There have been very few “good days” in the Bundesliga this year for BVB fans, but this has been one of them. Borussia Dortmund won in emphatic fashion with a 3-0 victory, and with Bayern and SC Freiburg dropping points, BVB have shot up the table to second place, three points behind Borussia Mönchengladbach at the top. This was BVB’s best performance in weeks, arguably the best since BVB played Barcelona to a draw in the Champions League, and BVB’s best result since the 4-0 victory against Leverkusen in September. Dortmund now have considerable momentum heading into an important week, in which BVB face Inter Milan on Tuesday before Der Klassiker on Saturday.
Lucien Favre’s lineup was an interesting one. Axel Witsel, who has been the first name on the team sheet this season, started on the bench with Julian Weigl and Mahmoud Dahoud in midfield. In typical Wolfsburg fashion, Oliver Glasner set up his men to crowd the midfield and keep plenty of defenders behind the ball. The first half remained deadlocked at 0-0, with neither side creating many chances. BVB did get lucky with Lukas Nmecha glancing a shot off the post in the 24th minute. In the 27th minute, Marco Reus appeared to pick up an ankle injury, and had to be replaced by Mario Götze. Although BVB didn’t have many clear cut chances, they did seem to be more aggressive. They pressed higher, their touches were clean, and their passes were on point.
BVB eventually broke through in the second half. Six minutes into the half, Achraf Hakimi picked out Thorgan Hazard with a pass. With Hazard playing between between the defenders’ lines, he had the space necessary to turn and whip a perfectly-placed shot into the corner. A mere 6 minutes later, Hazard again found the scoresheet. This time, he picked out Raphael Guerreiro in acres of space along the left side. Guerreiro had all the time in the world to calmly place a shot into the far side, and only 12 minutes into the second half, Dortmund were two goals to the good.
Wolfsburg hardly posed a threat to Dortmund after BVB took the lead. The only real chance they generated was by Joao Victor, but Marvin Hitz made a strong save to keep the score 2-0. BVB weren’t done scoring either; with the game winding down, Julian Brandt whipped in a cross that struck the hand of a Wolfsburg defender. The referee pointed to the spot, and Mario Götze stepped up and smashed the ball into the left corner, giving BVB a 3-0 lead.
The match ended with a welcome sign: Paco Alcacer had a brief cameo, being subbed on for Brandt in stoppage time. Paco’s ability to lead the line has been sorely missed, and will be needed if Dortmund are to take down Inter Milan and Bayern Munich in the coming days.
- This was Thorgan Hazard’s best match in a BVB kit. He notched a goal and an assist, which means he now leads the Bundesliga with six assists. He’s flown a bit under the radar due to his lack of goals. Now that he’s scored, hopefully he’ll gain more appreciation for his play with the club. He looked energized and dynamic, and his finish oozed confidence. If BVB are to right the ship in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, Thorgan Hazard will need more performances like this.
- Mahmoud Dahoud has a role with the club. His wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination, but Dahoud’s inclusion in the squad just injected a bit more creativity and attacking prowess into Dortmund’s midfield. His tendency to take risks can result in turnovers sometimes, but it can also pay off by progressing the ball through the center of the pitch, something with which the Witsel-Weigl pairing struggles.
- Hakimi continues to impress. The Moroccan full back slotted into BVB’s right wing in place of Jadon Sancho, and was a force on offense with three shots and three key passes. He assisted Thorgan Hazard’s goal with a pinpoint pass. I would prefer, however, if he wasn’t the one taking direct free kicks with Reus and Paco off the pitch.
- Are BVB turning it around? While Dortmund looked anemic during the first half, they finally showed that they can play solid football for more than five minutes at a time, with a dominant second-half performance. This is now the second match in a row where Dortmund have been able to find a new gear in the second half. BVB’s next two matches will be vital to the rest of the season, so BVB will need 90 minute efforts in both to find success.