Despite what was regarded as a tough draw for Borussia Dortmund, the hosts made a huge statement in their impressive 2-0 win over FC Porto. The visitors hardly showed anything in their performance that would make it seem like they were a Champions League caliber team, while Borussia bossed the game the whole way through, from start to finish, after struggling at the weekend against Hannover.
Before the game, Dortmund fans were shocked and ecstatic to see Nuri Sahin back in the team, after being out for nearly a year with various mysterious injuries. In his few appearances last season, Sahin developed a strong partnership with Ilkay Gundogan before his injury. Gundogan missed this one due to illness, which allowed a double pivot of Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin to be deployed quite successfully. It was a rare 4-2-3-1 formation from Dortmund, but otherwise, the line-up yielded few surprises, as we expected to see a strong Dortmund team for this game. The Yellow Wall even provided us with a beautiful choreo before kickoff, which highlighted the wall's desire to add the Europa League trophy to Dortmund's impressive trophy cabinet.
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images
Dortmund started off on the front foot, and their performance was quickly rewarded with a goal in the sixth minute after a short corner was whipped into the box by Mkhitaryan. His cross found Piszczek unmarked, and the right back tried to side foot it in. This effort was saved by Iker Casillas, but Piszczek was able to easily head home the rebound. Casillas made a series of good saves in the game, being much of the reason why Dortmund was only able to score two, instead of the three or four they probably deserved.
xG map for BVB-Porto. A Dortmund that doesn't leak any chances on defensive errors would be a scary sight. pic.twitter.com/nnt3CTYbhI— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) February 18, 2016
With Nuri Sahin back in the line-up, Dortmund were able to use Mats Hummels to build play up from the back with less of a defensive worry. Since Nuri is so good on the ball and a well disciplined defender, he often stayed back while Marcel Schmelzer would advance up the pitch, leaving room for Hummels on the left side where Schmelzer would usually be. While there wasn't a ton of defensive work for Sahin to do, he seamlessly made the transition into the line-up after a year out, which is impressive in it's own right. His strong performance today is a fantastic sign for Dortmund, as he'll likely be first choice in our midfield as long as he's healthy. He was subbed off after about 55 minutes, so Tuchel will slowly be working Sahin up towards complete, 90 minute fitness.
Dortmund had to wait a while for their well deserved second goal, but it finally came in the 71st minute and was worked beautifully. Shinji Kagawa did well to control the ball right outside the box, and played an incisive pass to Mkhitaryan, who pulled it back slightly for Marco Reus, and he finished it with a little help from Porto defender Bruno Martins Indi. Mkhitaryan was crucially involved in both of Dortmund's goals on the night, but this one was mostly about Kagawa controlling the ball and playing Mkhitaryan in to a dangerous position. Kagawa was criticized often throughout the game for losing the ball on occasion and wasting two very good goalscoring chances, but his performance improved after this goal. In the first half, you could hear Tuchel yelling at Kagawa that he can't keep losing the ball. While Tuchel will likely want a much more consistent performance from him, he'll end up pleased that Kagawa kept his head up and was able to contribute even on an off day.
On a related note to Kagawa, Gonzalo Castro was left out of the squad because Kagawa and Leitner trained better than him this weekend, according to Sky Sports in Germany. It seems like there's just good natured competition for a midfield spot in Dortmund's line-up, which is beneficial to all. Kagawa had recently not been favored, but he and Castro both started against Hannover, failing to make much of an impact. Moritz Leitner may even end up earning himself a start sometime soon after an impressive 35 minutes on the pitch today. Tuchel's been weird about his selections in the midfield, but with a 4-2-3-1 today, it made sense to start Kagawa in his favored number 10 position.
A scary moment for all of Dortmund occurred around the 60th minute when Silvestre Varela committed a nasty foul on Marco Reus' ankle and only received a yellow card as punishment. It was one of those tackles that last year would've sidelined Reus for a couple of months. Luckily and much to my surprise, he was able to carry on and went on to score a goal. At the end of the match, he was shown limping slightly off the field, but the fact that he was able to continue until his substitution late in the match is a huge sigh of relief for everyone.
Porto were uncharacteristically quiet for most of the game, and their only chances to score occurred in the final ten minutes of the match. Roman Burki made a good save late on in the match to prevent Porto from sneaking back into the game, but there wasn't much else our goalkeeper had to do. Sokratis and Hummels did a phenomenal job controlling Aboubakar and Brahimi, giving them no chance to do anything until much later in the match. Mats Hummels, with his offensive and defensive contributions, is my man of the match. He's in incredible form at the moment, playing a big part in our four clean sheets since the start of the Ruckrunde, while also being a catalyst for our attack.
Crucially, Porto did not get an away goal, making Dortmund's chances of advancing even more likely. While playing at the Dragao is not easy for any team in Europe, it's much less daunting task considering we aren't in need of a big result, and Porto will really have to spank us to advance. An away goal in Portugal should seal the deal for us, hopefully leading to a more friendlier draw in the round of 16. Dortmund put on a masterclass performance today, and are all but guaranteed to advance to the next round of the Europa League.