They were so close. So close to the defensive performance that the fans have been craving. But it wasn’t to be.
Dortmund drew FC Mainz 1-1 at the OPEL Arena, in a game they dominated for large periods of time. The draw lifts BVB over Hoffenheim and into the Top 4, but it represents a failure to gain ground on the top teams.
An 83rd minute goal from Danny Latza was the heart-breaker. Piszczek lost his man, and an impeccable cross allowed Latza to head-in at the back post. It was Mainz’ first shot on target of the match.
It was a cruel way to keep Dortmund from a much-needed clean-sheet. It would’ve been their first since the 1-0 win over Bayern Munich on November 19th.
That victory was also the last time Roman Burki played in goal for BVB. He made his return today, as did Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after returning from Gabon and the African Cup of Nations.
It certainly wasn’t a bad beginning for Dortmund. Their high pressure caught Mainz out multiple times in the first half. It was evidenced most by a hectic start to the game. Dortmund were all over Mainz, and eventually made the breakthrough in the third minute.
The goal was the result of a complete defensive failure from the home side. BVB won the ball back and broke forward quickly. Marco Reus found acres of space where Mainz’s right back should’ve been, and he was never going to miss when Schurrle’s through-ball played him in.
It was Marco’s second goal of his injury-shortened Bundesliga season.
Dortmund dominated possession in the first half and for much of the game. Eventually finishing with 61% of the ball, and 4 shots on target to Mainz’s 1.
But Mainz only trailed by one after the first frame, when it could’ve easily been more. BVB had a flurry of chances right at the end of the half. Aubameyang was closed down on a breakaway by Lossl, Sokratis had a shot barely deflected wide on a corner, and then a free-header for Lukasz Piszczek went just over the bar.
The second half was not very fun. Schurrle may have had the best chance of the half when he redirected a cross just wide of Lossl’s goal. Dortmund kept the ball, but really couldn’t do many meaningful things with it.
Mario Gotze and Ousmane Dembele were brought on to try and change the game, but neither had too much of a positive effect going forward.
Dortmund seemed set to hold onto that shutout, but suddenly lost their shape in the final 10 minutes. It might’ve been Tuchel’s substitutions, or it might’ve been a general squad fitness issue, but their backs were firmly against the wall at the end.
After their equalizer, Mainz almost went on to win it a few times. They had a few dangerous crosses, and the very last kick of the game was a shot that Pablo De Blasis dragged inches wide.
In the end though, it really was a draw that felt like a loss.
BVB got a bit lucky in that they faced Mainz before Bojan Krkic is available for them. This morning the O-Fives announced his signing on loan from Stoke City, before presenting him at the match. Who knows how they would’ve managed had Bojan been available.
Still, positives can be taken from the match. Dortmund’s center-backs were much improved, and Julian Weigl had a stellar game in the midfield.
But as Tuchel and his side move forward, they’ll know that the defensive effort has to be one that lasts until the final whistle.