Yes, they played 120 minutes on Wednesday. Yes, they have a Champions League match this coming week. Yes, it was a heavily rotated squad.
This was inexcusable.
In our match preview, we noted that Darmstadt have the 2nd worst defense in the league. Their last victory was in October against Wolfsburg. They were bottom of the table, and looked bound for relegation. Despite what has been an absolutely dreadful season so far, they outworked, outplayed, and outscored Borussia Dortmund to win 2-1, and gain three big points that they desperately need to stay alive in the Bundesliga.
For Borussia Dortmund, this was a wasted opportunity. A week after a thrilling victory against RB Leipzig, BVB really had a chance to keep the momentum going, because the second place Red Bulls dropped three points at home against Hamburg, while Eintracht Frankfurt lost 3-0 at Leverkusen. If BVB had pulled out a victory, they’d be in 3rd, just five points down from RB Leipzig. Instead, BVB sit fourth, with the possibility of sliding down to 7th if Hertha, Hoffenheim, and Köln all win over the next two days. Plus, BVB have to face Benfica this week.
In other words, Tuchel needs to turn the ship around fast.
The match started with Darmstadt, somewhat surprisingly, on the front foot. Roman Bürki, who I thought played well today, was forced to make several strong saves, including a point-blank header from Terrence Boyd. BVB could hardly make their way through midfield, because Darmstadt put constant pressure on the ball whenever BVB tried to play from the back: Rapha Guerreiro, while trying to move the ball forward was often herded into pockets of blue shirts, and as a result had a multitude of poor turnovers. Darmstadt held much of the run of play for the first twenty minutes.
Unsurprisingly, they struck first. What was surprising was just how disjointed BVB’s defense looked. After a terrible giveaway by Guerreiro in midfield, Sydney Sam managed to find Marcel Heller along the left wing, who made his way to the goal line and dribbled a cross into the box. The ball bounced in front of landed in front of Sokratis, Ginter, and Burnic, none of whom felt like challenging for it, leaving Terrence Boyd an open net. It was dreadful defending, and a well worked goal from Darmstadt.
One would think that this would give Borussia Dortmund a bit of a shock, but Darmstadt kept controlling the tempo. Fortunately, though, Raphaël Guerreiro found the net in the 44th minute off a brilliant combination play from Erik Durm and Emre Mor. Going into the half, it looked as if BVB might come back after the break and carry on to victory.
Although Borussia Dortmund did come out strong to start the second half, they made nothing of their chances. After the 55th minute or so, the game more or less settled into a stalemate, with neither side generating much. That is, until Ousmane Dembélé came on for Emre Mor, and promptly made a dreadful turnover to Hamit Altintop, who found Sydney Sam, who passed to a completely unmarked Antonio Colak. He slotted a finish past Bürki, and Darmstadt regained the lead.
Despite being down a goal, BVB did almost nothing to level the score. In fact, Darmstadt almost struck again, but hit the crossbar on a calamitous defensive play from the entire back line. The match sputtered out, and the Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion erupted.
Emre Mor: I thought that the Turkish youngster was one of BVB’s few bright spots today. No, he wasn’t perfect, but his ability to weave through the defenses and create chances really helped, and his touch to set up Guerreiro’s goal was beautiful.
Roman Bürki: He was completely hung out to dry for much of the match, but if it weren’t for him it could easily have been 4-1 or 5-1.
The defense: Nobody on the defensive line played particularly well. Burnic, who played as left back, demonstrated that he is not ready for the top flight. He was caught out of position on the second goal, failed to make a challenge on the first goal, and made several unforced turnovers.
The midfield: Today was not a good day for Guerreiro or Weigl. Both were consistently swarmed in possession, absolutely destroying our ability to play from the back. This resulted in players like Durm, Sokratis, and Rapha just punting the ball downfield hoping one of the forwards could latch on to it. None did.
One More Note:
Kudos to Darmstadt. They had a game plan, stuck to it, and it paid off. They played their butts off, and put in noticeably more effort than the boys in black and yellow. Perhaps they had a point to prove after losing 6-0 to BVB earlier in the year.