On match-days between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern, I wake up in a metaphorical feverish sweat. The air feels heavier. The nerves, unsteady. “Just how will this match hurt my joy as a sports fan?” I wonder. Today, Dortmund actually put in a remarkably strong effort that was marred by moments of poor finishing and unlucky mistakes. What die Schwarz-Gelben showed us, however, was that they’ve got the mettle to face Bayern head-on.
Here are three takeaways from a closely-run affair between the Bundesliga’s best teams.
Erling Haaland and Marco Reus Had a Tough Day
Dortmund has often been recognized for offensive prowess, with both Haaland and Reus leading different eras of attacking greatness. Despite each player recording a goal in today’s match, both struggled to perform consistently. For Haaland, it involved questionable decision-making inside the box. On opportunities where he needed to pass to a trailing teammate, he took shots that went wide of the post. His other attempts towards goal also went wide, leading to an uncharacteristically rough outing for the Norwegian giant.
Haaland’s still a kid, though, and will only continue to improve in these areas of the game. That he’s as good as he is at the tender age of 20 is frightening for opposing teams. For what it’s worth, his runs against Bayern’s backline were nearly perfect. It’s just the end product that was missing.
Reus still appears to be struggling to return to form after the lengthy injury spell. Though he’s been getting into the line-up over the past few weeks, he just looks a step behind the rest of the team. Marco’s struggling to create as much space as he used to and his one-on-one duels against defenders haven’t led to much success. I think Reus will be fine as time goes on, but he may need to come off the bench more frequently until he’s fully fit. Dortmund has plenty of weapons to deploy in his absence.
Dortmund May Finally Have the “Mentality” to Win
I’m not sure what’s changed in recent times, but BVB have managed to pull off some especially gritty wins against tough opponents this year. Though Dortmund fell to Bayern today, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Per ESPN, Dortmund posted a crazy-good xG of 2.48 to Bayern’s 1.52. This seemed to match the on-pitch product, especially with Haaland making darting runs against Boateng and Alaba.
I’ve always been a bit skeptical that Dortmund’s mentality was the primary issue with the team, but they’ve certainly collapsed against teams like Bayern in critical matches. This is especially true with how many errors Dortmund used to commit. Today was anything but a collapse. We saw two incredibly talented teams go toe-to-toe, and it was Bayern’s veteran experience that ended up prevailing. Despite the loss, Dortmund’s future looks exceedingly bright.
This Defense is Pretty Solid
It may sound strange to say this on a day in which the score-sheet shows 3 goals against, but Dortmund’s defense put in a pretty good shift. Some of the goals were on superhuman efforts or crazy deflections. The backline, as a whole, was pretty solid. Meunier had a well-rounded performance, and the centre-backs were fine enough (though Hummels was a touch slow). Raphaël Guerreiro, though, had yet another standout match at left-back. He was everywhere along the left flank, creating space in the attacking-third and tracking back aggressively when need be. While Dortmund’s defense did have a few scares here and there, that’s to be expected. Bürki managed to cover for many of Bayern’s oddball, yet dangerous chances. If the backline continues to play this well, Dortmund may finally solve the mystery of how to stop dropping points in important matches.
What did you think of today’s match? Let us know in the comments below.