A great answer to the debacle that was the match against Sportgemeinde Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund rebounded with a offensively dominant display, putting four past the fellow Borussen.
The positives are fairly obvious in this match. Dortmund dominated possession as well as the goal-scoring chances. Reus-Dembélé-Aubameyang showed a chemistry that just may result in the catchy RDA acronym for our attack.
Once again, a silly mistake at the back was punished by one of the most underrated players in the Bundesliga, Raffael. And, though this is not necessarily a negative, one must hold bated breath to see if Dortmund can consistently repeat this performance. Since Gladbach refrained from a high-press, I must withhold judgement.
Tuchel’s choice of a back three with wing-backs was likely either made out of a concern for a potentially potent Gladbach attack or as a lesson learned of how to better facilitate buildup play when the middle is clogged with a good press. Either way, it worked marvelously. Dortmund’s attack flowed quickly and smoothly up the wings with Piszczek and Schmelzer finding themselves in the attack constantly, and as Lars Pollmann noted, opening up the half-spaces for Aubameyang, Reus, and Dembélé.
Thankfully our legend was not put to the test often. No real complaints about his performance as the goal was definitely not his fault. Though fouled by Christensen off a set piece, he seemed hesitant to powerfully claim the ball in the air. Had his one prerequisite moment of madness in sending an ill-advised pass to Ginter that was almost picked off. All in all an acceptable performance by our number two.
Ginter made relatively few mistakes defensively and found himself in the attack quite often even in the run of play. Came about twelve inches from scoring a beauty from an extremely difficult side volley off a corner kick.
Papa again made the case for being Dortmund’s best and most consistent player this season. Quickly snuffed out threats and provided the physicality necessary throughout the match. Mercilessly hounded Dahoud at times, forcing turn-overs and recycling the Foal’s attack.
I think we are all waiting to see the Bartra we saw in the first few matches of the season. Perhaps he just needs the winter break to regain his composure and confidence. His comically juvenile headed clearance looked more like a target striker’s win of the ball and pass back to Raffael who promptly punished BVB for Marc’s mistake. Had a couple of other inexplicable defensive decisions that thankfully came to nothing. Showed great ability and potential on offense, finding himself in positions as second striker with Auba or winger dredging up bittersweet memories of another offensively-minded center-back whose name escapes me at the moment. Got the assist on Piszczek’s goal from a strike that looked like it may have beat Sommer without the Pole’s help.
His right-place, right-time headed goal was just what Dortmund needed to restore some confidence. Though not dynamic and speedy, he played an adequate role offensively, providing vital width that stretched Gladbach and opened up the half-spaces for Dembélé.
Poor Nuri’s difficulties continue. Provided a glorious 40-meter pass to the wing that resulted in a goal-scoring chance early in the game, but then disappeared. It quickly became evident that he had aggravated an injury and was pulled off for precautionary measures at around the 30-minute mark due to swelling in his knee.
Our captain had a great match. Was a constant threat on the wing and like Piszczek on the other side, forced Gladbach to stretch their defense to match the width. Schmelzer rampaged up the sideline with his buddy Marco like old times. He clearly enjoyed his outing.
A man of the match performance by the young Frenchman. I have been a consistently harsh critic on the youngster, always quick to note his potential but bemoan his decision-making. Today, it was clear he has been listening and learning on the training ground. He has learned to take advantage of the space that honest defenses give him by keeping his head up and spotting the penetrating passes. And, when the opportunity presented itself, took single players out with a single move and played the ball. Used that skill to open the space for his shot on goal and buried it. A completely amazing performance that lived up to his potential. Even played well defensively when asked.
Castro pretty much served as a diversionary point of attack today. Turned the ball over numerous times on passes that were just plain inaccurate. The wing build-up was so effective, he rendered himself ornamental by the second half.
Marco is back and showed none of the rust we had grown accustomed to seeing following long injury absences. Had three assists on the day and was a positive threat every time he received the ball. His back-heeled assist to Auba on the fourth goal was simply sublime worthy of the best Messi-Suarez-Neymar comparisons.
Showed the reason he is top of the goal-scoring table in all of Europe’s top-five leagues with his first effort, a brilliantly smashed effort that Sommer did poorly to allow. But, it is emblematic of Auba’s lethality. He consistently buries the difficult, one-time opportunities. And, though simple (tell that to Kevin DeBruyne after his howler today), he iced the game with the fourth goal. Now if only we can work on his one-on-ones with the goal-keeper.
For once in a great while, the match did not hinge on the efforts of the young Busquets. With the attack developing primarily through the wings, it stretched Gladbach in all areas of the pitch to include precluding a high press. Was given space for once but on the day, it was not even necessary. Hopefully the relatively calm performance did not sap his strength for what was supposed to be a rest day.
Pulisic came on for Marco, who immediately went into his hyperbaric chamber and bubble-wrap, in the 78th minute. By this time the match was pretty much over and Dortmund were knocking the ball around the back line for fun, but it did not stop the American kid from trying to impress his new national team coach Bruce Arena who had come to see Christian and fellow American, Gladbach’s Fabian Johnson in person. In one unforgettable moment of audacity and brilliance, Pulisic collected the ball from midfield, and went on a fifty-meter tear toward goal, juking past defenders, and using his speed shifts, and close-ball skills to get all the way to the goal box, sending a shot that Sommer managed to save. Despite not squeaking the ball past the Swiss keeper in the end, his run evoked memories of Maradona against England and Michael Owen against Argentine simply for its brilliance, technique, physical power, and even self-confident arrogance that the greats have. It was a jaw-dropping moment of magic. Liverpool, eat your hearts out.
Mor tried to get in on the fun coming on at full time, but the match official mercifully whistled the match end with little stoppage time.