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Three Observations from Borussia Dortmund’s 2-0 Victory Over Wolfsburg

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Dortmund defeated a really good Wolfsburg side to finally win a league game at home since their matchday 5 derby win over Schalke.

Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg - Bundesliga
Manuel Akanji opens the scoring with a finely taken header from a Jadon Sancho corner
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga with a 2-0 victory over a really good VFL Wolfsburg team. The win propelled BVB above their opponents and Union Berlin to fourth place in the Bundesliga table. In the opening exchanges it was the visitors who took the game to the hosts with an aggressive press high up the pitch which caused Dortmund difficulty playing out of their own half. This match could have easily seen an early goal or two for Die Wolfe as they harried BVB into early mistakes which created some half chances for Wolfsburg.

Borussia Dortmund grew into the game, and had some decent spells of possession as the first half developed but neither side was able to break the deadlock. It wasn’t until the 66th minute when Manuel Akanji rose to head home a Jadon Sancho corner, one of Dortmund’s ten on the day, that we finally saw the breakthrough. Wolfsburg continued to huff and puff to find an equalizer that they probably deserved given they had 21 shots on the day to Dortmund’s 14, but in committing so many bodies forward, Wolfsburg were hit on the counter by Jadon Sancho who scored the second goal and put the game to bed. Here is a look at three observations from the match.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

I know it’s absolutely too much to ask of new BVB coach Edin Terzec to completely transform this side into the aggressive Rock n’ Roll football that Dortmund has played in the not so recent past in just a few weeks. However, that is exactly what supporters wanted to see, especially at home, even against a good side like Wolfsburg. We want to see our squad go out and bully teams right from the first whistle. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Today, Borussia Dortmund sat back and were reacting to Wolfsburg instead of taking the game to them. BVB continually tried to play the ball out from the back, and for the first quarter of the match couldn’t seem to string more than a couple passes together.

As the game wore on it became clear that we needed more quality passing in the midfield, but Terzec decided against making subs until the 81st minute when he brought on Steffen Tigges for a frustrated and exhausted Erling Haaland, and then in the 85 minute when Emre Can replaced Marco Reus to try and defend the 1 goal lead. The BVB boss exercised a third substitution after the Sancho goal cemented the win, when Dan-Axel Zagadou came on to replace Giovanni Reyna to ensure the clean sheet in the dying minutes. It is still very early in the season, and Edin Terzec has only taken charge for a handful of games, but so far not much has changed other than Lucien Favre is no longer at the helm.

Haaland is human

Erling Haaland finally returned after tearing a muscle in late November in a loss against FC Cologne, and cut a frustrated figure as this game wore on. Wolfsburg was always going to be a difficult game, especially physically, and both sets of strikers found chances hard to come by. Haaland really didn’t seem to possess the speed and ability to run past opponents today, obviously suffering from a lack of match sharpness after being thrust into the starting XI so soon after injury. Haaland’s temper reached its boiling point when he angrily booted the ball after he was judged for a handball while trying to break in on the Wolfsburg goal, for which he was rightfully booked. Steffen Tigges would then come off the bench to make his Bundesliga debut to replace a jaded Haaland for the last 9 minutes plus stoppage time.

When Haaland was initially ruled out with an injury until January following matchday 9, I thought that it would be a difficult one for Dortmund considering the amount of goals he has scored, and also that we really didn’t have a proper backup striker with experience leading the line. This proved to be the case for BVB through the month of December with 2 losses and only 1 win in four Bundesliga matches. A big Champions league win over Zenit. and a victory in the DFB Pokal over Eintracht Braunschweig helped to ease BVB supporters during this time, but if Dortmund wish to win any silverware this year, we need Erling Haaland fit and firing very soon.

Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg - Bundesliga
Sancho gets his first Bundesliga goal of the season
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Jadon Sancho has to play his way out of this form

Normally when a player gets an assist, bags a goal, and helps his side defeat a top four rival in the league then you would say he must have had a really great game. The England International did all these things but still managed to not have a great game. Sancho played pretty well but it’s clear that he does not work well with Thomas Meunier on the right side. Sancho and United States International Giovanni Reyna switched wings on multiple occasions throughout the game but it seemed clear to me that Sancho wanted to work on the left hand side of the attack and combine with Reus and Raphael Guerreiro. Sancho struggled early with his corners not finding their targets but got much better as the match went on and was finally rewarded when Akanji headed home to take the lead. A second assist to Akanji from a corner could have easily been added, only for the Swiss center back to head that effort wide.

The most important moment for Sancho came in stoppage time when he was able to break free of the Wolfsburg defense and finally open his league scoring account, which helped to make up for his failed effort on an open goal in the first half. Initially it looked as if Paulo Otavio would break up the play, but Sancho fought off the tackle and executed a cool finish. Watching his reaction after the goal, I feel this moment could provide a breakthrough for Sancho to get back to the form that saw him become not only a regular in Gareth Southgate’s England setup, but also brought about the attentions of other clubs throughout Europe. Even when he isn’t playing particularly well, Sancho does things that others simply cannot, and it’s best that Dortmund continue to allow him to play his way into form than sit on the bench.

Your Thoughts

What did you think of today’s match? Please leave your comments below.