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Match Report: Spurs Weather First Half to Win Tie

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An impressive first half was quelled by a quick Kane goal to wrap up the two legged tie up in the 48th minute

Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg For Santander Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Pregame:

Spurs rocked Favre’s injury stricken Dortmund side two weeks ago in Webley, following some quick halftime adjustments by Pochettino. Following the weekend loss to Augsburg, Favre put out an adjusted lineup, benching both Zagadou and Hakimi.

First Half:

Favre put out a 4-1-4-1, with Götze playing somewhere between Reus’s 10 position and Witsel’s box to box role, tending to drop next to Witsel without the ball, finding space in Tottenham’s midfield. With vast energy, Dortmund pressed incredibly high, dominating possession and the first half. Chances by Reus, Alcacer, and Sancho were all saved repeatedly, with Götze and Witsel establishing the tempo from deeper.

Dortmund forced Lloris to make save after save, with 5 shots on target. Vertonghen managed to make a miraculous sliding tackle as Reus struggled to get the ball out from under him at the mouth of Tottenham’s goal. A ball over top to Alcacer was sent sailing over the net as Sanchez pushed Alcacer as the shot came off. Reus had an incredible opportunity at the edge of the area that was blocked by Sanchez. At least six or seven quality chances came to BVB players over the course of the half, the vast majority of them during the first 35 minutes.

Spurs had one chance halfway through the first half, with Son finding an opportunity on the break. Looking slightly offside, and having Wolf pushed him in the back, he misplaced the shot slightly to the left of the net, with Bürki coming out to pressure him.

After that, Dortmund press and possession subsided slightly, and as the tempo of the game slowed, Tottenham looked to regain a bit a foothold into the match, shortly before the half.

As the whistle blew, Dortmund players’ frustrations were apparent, as failing to grab a goal with that many opportunities seemed improbable.

Second Half:

Kane finished off a quality Spurs’ possession, with Dortmund looking un-energetic immediately after the break. Kane slipped between Akanji and Weigl, with Sancho keeping him onside, and powerfully and intelligently, blasted the ball past Bürki.

That goal immediately knocked the wind out of Dortmund’s efforts, as the same press and possession that existed in the first half failed to remain.

In the 60th minute, Favre substituted Guerrero and Wolf off for Bruun Larsen and Pulisic - giving the two youngsters a chance for minutes. While 4-0 behind, it seemed odd that Favre would fail to remove the more important Dortmund players from the fixture. With that adjustment, with Sancho moving to the left, it looked like Dortmund started to sit in a 3-4-3. While not the most opportune time, Favre might never have a better time to test things out in an actual game with as little risk as being 4-0 down.

In the 73rd minute, Reus came off for Delaney, resting the BVB captain and preventing him from another injury.

The rest of the match was a little bit back and forth, with Dortmund remaining in their back 3 shape. Spurs had a couple of opportunities to elevate their lead, but bar those chances, the remainder of the game was somewhat void of energy. Neither team looked particularly enthused, seeing how Kane’s goal finished off the tie. Bruun Larsen looked positive in a couple circumstances, looking to improve on an unimpressive performance against Augsburg.

Some thoughts:

  1. Please play Götze next to Witsel in the future. Götze, in that midfield role, outplayed Eriksen. He pressed well, provided an extra element going forward, and while he did not provide the defensive resilience of Delaney, was a thorn in Spurs’ attempts to get forward and gather possession in the first half.
  2. The goals will come. With performances like these, while it may seem that the xG gods may currently hate us, the goals will come. That said, effort and mental resilience need to remain constant to overcome this slump. How good this team can be is apparent - this team can, and will, be that good again. It just needs time. To see this team play better though, is an improvement that I am more than okay with.
  3. Piszczek cannot come back fast enough. As good as Wolf was down the flank in the first half, his crosses either ended up at Lloris’s feet, behind runners, over the top of the goal, or, in one instance, curling all the way into the far side corner flag for a throw. A replacement of Piszczek needs to happen during the summer.
  4. The struggles against sides who put numbers in-between the goal and the midfield in a low block continue. From the games against Brugge until now, Favre has not found an answer. Those problems continue.
  5. Dortmund continue to have lapses in concentration. The goal against Kane showed a lack of focus coming out of the break, as Spurs collected a loose ball and slotted in a neat pass to Kane. Those problems of failing to concentrate, either in the beginning of the match, at the end of the first half, the beginning of the second half, and the end of the match have to end.