AUGSBURG: South Korea forward Ji Dong-won has been hailed as ‘world-class’ and a ‘genius’ after his two-goal haul for struggling Augsburg condemned Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund to a shock 2-1 defeat.
The 27-year-old showed lightning reactions to pounce on two individual mistakes in the Dortmund defence on Friday, showing clinical finishing for both goals to ease Augsburg’s woes in the relegation battle.
“We played really well and showed our willingness to fight, our mentality, cohesion and will to win,” the South Korean modestly told reporters.
After also giving mighty Bayern Munich a scare at the WWK Arena a fortnight ago, when the hosts took the lead twice in a 3-2 defeat, Augsburg were rewarded for an impressive display as their victory dented Dortmund’s title ambitions.
Having also scored against Bayern, Ji was Augsburg’s stand-out performer.
“It was remarkable how he played,” said team manager Stefan Reuter.
“He did a great job, fought for every ball and was rewarded with his two goals.
“How he scored the second goal was absolutely world-class, a stroke of genius.”
Ji’s first goal came with 24 minutes gone as he curled in his shot after evading three Dortmund defenders.
His second goal was dazzling, single-handedly ripping apart Dortmund’s defence.
“There you can see what a nose for goal he has,” said Augsburg coach as Ji showcased his striker’s instinct.
Ji reacted quickest to snap up a lazy pass by Achraf Hakimi, sprinted clear, wrong footed centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou, then cooly chipped his shot inside the far post, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Roman Buerki, on 68 minutes.
It was Ji’s fourth goal in seven games against ex-club Dortmund, where he spent an unhappy season before returning to Augsburg after just five appearances in Borussia’s reserves in 2014/15.
He helped South Korea reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in January and with Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason recovering from a calf injury, Ji is proving his worth for Augsburg up front.
He is out of contract in June, as is compatriot Koo Ja-cheol, and Augsburg have signalled they want to keep the pair, “we will do everything possible to keep them,” said Reuter, “but that will not be easy”.
Following three straight league defeats, including last Saturday’s 5-1 mauling by Freiburg, Ji’s goals were a step towards keeping Augsburg up as victory over Dortmund leaves them five points from the relegation places in 15th.
“Anyone who supports Augsburg will have breathed a huge sigh of relief, but we know that was just a step, nothing more,” added Reuter.