After a midweek defeat to a star-studded Real Madrid team, Borussia Dortmund traveled to Bavaria to take on fifth place FC Augsburg. It was a tight game, but the visitors were able to hang on to a 2-1 lead despite a valiant effort by the hosts in the second half.
Starting Line-up: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak, Toljan; Weigl, Dahoud, Kagawa; Yarmolenko, Pulisic, Aubameyang
Mario Götze missed out after playing 76 minutes against Real Madrid, while Marc Bartra made his return to the starting line-up after missing out for a few weeks with an injury. Despite a brace in his last league appearance Max Philipp sat on the bench with Jadon Sancho, the 17 year old's first time in the 18 man squad.
Dortmund crucially opened the scoring early in the first half after four minutes. Andriy Yarmolenko found the back of the net via a backheel shot, after a melee in the box following Christian Pulisic's corner. The shot took a slight deflection going in, but it was a clever attempt from Yarmolenko to shoot the only way he could with his back to goal. The goal was a big one, as the game was always going to be hard-fought from the first kick.
The lead lasted for only seven minutes, as Caiuby equalized with his head for Augsburg in the 11th minute. The cross from Philipp Max (not a typo) found Caiuby relatively unmarked, as Bartra was caught between two attackers, while Jeremy Toljan allowed the goalscorer to slip in front of him. It was only Dortmund's second goal conceded in Bundesliga play this season, but shows that there are still cracks in the not-so-perfect defense.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his 200th appearance in BVB colors today, and had the chance to put Dortmund back on top only minutes after Caiuby's goal. The Gabonese striker latched on to a beautiful over the top ball from Bartra to put him on one on with Marvin Hitz, but the goalkeeper made the save on a poor effort from Aubameyang. As the game wore on, it became even more obvious that it was not Aubameyang's day.
However, Aubameyang did well in the 23rd minute to capitalize on some confusion between Augsburg defenders, and gathered possession of a loose ball in the opponent's box. He flipped it to Yarmolenko and the Ukrainian found Shinji Kagawa, who scored the goal of the season thus far. The Japanese international chipped the shot first time over Hitz and into the back of the net, in similar fashion to the goal he scored against Schalke in the 2015-16 season. It was a beautiful finish and a needed goal for Dortmund, as the game was beginning to take shape in favor of Augsburg.
One big theme of throughout the game seemed to be Augsburg consistently hacking down Dortmund players. It began with fouls on Yarmolenko, followed by a nasty challenge from Daniel Opare on Christian Pulisic. The referee Marco Fritz kept his cards in his pocket, allowing Augsburg to continue this ugly play well into the second half.
Augsburg came out hot in the second half, bringing the pressure to Dortmund. It was the second half of Dortmund's seventh game in the past 21 days, and it showed as the defense looked tired and passes were sloppy. Despite this, Augsburg largely failed to create any clear cut chances. Caiuby and Michael Gregoritsch both came close on headers, but the shots were not difficult saves for Bürki.
Dortmund had multiple chances to wrap the game up later on in the second half, with the biggest chance coming from the penalty spot. The VAR awarded a penalty to Dortmund a couple minutes after Lukasz Piszczek was pulled down in the box by Ja-Cheol Koo. However, Aubameyang's day went from bad to worse, after he went for the panenka, trying to chip the Augsburg keeper. Hitz was ready, though, not even flinching as the ball slowly moved towards him. Aubameyang is usually solid from the spot, but has his hiccups on occasion, as shown today. Try not to overreact to his poor performance.
Five minutes of extra time was added on, and Augsburg continued their pressure. They came close to testing Burki's goal as a cross barely trickled past the far post, but it was the closest they came to grabbing a late equalizer. The referee seemed to have swallowed his whistle, as he didn't blow until almost seven minutes into extra time.
The Dortmund team and fans collectively took a sigh of relief. It was an important win if Dortmund intend on making a legitimate title push this season. The best adjective to describe the game was scrappy, as Augsburg were playing chippy and the Dortmund defense was playing in bend-but-don't-break fashion. With the international break coming up, Dortmund will be off for two weeks until RB Leipzig come to the Westfalenstadion in a fortnight.