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Three Observations From Borussia Dortmund’s Lackluster 2-1 Defeat Against FC Cologne

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Three easy points slip away.

Borussia Dortmund v 1. FC Koeln - Bundesliga
Haaland will be seeing this one in his sleep.
Photo by Uwe Kraft​ - Pool/Getty Images

Just when Borussia Dortmund were beginning to develop some momentum, things came crashing down again. Against an FC Cologne side that hasn’t won in 18 matches in the Bundesliga, BVB conceded two goals on a pair of botched corners and apart from Thorgan Hazard’s reply, couldn’t capitalize on any of the numerous chances they created throughout the game. Here are a few observations from this disappointing defeat:

Two goals from two catastrophic mistakes

In this sport, 89 minutes of domination can be undone by one or two simple errors. This proved to be true today for Borussia Dortmund, who made the same catastrophic mistake not once, but twice. In the ninth minute, a corner delivery from Cologne midfielder Ondrej Duda was flicked by Marius Wolf towards the back post, where a completely unmarked Ellyes Skhiri had nothing to do but poke the ball into the net. Both Axel Witsel and Emre Can had the Tunisian in their blind spot, and neither had the presence of mind to reflexively defend the near post.

In the second half, Cologne scored a second goal in almost the exact same circumstance. After Thomas Meunier fell with a leg injury, BVB were forced to momentarily defend a corner kick with 10 men. The delivery came in to the near post and once again Wolf flicked it to the back post, where once again, Skhiri stood completely unmarked and buried the ball into the net. It’s very likely that Meunier was supposed to cover the far post, and once he went down nobody else in the squad took the initiative and covered for him.

These were the only clear chances that Cologne created today, but they were also the only two they needed. It demonstrates how important it is to stay focused 100% of the time, because even though BVB were the better side for the vast majority of the game, these two errors were enough to give Cologne the win.

A poor showing from Sancho and Brandt

Jadon Sancho was spectacular against Club Brugge in the week, so Lucien Favre rewarded him with the start today. Unfortunately, Sancho did not reward Favre’s decision. Instead, he was very sloppy, with the most poor touches and quite a few turnovers. Julian Brandt had a similarly poor performance, with four poor touches and no shots or key passes. Both of these players are vital in the buildup, so it’s quite worrying that they combined for so few shot-creating actions.

In all fairness, Cologne did a good job shutting them down by clogging the midfield and pushing the play out to the wings, where Cologne could pinch in along the touch line and double team Brandt and Sancho. The appropriate move would have been to try to switch the play to the other flank, but instead BVB kept trying to break through walls of Cologne defenders, and were frequently dispossessed as a result.

On another day, BVB would win 4-2

Despite everything I mentioned above, Borussia Dortmund still created numerous chances and easily could have had another 2-3 goals. The most obvious one was Erling Haaland’s last second miss, a sitter right in front of the gaping goalmouth that the Norwegian striker could only deflect wide. Youssoufa Moukoko also had a decent chance that he scuffed wide. Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho also worked a dangerous free kick that saw Timo Horn rebound a shot only just out of reach of Erling Haaland. Sancho also hit the crossbar in the opening minutes of the match. Taking all these chances into consideration, it could be argued that Borussia Dortmund were the better side. The expected goals result reinforces this argument:

On another day, BVB easily could’ve converted these chances and we’d be celebrating a 4-2 win. Instead, Dortmund scuffed their chances, and here we are trying to dissect another disappointing defeat against an inferior opponent.

Your Observations

What did you think of today’s defeat? Were BVB the worse side, or just unlucky?