Facing one of their biggest tests of the season, Borussia Dortmund shows their stuff in a 3-1 win over a title-contending RB Leipzig. The game was very drab in the first half, with neither side able to generate much of anything in terms of offensive production, but things turned around in the second half with three excellent Dortmund goals giving them the win.
Following a very poor first half display, Borussia Dortmund made the necessary adjustments at halftime and came out a completely different team. They pressed with an intensity that we haven’t seen from Dortmund under Lucien Favre, and Leipzig looked completely stunned by the ferocity of the pressing. Eventually, the goals followed as Marco Reus laid off a terrific pass from Erling Haaland for Jadon Sancho, and the Englishman buried home his second goal in consecutive games. The second goal was maybe the best goal Dortmund have scored this season, with a number of quick, incisive passes that led to Haaland heading home a Sancho cross. Seriously, look at this:
What a team goal!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 9, 2021
Beautiful from start to finish by Dortmund pic.twitter.com/kT1zZ0Uzhv
The third goal was a brilliant throughball assist from Reus to Haaland, and he rounded Peter Gulasci for the third and final BVB goal of the day. Leipzig scored on a poor defensive effort from Thomas Meunier and Dan-Axel Zagadou, but by that point, the decision wasn’t in doubt.
In the 28th minute, Axel Witsel suffered a non-contact injury to his leg when he slipped trying to reach for a loose ball. Witsel had to be carried off the pitch, and Terzic subbed in Emre Can for the injured central midfielder. It didn’t have much of an impact in the first half, but I believe Can was one of the difference-makers in the second.
While Witsel hasn’t played to his usual standard this season, and Can for Witsel definitely changed the tone of the match for the better, it’s never good to lose someone of Witsel’s caliber. He’s a veteran leader on and off the pitch, and both Favre and Terzic trust him enough to be a nailed-on starter regardless of the competition in front of them, so Witsel’s absence could be very important from a leadership perspective.
If this quote from Reus is any indicator, Witsel will be out of action for a significant amount of time. With Bellingham also injured, Brandt unable to recapture last year’s form, and Dahoud mysteriously not seeing playing time anymore, Dortmund absolutely can’t afford to lose any more central midfielders unless they want to take a gamble on someone from the second team.
A Tale of Two Halves
I said it above, but neither team looked like title contenders in the first 45 minutes. Th se passes were sloppy, fouls were aplenty, and there was only one shot in the whole half. One; one measly shot by RB Leipzig. And it wasn’t even a good shot! The xG for both teams was 0.1-0.0 in favor of Leipzig at the end of the first half. That’s really, really, REALLY bad.
The second half was a completely different viewing experience. Dortmund actually started to press on Leipzig’s backline, and it led to a number of turnovers and possession for Dortmund. The disruption to Leipzig’s play directly led to several attacking chances for Dortmund, and three of them ended in terrific goals that we haven’t seen too often from BVB this year.
If they can continue to play at a level close to - if not exactly at - what they showed in today’s second half, look out Bundesliga.
The Return of Sancho?
In the previous Match Observations article, Mike Solak commented that Sancho needed to play his way back into his 2019/20 form that saw him finish with 20 goals and 20 assists across all competition and a €120 million valuation. After the transfer to Manchester United failed, he played like his mind was somewhere else and, while he still put up decent numbers this season, they’ve been nothing compared to what we all know what he can do.
I think it’s safe to say that Sancho has started to play his way back into his usual form.
In my mind, Sancho was the MOTM. Like everyone, he started off slow but grew into the game as time wore on. His goals from the last two matches were both vintage Sancho goals, and his assist today was a perfectly-weighted cross that he has been capable of hitting throughout his time in a BVB kit. Jadon has seemed to put the failed transfer that Hans-Joachim Watzke believes was the reason for his poor form, and that can only mean good things for himself and Borussia Dortmund moving forward.
What did you think of today’s match? Leave your comments below.