At the end of the day, the result isn’t the worst in the world. A 2-2 draw against Hoffenheim, who have been a bogeyman opponent for Borussia Dortmund for years, would probably be considered somewhat acceptable in a vacuum. But in the context of this season, and BVB’s recent performances, today’s match was extremely frustrating. It epitomized every problem that has plagued Dortmund this season.
Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels looked like they had never played next to each other in their lives. Marwin Hitz filled BVB’s mandatory goalkeeping howler-of-the-week quota. Julian Brandt was an offensive black hole in the final third. Gio Reyna looked exhausted. And it was not tactical acumen or team play that kept Borussia Dortmund in the game, but two moments of individual brilliance.
Here are a few observations from today’s game:
Another... Goalkeeping... Error...
Come on Sean, you can do this.
All I want is one game where BVB’s goalkeepers don’t absolutely gift a goal to the opposition. I’m not even asking for a clean sheet... with some goals, there is nothing the keeper can do. But today, Hitz handed Hoffenheim the lead by committing a terrible error defending an inswinging corner. After taking a corner quickly, Sebastian Rudy whipped in a cross towards the near post at chest-level that Hitz probably should have caught. Instead, the keeper decided to punch the ball, and his punch pushed the ball straight into the body of Ihlas Bebou, and bounced off him and in to the net.
Even though Hitz made a decent save in the first half on a one-on-one against Bebou, his good work was undone with a single mistake. At the time, the game was 1-1 and BVB could have clawed back into the lead. Instead, His error put BVB behind, and with their lack of offensive quality, they never really looked like they would equalize, let alone re-take the lead.
Luckily for BVB, that wasn’t exactly the case...
Brief Flashes of Brilliance Kept BVB in the Game
The only reason BVB came away from today’s performance with a point was because of two mostly individual efforts. Even though Dortmund started the game with a pair of shocking errors that almost gifted Hoffenheim a pair of goals, Die Schawarzgelben actually took the lead, when Erling Haaland and Raphael Guerreiro combined to launch Jadon Sancho into space along the wing, where he was able to close in on Oliver Baumann and curl a shot around him.
BVB’s equalizer was also fairly random — following a foul on a Hoffenheim player in their defensive half, Hoffenheim played the ball forward with the referee giving them the advantage. When they inadvertently turned the ball over to Erling Haaland, their player was still on the ground. They must have expected Haaland to kick the ball out, because they all just stood around and while the Norwegian Striker dribbled in on goal and hammered a shot past Baumann. Hoffenheim’s players ran screaming at just about anybody they could complain to, whether it was Haaland, the referee, or the fourth official.
While both goals were well-taken, both came more or less out of nowhere. Outside of these two moments, BVB’s offense was very anemic. Julian Brandt was a turnover machine, Gio Reyna couldn’t dribble past Hoffenheim’s center backs, and Youssoufa Moukoko failed to make an impact once he was subbed on. Hoffenheim were by far the better side, and were it not for a few mistakes in front of goal, it easily could have been three or four goals against instead of two.
Defensive Errors Galore
BVB gave away so many grade-A scoring chances, that I’m frankly amazed they managed a draw. First, Bebou dusted Akanji and broke in on Hitz, who fortunately saved his shot. Then, Mats Hummels completely missed a tackle, again on Bebou, who this time sent his shot just outside the post. Just minutes after taking the lead, BVB allowed Hoffenheim to draw level when Sebastian Rudy successfully drew in both of Dormund’s center backs before playing a ball to the cutting Munas Dabbur, who lifted a chip slighly over the outstretched Marwin Hitz.
It didn’t end there. In the second half, Hoffenheim nearly made it 3-1 when Mijat Gacinovic deflected a long ball into the path of Bebou, who managed to beat Hummels and Hitz to the ball. Fortunately, the Swiss keeper manager to keep the ball out of the net.
There were times earlier in the season when Manuel Akanji and Mats Hummels looked like one of the best center back pairings in all of Europe. Those days seem far behind us. They don’t appear to communicate very well, so oftentimes either both of them will go for a loose ball and leave space vacant, or neither of them will, and an opponent will latch onto it. Both lost tackles in key areas where they couldn’t afford to lose, and luckily both were bailed out by Bebou’s poor finishing.
It wasn’t just on BVB’s center backs. Thomas Delaney did a poor job shielding Dortmund’s back line too. With Emre Can playing as a makeshift right back, it was up to Delaney to play as a traditional #6, and he did a pretty poor job of it. When your center backs are struggling, you need to make sure they aren’t facing opposition forwards in dangerous positions, and it’s partially on the midfielders to sweep balls away. Unfortunately, whether it’s due to coaching or a lack of chemistry, few BVB players seem equipped to play this role appropriately.
What did you think of today’s performance? Leave your thoughts below.