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Borussia Dortmund Capitulate in Embarassing Fashion, This Time in Leverkusen

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Defending was optional today.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
Awful defending has cost BVB dearly.
Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

So, the manager that BVB hired to fix their broken defense has been beaten by the manager who was fired for breaking BVB’s defense. Peter Bosz and Lucien Favre have broken their fair share of Dortmund fan hearts, from embarrassing blown leads against Schalke and humiliating beatdowns at the Allianz Arena. The two of them are probably responsible for millions of dollars worth of medical bills from conditions related to high blood pressure and stress-induced stomach ulcers in and around Dortmund. In today’s derby of second-rate Tuchel replacements, it was Bosz who won the day, his team taking advantage of shambolic defending from Borussia Dortmund en route to a 4-3 win.

I thought BVB actually started the match pretty well, but as has so often been the case this season, it was the opposing team who struck first. In a stunning display of defensive ineptitude, it took three passes for the ball to get from the feet of Lukas Hradecky in Leverkusen’s goal to the back of Dortmund’s net. It started with a lobbed pass from Hradecky to Havertz, who drew in three lackluster Dortmund pressers before hitting Nadiem Amiri with a pass. Amiri, completely unmarked, picked out a perfect pass to Kevin Volland who, played onside by Mats Hummels, effortlessly held off Manuel Akanji before slotting a shot past Bürki into the net. It was an awful defensive display from beginning to end, and it was emblematic of how the rest of the match would go.

In the meantime, though, Mats Hummels would make up for his mistake moments later, hammering in a header off a corner delivered by Jadon Sancho. He’s been getting chances galore from corners, so it was really only a matter of time.

Today was also the debut of BVB’s latest purchase, Emre Can, who played in a double pivot alongside Axel Witsel. During the first half, Emre Can’s play in midfield wasn’t great. He had a few needless turnovers. At times his lack of chemistry with Axel Witsel was very telling. In the 33rd minute he made up for it in magnificent fashion, with a beautiful curled strike from 25 yards that graced into the top corner. Here it is, in all of its glory:

The goal came out of nowhere, and Leverkusen looked stunned. BVB began to dominate possession over the next several minutes, and came close to notching a crucial third goal once or twice. Unfortunately, BVB proceeded to toss Leverkusen lifeline. After winning a corner, Nadiem Amiri whipped in a cross that overshot his targets in the penalty box. With an acrobatic kick over his shoulder, Jonathan Tah managed to loop the ball back into the box. BVB’s defenders had either fallen asleep or decided to take a quick breather, because the ball floated right to a completely unmarked Kevin Volland, who volleyed the ball into the net with ease. The half ended with the score level at two goals apiece.

The complexion of the game changed completely after halftime. During the first half, it had seemed like Julian Brandt would be able to play through a knock on his ankle that he picked up. It must have been more serious than it had first seemed, because Favre started the second half by fielding Gio Reyna in Brandt’s place. Without Brandt, BVB lacked a creative outlet in the center of the pitch, and BVB were instead forced to rely on their fullbacks to create offense. The results weren’t entirely bad. Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi looked like they combined for a goal, until it was called back when Gio Reyna committed a foul behind the play.

BVB still managed to take the lead in the 64th minute with a goal from Raphael Guerreiro, who was probably BVB’s best player during the second half. Achraf Hakimi did a good job driving into the center of the pitch. He bounced a quick give-and-go off of Jadon Sancho before playing in Guerreiro, who calmly dispatched the ball into net to give Dortmund the lead.

BVB had a lead. Leverkusen were looking tired. All Dortmund needed to do was keep the ball out of the net for thirty or so minutes. Let’s head over to Understat to see how they did...

Oh.

I think I’ll do something a little different and give an itemized breakdown of Leverkusen’s game-tying goal:

  1. Jonathan Tah strolls into midfield, completely unmarked while carrying the ball.
  2. Tah sends a pass to Kai Havertz, who is chilling between BVB’s two defensive lines, completely unmarked.
  3. Kai Havertz passes to Kevin Volland, sitting right between Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels... somehow also unmarked.
  4. Hummels manages to slide into Volland and knock the ball away... straight to Leon Bailey (also unmarked), who curls a shot around Bürki into the net.

The amount of space that Leverkusen were afforded in this play is simply unacceptable. I counted at least four or five instances when all a BVB player had to do was commit to a tackle, and the play probably would’ve broken down. Instead, they stood around like traffic cones, and allowed Leverkusen to tie the game.

As I watched, stunned at my team’s shocking display of defensive impotence, I barely had enough time to collect my thoughts before Leverkusen had scored again. Somehow, only two or three touches off of their kickoff, BVB had given the ball up to Leverkusen, who were off to the races again. This goal was even less complicated, and potentially more infuriating, than the one moments earlier. Daley Sinkgraven was left completely unmarked (shocking, I know) at the corner of the penalty area. With all the time in the world, he hooked a cross in and found the head of Lars Bender, who lunged over the shoulders of Akanji and Hummels and smashed a header home. The BayArena went about as nuts as the BayArena can conceivably go, and what had been a 3-2 lead minutes ago had turned into a 4-3 deficit for Borussia Dortmund.

Inserted without comment:

Like a deer caught in the headlights, it took a few minutes for Favre to respond in any way. He subbed on Thorgan Hazard and Mario Götze with a whopping five minutes left in the match. Shockingly, this wasn’t enough time for either player to go out and fetch an equalizer.

The final whistle blew after five minutes of stoppage time, and BVB’s humiliation was complete. BVB had a chance to snatch a solid victory the weekend after bowing out of the DFB Pokal in pitiful fashion. Instead, BVB will have to face an Eintracht Frankfurt side next weekend having lost two in a row. Frankfurt have just finished putting Augsburg to the sword, and must be licking their lips at the prospect of facing this BVB defense.

And if you think that’s bad, wait until Neymar and Mbappé come to town.

Thanks for reading.