In a showdown against their future coach Marco Rose, Borussia Dortmund scrapped their way to a 1-0 victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach, paving their way to the DFB Pokal Semifinal. BVB have now won four in a row heading into a pivotal match against Bayern Munich on Saturday.
The game started on a sour note, when left back Raphael Guerreiro was subbed off in the 5th minute after pulling up with an injury. The game quickly fell into a stalemate, as neither side created many chances or scuffed the chances they did create. Both sides had a potential goal called off after VAR checks. It took until the second half for BVB to finally break through with a goal from Jadon Sancho that capped a brilliant team goal that saw Nico Schulz, Marco Reus, and Erling Haaland all contribute to the buildup. Dortmund managed to defend their slim 1-0 lead effectively. A last-minute red card from Mahmoud Dahoud somewhat darkened the mood, as it now means that Dahoud will miss the semifinal.
Here are my observations from today’s game:
We’ve won... but at what cost?
Going into today’s match, Borussia Dortmund’s primary objective, other than winning the game, should have been to rotate properly to ensure that the squad is fully rested and healthy to face Bayern Munich on Saturday. While BVB did manage to secure a win and therefore a trip to the semifinal, they managed to injure not one, but two key players in the process. Raphael Guerreiro pulled up clutching his thigh in the fifth minute, and needed to be subbed off for Nico Schulz. Later in the game, Dortmund’s injury troubles grew. After scoring his goal, Jadon Sancho appeared to develop a bit of a limp, and sure enough, he was immediately subbed off for Thorgan Hazard.
Hopefully these two substitutions were just precautionary. If they weren’t, and Sancho and Guerreiro do miss substantial time, then they could be devastating to Dortmund’s season. Borussia Dortmund will first face Bayern Munich in a pivotal match that could sink or salvage BVB’s fight for the top four. Then, next Tuesday, BVB will have to face Sevilla with only a precarious one-goal aggregate lead. The fact that two of the club’s best offensive players could miss both matches is bad enough. Worse is the fact that both players reportedly began the game feeling the effects of their injuries.
Terzic: "Guerreiro and Sancho both carried knocks into the match. Both felt their muscles, and we didn't want to take any risks. We'll have to see how it goes in the next few days." #BMGBVB— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) March 2, 2021
If Terzic “didn’t want to take any risks”, then presumably he could have started Nico Schulz and Thorgan Hazard in place of Guerreiro and Sancho respectively. Unfortunately, he had to use two subs to make the switches in-game, and now two vital BVB players may be out for Der Klassiker. Hopefully the precautionary measures were just that, and that these two will be healthy come Saturday.
Nico Schulz surprised me
Even though he’s a pretty clear downgrade from Raphael Guerreiro, who’s arguably the best attacking left back in the world, I thought Nico Schulz was a decent replacement today. He filled his defensive role admirably and helped BVB to a clean sheet, and he even had a sweet nutmeg that kickstarted the counterattack that led to BVB’s goal. While he made a few needlessly risky passes, he was a serviceable replacement for Raphael Guerreiro, and I hope that if he does play against Bayern, that he repeats his performance today.
Here’s his nutmeg again, courtesy of Borussen Edits:
If BVB make the top four, it will be because of Reus, Haaland, and Sancho
It may seem like an eternity ago, but way back at the beginning of the season, we thought that squad depth was going to be a strength, not a weakness for Borussia Dortmund. On the surface, Lucien Favre appeared to have a plethora of attacking options including Sancho, Haaland, Reus, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt, Gio Reyna. As the season has wore on, BVB’s attacking depth has eroded, whether because of injuries to Hazard or decreasing production from Reyna and Brandt.
At this point, the club’s success seems to live and die at the hands of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Erling Haaland. Sure, BVB might get an odd long shot goal from Dahoud, but at this point, the vast majority of the team’s offense is coming through its two big stars, with the captain doing a lot of the dirty work to make the goals happen. Today, it was a Jadon Sancho goal, assisted by Marco Reus, that was the difference maker. Erling Haaland also surprisingly missed a big chance when he dragged a one-on-one chance wide.
An ugly win is still a win
As you could probably tell from the 1-0 scoreline, a barn-burner this was not. Especially in the first half, the two sides mostly cancelled each other out, with Borussia Mönchengladbach forcing Dortmund’s backline to bypass midfield and launch long balls to Haaland, who would alternate between darting runs against the back line and trying to hold the ball up. This meant a lot of contested balls in the center of the pitch and not much else. The game got pretty testy, with both sides clogging midfield and making it hard for either side to break through. Thankfully, Gladbach couldn’t really create much either, outside of an early tap-in that Marcus Thuram scuffed wide, and a few tepid shots that rolled gently into the welcome arms of Marwin Hitz.
Bonus VAR Complaining™ : The Phantom Foul
I’ve watched that goal from Erling Haaland that was ruled out by VAR several times, and I do believe that it should have been a goal. Yes, Haaland made contact with Bensebaini, but it a) was clearly incidental, and b) wasn’t what brought him down, as Bensebaini tripped over his own leg. It ended up not mattering because BVB got the win, but I still think it was the wrong call.
What did you think of today’s game? Leave your thoughts below.