Borussia Dortmund took all three points today against relegation-contenders Hertha Berlin, winning 2-0 courtesy of goals from Julian Brandt and Youssoufa Moukoko. It was a bright start for the hosts who dominated possession and the play on the pitch during the opening exchanges. Hertha Berlin were sitting defensively in a 5-3-2 formation, and while they defended extremely well, they were not able to trouble the Dortmund defense or goalkeeper Marwin Hitz.
The first half remained goalless despite Dortmund’s domination, with Hertha Berlin ensuring Erling Haaland would not be the one to defeat them. It was starting to look like Dortmund were going to struggle to break Hertha down, but a moment of magic or perhaps good fortune gave the hosts the opener. Hertha attempted to pressure Dortmund in their own half, but Haaland was able to hold the ball up and play it to Julian Brandt who passed forward to Marco Reus in space. Brandt and Haaland chased the play and Reus fed the ball back to Brandt who appeared to have missed playing Haaland running in behind. However, Brandt promptly put his foot through the ball and scored from around 30 yards. He smashed the ball straight at Rune Jarstein, who practically moved his body out of the way to let the ball into the net.
Die Schwarzgelben continued to dictate the play over the Capital city’s side who were reduced to 10 men in the 80th minute when Vladimir Darida’s trailing challenge took down Marco Reus in the field of play. Reus would end up limping off the pitch, but much like Mats Hummels, who was also subbed off with an injury, he didn’t appear to be badly hurt. Substitute Youssoufa Moukoko, having just come on for Reus, struck a goal just after the 90 minute mark for his third senior goal, ensuring all three points for the home team. Here are some observations:
Jude Bellingham is Dortmund’s best all-around midfielder
Many people were shocked that 17 year-old Jude Bellingham was a matchday 1 starter to begin the season for the Ruhr giants, but he has paid the club back with some fine performances all season. The former Birmingham City player has really been saving his best performances for the business end of the season. Once again leading the match in duels won, Bellingham’s passing, dribbling, and tackling was once again outstanding. Certainly living up to the cliche of “covering every blade of grass,” Bellingham consistently won possession for his side. While he has not gotten a goal in a while, or very many assists, Bellingham’s play has been nothing short of superb. Borussia Dortmund boast Axel Witsel, Emre Can, Thomas Delaney, Mahmoud Dahoud, and Julian Brandt who all play central midfield, but this young player ticks more boxes than any of them.
Despite the goal, Julian Brandt still fails to impress
It has been a season to forget for the German midfielder who had an encouraging campaign in his maiden season with Dortmund. Unfortunately, he has not been able to put together a signature performance all season.
Despite the error by the Hertha Berlin goalkeeper, it was a really great strike from a long distance by Brandt. The problem is too many other times in the match today Brandt was guilty of slowing down the attack. Even in the move that scored the goal, Haaland had made a great run and Brandt failed to play the ball to him. There was another instance later where Brandt received a cross in the box and instead of taking it first time, tried to do too much and the move petered out. Hopefully, the goal will have given Brandt some confidence moving forward, but then again, most of us thought that after his great goal against Bayer Leverkusen, and not much has changed.
Another encouraging performance from Mateu Morey
Don’t look now, but we may have ourselves a right back after all. The position has been a problem for the majority of the season, with an Achraf Hakimi-sized hole on the right side which has plagued BVB constantly. Thomas Meunier started to perform well just before the winter break, but then he went down injured. Mateu Morey got the call going forward but failed to impress, forcing Edin Terzic to turn to utility player Emre Can for a couple matches at the position.
It has been a different story since Morey was restored to the lineup against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League, where he performed well on the road in a big match. Having been the starter ever since, Morey looks to have made the position his own, with wonderful passing, instinctive link-up play, and solid defending. These performances serve as a big boost for the team to make top four, and the board who may be able to save money at the position.
Youssoufa Moukoko the Super-sub
The young striker Youssoufa Moukoko scored his third goal for the senior team seconds into stoppage time. While questions should be asked again of goalkeeper Rune Jarstein, Moukoko was dangerous the moment he stepped onto the pitch for the injured Marco Reus. We have not seen a lot of the young striker since Erling Haaland returned from injury, but perhaps Terzic will start to give a few minutes to Moukoko at the end of matches. A natural striker, Moukoko was also seen tucked into a number 10 position, as well as picking the ball up out wide to accommodate the Norwegian Terminator. If Terzic can get some quality minutes late on from the strike sensation, it will alleviate some pressure off Haaland, and it may be the difference in the top four race.
Giovanni Reyna’s beard was pathetic.
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