October 2016. But he was the first to do so in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Ahead at half time, Dortmund had every reason to be confident that they would leave unbeaten. The German side had never lost a Champions League away game when winning at the break, with 20 victories and three draws.

To be truthful, Dortmund were riding their luck at times, with PSV peppering their goal yet behind unable to find the net. But they were handed the perfect opportunity to break their duck, when Mats Hummels brought Malik Tillman down in the box.

Having got a touch on the ball first, Hummels then went through the man, and pleaded his case to the referee. But after a VAR review, the on-field decision stayed the same, much to Hummels’ annoyance.

Luuk de Jong stepped up to take the spot and his finish was well-placed and powerful, beating stand-in goalkeeper Alexander Meyer who didn’t offer anything and went the right way.

It means De Jong has now scored in each of his last five home games for PSV in the Champions League and Europa League, a fine run for a fine player. He has now scored 28 goals across all competitions for PSV this season, and the only player to have scored more for the club in a single campaign over the last 20 seasons is De Jong himself. In both 2015/16 and 2018/19, De Jong scored 32 goals, so he’s just four away from beating his own records.

And that’s not all. De Jong has not scored nine Champions League goals for PSV, overtaking Ruud van Nistelrooy as the club’s highest scorer in the competition’s history.

That’s not bad for a player often remembered for his barren spell at Newcastle United. The Dutchman joined Newcastle on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach in January 2014 and played 12 games before leaving at the end of the season, without finding the net.

“Really? When I only played 12 matches and not all of them from the start? And not in my position, either? Oh well, that’s the football world, you know,” he told the Guardian recently when learning of his placement at No.75 in a list of the 100 worst Premier League strikers.

“I was young. I think I am better armed now to take on Premier League defenders. It’s about your response to adversity – that makes the difference.”

He also struggled for goals at Sevilla and Barcelona, but is at his best the Netherlands. De Jong has now scored 157 goals in 227 games for PSV across all competitions, and is the club’s second highest-scorer of all time. Although he will never break the record — still 189 behind Willy van ver Kuijlen, it’s enough for De Jong to genuinely be considered a legend of the club.

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