A point is a point, and fortunately that’s all Borussia Dortmund needed today to book a trip to the Champions League Round of 16. It wasn’t always pretty, and a win would have been much more satisfying, but BVB got the job done against Lazio with a hard-fought 1-1 draw. A goal from Raphael Guerreiro got Dortmund off to a strong start, but a questionable penalty call allowed Ciro Immobile to bring Lazio level, and neither side was able to take the lead from there. Here are four of my observations from today’s match:
Two Unfortunate Calls
I really don’t like complaining about refereeing, and normally downplay the effect of a referee’s decisions on the results of a match, but I feel like I have to call out the referee today. There are two calls in particular that I think were very unfair on BVB and may have cost them the result. The first of these was in the first half, when Jude Bellingham was brought down right inside the penalty box. Jude Bellingham was in on goal and the defender, Adam Marusic, made absolutely no attempt to play the ball, taking Bellingham out with a swinging hip tackle. Despite this, the referee didn’t blow his whistle and VAR was not consulted.
Later in the match, after the rebound from an initial cross squirted out to Nico Schulz, the full back attempted to put in a challenge on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Savic knocked the ball in front of Schulz and basically tossed himself on the floor. Initially, the referee didn’t call it, and turned around to follow the play, but either the video assistant or the linesman advised him to call it and he immediately blew the whistle and pointed to the spot. I’ve watched it three or four times, and it still seems very soft to me:
Borussia Dortmund had plenty of chances to grab a win, including one from Nico Schulz only minutes after he conceded the penalty, so I’m not going to blame the result on the referee, but I still feel bitter enough to point out that Dortmund were definitely on the wrong end of two crucial decisions.
Erling Haaland, Please Heal Quickly
When the news broke today that Erling Haaland had suffered a hamstring tear in training and would be out for the remainder of the calendar year, a wave of pessimism swept over the Borussia Dortmund’s fanbase, and today’s performance demonstrates why. Without Erling Haaland, Lucien Favre was forced to play Marco Reus up front, and it just wasn’t the same as having the speedy Norwegian leading the line. Reus isn’t in the best form right now, and he no longer has the pace to chase down through balls that has made Haaland a star. After Reus was subbed off, Julian Brandt was brought on to play up top, and he also doesn’t fit the bill, preferring to drop deeper and pick out a progressive pass.
BVB were able to get a goal today, but they had to work for it. Luckily, with a ticket to the knockout round punched, the potential damage to BVB’s Champions League campaign due to Haaland’s absence is rather limited. There are still several Bundesliga matches to go in December, and BVB will need to find new ways to score, and fast.
Finally, a Strong Performance from Roman Bürki
One of BVB’s biggest shortcomings this season has been its goalkeeping, whether it has been from Bürki or Marvin Hitz. Today, though, Roman Bürki was on his A-game. He made five total saves, including a fantastic save in stoppage time with his outstretched hand on what would’ve been a beautiful direct free kick by Andreas Pereira. He also robbed Ciro Immobile in the 87th minute after the former BVB striker fired a shot on target from a half volley.
Hopefully this is a sign of what is to come from Roman Bürki. With Erling Haaland out for the next month, BVB will need to keep their goals allowed to a minimum, and goalkeeping is obviously a big part of that.
Jude Bellingham Bossed it Tonight
In the reverse fixture in Rome back in October, Jude Bellingham really struggled to cope with Lazio’s press and put in a rather unimpressive performance. Today, however, he was absolutely electric. He won 9 of 14 duels, by far the most of any player on either side, had 3 successful dribbles, tied with Joaquin Correa for the most on either side, and most importantly, he was able to break out of BVB’s defensive third and impact the game further up the field, something he was utterly unable to do back in October:
Jude Bellingham seems to be improving every game. At the rate he’s growing, there is virtually no ceiling to his potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, Bellingham is a near lock to make the starting XI in big games for Borussia Dortmund.
What did you think of today’s match? Leave your thoughts below.