Football Features

“Christopher Nkunku has finally arrived on the world stage” – RB Leipzig break seven-year streak to beat Borussia Dortmund

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:55, 6 November 2021

In an intense night of football, RB Leipzig beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at the Red Bull Arena.

The win gave the much beleaguered Leipzig a huge lift after their Champions League elimination midweek as they rose up to 5th in the Bundesliga, just six points behind Dortmund themselves, albeit 10 behind leaders Bayern.

Jesse Marsch will be proud of his players as they beat an imposing opponent, even surviving a brief Dortmund rally in the second-half to emerge victorious. But one man stands out above all else, one man was the match-winner: Christopher Nkunku.

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Yes, technically Yusuf Poulsen scored the game-winning goal but his neat finish at the back-post came off a cross from Nkunku. A superb ball that was almost knuckballed across the box by the Frenchman, leaving Poulsen with an simple job.

That cross was one of two chances Nkunku created on the night (joint-first among all players). One of 17 passes in the final third (which was third among all players) as he looked Leipzig’s most likely source of creating goals.

The Frenchman also completed a wild 4/5 take-ons, dancing by Dortmund defenders as he looked to drive the ball into the heart of his opponents. No one could touch him once he started moving and you sense that had Jesse Marsch left him on rather than subbing him in the 84th minute, with the way Dortmund threw everyone forward, he would have picked up at least one more goal or assist.

Nkunku was no defensive dilettante either, he made 1 tackle, 1 interception and won possession in the final third a game-high 3 times. He as a constant thorn in the side of Dortmund, not giving them a single second to breathe.

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Oh, and he also opened the scoring with a fantastic penetrative run behind the Dortmund defence before effortlessly skipping around the goalkeeper and tapping home into an empty net. It was a beautifully simple goal and not the only time he ripped Dortmund to bits.

Even before he scored he had a great chance where he rolled the ball away from the defender to create a chance from nothing only to see his shot saved (and Dominik Szoboszlai fail to make the most of the rebound). And on the hour mark with the scoired at 1-1 he very nearly scored the goal of the season with a faintly ridiculous effort where he did two consecutive 360 pirouettes to escape tackles and then rattled a measured shot off the post. This is genuinely a “you have to see it to believe it” moment.

All in all, Nkunku ended the game with a goal and an assist as Leipzig beat Dortmund in the Bundesliga for the first time since October 2017. That’s a run of 7 games without victory that was snapped by Nkunku’s excellence. And remember: he’s only 23 (he was 19 when Leipzig last beat Dortmund) so is a player really coming into his own.

With 11 goals in 17 appearances so far this season, Nkunku has already set a career-best total for goalscoring and we’re barely into November. If he keeps going at this pace there is no telling what he’ll end up with by season’s end, much less how much he will almost certainly go for in the transfer market.

With a contract until 2024, you can be sure when the big clubs come a-knockin’ this summer (and if he stays in this form they absolutely will come a-knockin’) the Frenchman will command a transfer fee as massive as his talent ceiling. After years as a bit-part player for PSG and even Leipzig, Christopher Nkunku has finally arrived on the world stage.