Now that was a statement win. Two goals down at the half, and with an opportunity to go top of the table starting to slip away, Borussia Dortmund dug deep and pulled out one of its most gutsy wins in years, against a very determined Bayer Leverkusen. While Dortmund were not perfect, and were thoroughly dominated during the first half, they more than made up for it with an electric second half. Here are our match ratings:
Lucien Favre: 6
Once again, Lucien Favre’s starting XI was filled with questionable decisions, while his substitutes were spot on. Dortmund’s back line (Hakimi, Zagadou, Akanji, Diallo) was an interesting decision: the four youngsters clearly lacked chemistry, and struggled to deal with Leverkusen’s high press.
Yet again, though, Favre’s substitutions were spot-on. Mahmoud Dahoud added directness and creativity to Dortmund’s midfield. He also recognized that Max Philipp and Christian Pulisic were struggling, and brought on two players who helped turn the match around. When Jadon Sancho and Paco Alcacer came on, everything changed. With Paco at CF, Reus at CAM, Sancho on the wing and Hakimi running behind, Dortmund’s right side basically ran roughshod over Leverkusen for 30 minutes, and managed to singlehandedly turn the match around.
Roman Bürki: 7
Bürki continued his good form this season. There was not much he could have done on either of Leverkusen’s goals. More importantly, he kept Dortmund in the match by making several keys saves towards the end of the first half. Leverkusen barely threatened during the second half.
Abdou Diallo: 6
This was Diallo’s first appearance at left back for Borussia Dortmund. He was not great. At times, he seemed unsure of his own positioning, and didn’t push as high as someone like Schmelzer or even Guerreiro would. I have no idea what he was doing on Leverkusen’s second goal, but his failure to clear the ball out of the box allowed Kai Havertz to find Tah, who slotted a shot home to put Leverkusen up by 2.
Manuel Akanji: 7
Akanji was the best of Dortmund’s defenders. That being said, he still looked shaky at times, and could have done better on Leverkusen’s first goal. His play out of the back was fine, if unremarkable.
Dan-Axel Zagadou: 6
Zagadou continues to show that, even though he has potential, he still needs to iron out a few wrinkles before he becomes one of Dortmund’s full-time center backs. Like Diallo, Zagadou completely shut off on Leverkusen’s second goal.
Achraf Hakimi: 7
Hakimi was one of the worst players on the pitch during the first half. Leverkusen were electric down their left side, and left back Wendell kept Hakimi and Pulisic in his back pocket for the entire half. During the second half, though, the young Moroccan was superb. He combined effectively with Sancho, Paco, and Reus to devastating effect. Dortmund’s first and third goals effectively resulted from pinpoint crosses from Hakimi, who was an integral part of Dortmund’s comeback.
Axel Witsel: 7
While Dortmund as a whole struggled during the first half, Witsel was actually one of Dortmund’s most effective players. He managed to play around Leverkusen’s press more effectively than not: it was only on the wings were Dortmund gave up the ball with any frequency. In the second half, Witsel was able to effectively play the ball forward to Dortmund’s attackers, who were ultimately able to take care of business.
Thomas Delaney: 4
In my match preview, I argued that Delaney’s physicality would be crucial against Leverkusen. As it turns out, I was dead wrong, because instead it was Leverkusen who were constantly pressing the ball, and Delaney didn’t have the technical ability to play out of it. He was deservedly subbed off for Dahoud at the half.
Christian Pulisic: 4
Pulisic was arguably Dortmund’s least effective player yesterday. He seemed to be doing his best Emre Mor impression, dribbling ineffectively into groups of opposition defenders and causing needless turnovers. Sancho was once more effective once he was subbed in.
Marco Reus: 8
Just like the rest of the squad, Marco struggled to create much of anything during the first half. During the second half, though, Reus found a new gear and really stamped his name on the match. He already has great chemistry with Sancho, so when the young Englishman came on, the two seemed to be creating quality chances at will. He was a key factor in all three goals that won the match for Dortmund.
Jacob Bruun-Larsen: 7
Yes, the young dane struggled during the first half, but he still found a way to have a positive impact during the second half. He was most effective when he drifted inside, and was handsomely rewarded with the goal that jumpstarted Dortmund’s comeback.
Max Philipp: 4
Max Philipp is not a striker. He’s a winger. The difference between him and Paco Alcacer, an actual center forward, is striking (pun very much intended). He just has no idea how to play the position. Paco should be starting, and Philipp should be a depth option on the wing, a position much more suited to his skill set.
Mahmoud Dahoud: 7
Dahoud may not have been involved in any of Dortmund’s goals, but he was a clear upgrade over Delaney in Dortmund’s midfield.
Jadon Sancho: 9
It’s incredible how Sancho can look so ineffective on one day (against Hoffenheim, for instance) and so incredible on another day. Sancho used every ounce of his dribbling skills, passing skills, and pace to tear Leverkusen apart. He was rewarded with two assists.
Paco Alcacer: 9
If anybody doubted whether Paco should be Dortmund’s starting striker before his performance yesterday, their doubts should be assuaged. His match-winning goal was brilliant: I’m probably going to break it down later this week. His decision making is nearly perfect, and he’s looking like a clinical finisher, something Dortmund desperately need. It’s not to unreasonable to think that, if he starts to play more minutes, he could end up chasing the Torjägerkanon.