We all knew it would be a difficult game, Hoffenheim is a solid side and the only team in all of Europe besides Real Madrid that is still unbeaten in league games this season. In addition we were missing 10 players and still have a shaky backline and literally all of our box-to-box midfielders are injured. What we didn't know was that the referee would deliver a shocker of a game that would put the team in a hole that they couldn't crawl out of.
Chaos is in the first half
The game started of with Ginter and Wagner colliding when they were both going for a header. Ginter was out cold for a few seconds and seemed extremely shaken after the play. Maybe this was the reason why our backline looked completely lost when we conceded literally seconds after this situation. Hübner played a long ball that didn't seem to be intended for any of his teammates but the absence of Ginter and indecisiveness of Sven Bender invited Mark Uth to get the ball and run towards the early lead for Hoffenheim. Weidenfeller was also nowhere to be found on the play, he hesitated to come out to clear the ball but then decided to go for it anyway and that second of hesitation was enough to ensure Uth had an easy way to his fifth goal of the season.
That's the story of how another mistake in our backline gave our opponent an early lead.
However it didn't hold up for very long because Dembélé had another one of those magic moments that make us all dream of the future. He got the ball close to the middle of the field and then started an amazing run and never looked back. He took on four Hoffenheim players on the way to the box and then smartly passed it to Mario Götze who was wide open and had no problems to score the equalizer. It is Götze's first Bundesliga goal for Dortmund after his return.
Around the 15 minute mark Tuchel tweaked his tactics a little bit. Surprisingly we started the game with a 3-man backline even though there was just one wingback on the field with Schmelzer. Ginter, Bartra and Bender were the three men in the back with Schmelzer and Pulisic on both sides of them. This turned out to be a mistake, Pulisic has a lot of strengths but being a wingback is not one of them. He didn't really connect with the defense because he pushed to far up the pitch and left Ginter alone on defense to often. Thankfully this was changed before Hoffenheim could take advantage of the situation and we reverted to a 4-man backline with Ginter lining up as right back.
Regardless of this change the team is still not able to defend set pieces and the team suffered because of it. In the 21' minute Hübner won a duel in the box against Bartra who is still the weakest link in our defense. His header was deflected by Wagner who pushed Bender out of the way to get to the ball, a foul the referee completely missed. Nevertheless Roman Weidenfeller should have been able to clear the ball even though the deflection came at a very short distance.
The biggest blow came just before half-time when Marco Reus was sent off. After Amiri started a counter attack for Hoffenheim down their right flank he had a duel with Reus and referee Benjamin Brand sent off the Dortmunder Jung' with his second yellow for the day. It was an egregious mistake that forced the black and yellows to play with 10 men for the rest of the game.
Fighting 'til the end
There probably weren't a lot of people that would have counted on Dortmund to escape Hoffenheim with any sort of result but a scrappy performance earned Tuchel & Co. at least one point.
In the second half the black and yellows came out of the gates fired up. Especially Ousmane Dembélé put in one hell of a performance. Barely three minutes after the start of the half the Frenchman set up Aubameyang for his 16th goal of the Bundesliga season with a beautiful assist.
Dembélé is just incredible for a 19-year old and you'd be hard pressed to find a teenager who is a better football player right now or has a higher ceiling than him. Hoffenheim controlled possession for most of the second half with the one-man advantage but Dembélé was a constant threat and by far the best player on the field. Sadly he was carted of the pitch in the 68th minute after a hard foul. Hopefully he's ok, we can't afford yet another injury.
Nagelsmann's men made a late push to keep the three points in Hoffenheim but Dortmund was able to fight back and secure a much-deserved point against all odds.
A difficult game
It is difficult to evaluate this game. The team is still harmed by a ridiculous amount of injuries and the atrocious performance from the referee makes it impossible to judge the team to harshly for this one. We can criticize the team for the shaky defense and the inability to defend set-pieces but the Ginter-incident, missed foul and two individual mistakes from Weidenfeller in addition to the fact that Tuchel had to scramble our backline once again after some injuries make it impossible to gauge if this is a deeper problem.
We aren't where we want to be in the Bundesliga right now but the circumstances are harsh enough to serve as an excuse for the current situation. The title might be gone but the Champions League places are just one point away and we absolutely have to give this young team some time to show us what they are really capable of once everyone is at 100%.