Football is back! After a month of shoveling snow, huddling indoors, and settling for the Premier League, Borussia Dortmund fans were treated to a tight, competitive match that really should not have been so.
Here are the facts: Werder Bremen are a bad side even at full health. Without Serge Gnabry, who was injured about 25 minutes in, they’re even worse. Without their starting keeper, they’re even MORE worse. Without Claudio Pizarro, who came off at the 35th minute... you get my drift. Oh, and they were only at 10 men for more than half the match.
Borussia Dortmund should have thrashed them. The match should have ended 4-0, or something along that scoreline. Instead, it was an unnecessarily close match that saw more of the obvious frustrating mistakes that Borussia Dortmund made during the fall. BVB face Mainz, RB Leipzig, and Hertha Berlin in the next three matches, so Tuchel and Co. need to step up, because those three clubs will not let the mistakes that were made today go unpunished.
Five minutes into today’s match against Werder Bremen, I could have forgiven you for being optimistic. After a long Hinründe of frustrating play, it looked as if Borussia Dortmund would come out of the gate flying. A brilliant touch from Marco Reus, followed by a brilliant finish from André Schürrle, put Dortmund up by one, and it looked as if BVB were off to the races.
But as the match progressed, old problems started to re-emerge. There were bouts where Werder Bremen ran a terrific press against the three-man midfield of Kagawa, Weigl, and Castro. There were times when Weigl was pressed off the ball: one led to a great chance from Thomas Delaney at the top of the box, which forced a strong safe from Weidenfeller.
However, it looked as if BVB would be let off the hook when Castro played a long ball towards Reus, who ran right at Werder Bremen keeper Jaroslav Drobny. Drobny, caught out of his net, and with no defenders to help him, smashed his boot studs-out into Marco’s thigh. It was a clear red card, and Drobny was sent off. Claudio Pizarro came off for Felix Wiedwald.
Despite being down to ten men, Werder Bremen admirably kept up the intensity. Dortmund were unable to find a second goal, and the first half ended 0-1 in favor of the visitors.
There were clear changes that needed to be made. Gonzalo Castro was not playing well (although his long ball that found Reus, which led to the red card, was a thing of beauty). He and Weigl were being swamped and forced into turnovers. Kagawa, who was playing more forward, wasn’t helping much.
So at the half, Tuchel brought on... Erik Durm. For Marcel Schmelzer, who was likely hurt.
It did nothing to help.
Unsurprisingly, the uneasy stalemate of turnovers and half chances continued, until the 59th minute. Werder Bremen forward Fin Bartels made a brilliant individual effort, humiliating Matthias Ginter with a nutmeg before outpacing Sokratis and Piszczek towards the net. He laid down a perfect finish around Weidenfeller to draw Bremen even.
For an agonizing ten minutes or so, it looked as if Werder Bremen might even pull ahead. Reus, clearly slowed from being smashed in the thigh, was rendered ineffective. Castro was useless, conducting several unforced errors that led to Werder Bremen chances. Finally, around 70 minutes in, Tuchel made the two switches that many fans were calling for: he took out Reus and Castro, and replaced them with Ousmane Dembélé and Raphael Guerreiro respectively.
Almost immediately, the move paid off. Dembélé took a corner, and the ball deflected out to the top of the box. Guerreiro struck the ball, which deflected off a defender and fluttered right to Lukasz Piszczek, who beautifully flicked the ball past Wiedwald. It was a pretty goal that gave Dortmund the lead.
While Werder Bremen threatened for the final twenty minutes, there was nothing too serious. Dortmund, namely Ousmane Dembélé, has several chances to finish off the match, but all attempts on the counter were botched. The match ended 2-1.
While three points are three points, we should really expect better. The race for the Bundesliga Title may be over for BVB, but there’s still the top-four to think about, as well as the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League. Tuchel’s men have a lot of work cut out for them.