An extraordinary Europa League first leg between Borussia Dortmund and Atalanta was won by an extraordinary player. Or at least that’s what his goalscoring record in Germany so far would suggest.
But he’s a player that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, inexplicably, more or less refused to play for 18 months.
He’s Michy Batshuayi, and in three games since a deadline day loan move to Dortmund, he’s scored five goals. In other words, he has more goals than he had Premier League starts over a full season-and-a-half in London.
No. 4 of five was the equalizer against Atalanta on Thursday in the Europa League round of 32. No. 5 was a dramatic stoppage time winner that gives BVB an advantage – albeit a slender one – to take to Italy.
— Jonah Takalua (@Destaquito2) February 15, 2018
Dortmund had bossed the first half, but saw a 1-0 lead swept away early in the second by a quick-fire Josip Ilicic double.
Batshuayi, though, struck to get Dortmund level:
Le but de Michy Batshuayi pic.twitter.com/cFmoYbBECX
— Dortmund France (@Dortmund_Fra) February 15, 2018
He then popped up with his second winner in as many games. After two goals on his debut in a 3-2 victory over Cologne, the Belgian striker broke an early-second-half deadlock in what would eventually become a 2-0 victory over Hamburg in the Bundesliga.
His latest exploits, against his strongest Dortmund competition yet, provided more evidence that Conte was foolish to move on before giving the 24-year-old a proper opportunity.
Batshuayi moved to Chelsea for $47 million in the summer of 2016, and understandably began his career as Diego Costa’s understudy. He made 19 substitute appearances that Premier League season, but just one start. He scored nine goals in all competitions.
Conte fell out with Costa the following summer, which seemingly paved the way to more playing time for Batshuayi. But not only did the Blues bring in Alvaro Morata; when Morata hasn’t been fit, Conte has sometimes opted to play a winger out of position up top rather than give Batshuayi a shot.
Meanwhile, he complained about a lack of depth. Chelsea seemingly pursued every above-average or mediocre striker in England during January. It eventually picked up Olivier Giroud from Arsenal, and as part of the deal shipped Batshuayi over to Germany. It claimed to finally have its backup striker upgrade.
Except that, well, it seems like the Blues had a more than capable backup on the bench all along.
Other Europa League round of 32 first leg scores
Ostersunds 0-3 Arsenal
Ludogorets 0-3 AC Milan
Marseille 3-0 Braga
Spartak Moscow 1-3 Athletic Bilbao
Nice 2-3 Lokomotiv Moscow
Real Sociedad 2-2 Red Bull Salzburg
FC Astana 1-3 Sporting CP
Red Star Belgrade 0-0 CSKA Moscow
Games in progress
Napoli 1-3 RB Leipzig
AEK Athens 1-1 Dynamo Kiev
Celtic 1-0 Zenit St. Petersburg
FC Copenhagen 1-4 Atletico Madrid
Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Lazio
Lyon 3-1 Villareal
Partizan Belgrade 1-1 Viktoria Plzen