Gregor Kobel's Champions League heroics vs. PSG and how he's helped BVB take a step forward


Shutting out Paris Saint-Germain across two legs, Borussia Dortmund have booked their place in the Champions League final following a 1-0 victory at Parc des Princes on Tuesday to advance 2-0 on aggregate.  A Mats Hummels goal would prove to be all that the Black and Yellow needed to emerge with a victory but their clean sheet in the match is a moment to nod to the hero of their Champions League campaign, goalkeeper Gregor Kobel.

The former Hoffenheim man has been a bit of a journeyman with spells at Augsburg and Stuttgart before landing with Dortmund in 2021 as a replacement for Roman Burki, but this season is what has been his breakout campaign. The Dortmund defense has held him out to dry multiple times but in the Champions League he has stood tall keeping six cleansheets in only 11 matches played so far this season. 

Keeping the cleansheets is one thing but when diving deeper into what Kobel has done this season, it’s what makes what he has done so impressive and is similar to Andre Onana powering Inter Milan to the final last season. Kobel has the second most saves of any keeper in the Champions League with 42 behind Kemil Grabara of Copenhagen, but when it comes to goals prevented, he stands alone.

Kobel has prevented more than seven goals as he was expected goals against is 21 but only conceded 14 in UCL play. His saves have been critical with Dortmund only winning the xG battle in two of their 12 Champions League matches so far. 

Tuesday, PSG ripped off 30 shots for an xG of 3.22 but Kobel’s five saves were plenty to see them through to the final. At times a goalkeeper can be the most important position on the pitch and that’s just what Kobel has done during this Champions League run. Of course, it’s important for players to score the goals but when a keeper is providing such confidence, that’s what can help drive the team forward. A top save on Kylian Mbappe saw the ball then hit the crossbar in the second half, fully preventing PSG from getting back into the tie.

With Bayern Munich or Real Madrid on the horizon in the final, Dortmund will need more from their midfield and defense to protect Kobel but Edin Terzic’s job is much easier knowing that he can send players forward and let his goalkeeper do cleanup work. After selling Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid, the Black and Yellow were expected to take a step back but with Kobel, they’ve taken a step forward this season and are now potentially 90 minutes away from a Champions League title. 

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