With the threat of the European Super League dissipating, it was back to the grind of the race for the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund, who hosted Union Berlin for the mid-week tie on matchday 30. Although BVB ran out deserved 2-0 winners, it was anything but straightforward.
Union Berlin hit the post in both halves but Die Schwarzgelben were not made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as they were able to hold for a rare clean sheet. A Thorgan Hazard through ball found Marco Reus in the box in the 25th minute, and after a VAR review the penalty call stood. Erling Haaland stepped up to take the spot kick but the placement was too central and veteran Union goalkeeper Andrea Luthe was able to save it. Haaland pounced on the follow up and as the ball squirted past Luthe it began to curve away from the goal, but Dortmund club captain Marco Reus bumbled it over the line to open the scoring.
Dortmund continued to create chances but were unable to take them as Haaland, Reus, and Giovanni Reyna all came close to scoring. Edin Terzic was obviously worried about getting more goals because in the 60th minute he introduced Jadon Sancho fresh off the injured list. Sancho wasted zero time in getting acclimated back into the team as his immediate introduction caused Union several problems on their left side. However, Dortmund were made to wait as Union continued to stay in the game, that was until the 88th minute when Raphael Guerreiro slotted home a Julian Brandt pass fresh after a counter-attack to give BVB all three points heading into this weekend’s crunch fixture with Wolfsburg. Here are some observations:
Emre Can was poor again
It seems like forever ago that I wrote that Emre Can need to start every game in midfield. Back in January against Leipzig, Axel Witsel went down around the 30th minute and Emre Can came off the bench and put in a man of the match display. Can’s tigerish tackling in midfield was complimented by his industrious carries with the ball and precision passing. Before the international break Can was partnering Mats Hummels in central defense due to Manuel Akanji’s injury, and he was playing well. However, has looked off the mark ever since he played three straight matches for Germany over the international break. He’s been constantly giving away the ball and being caught out of position. His performances cost the team two goals over the Manchester City Champions League tie, and the team was lucky to escape today. Perhaps Can just needs a rest, but now it looks he will be playing centerback again at the weekend due to Hummels’ yellow card suspension.
Gio looking like “The American Dream”
After months and months of poor performances from the young American international, Reyna appears to have re-discovered his mojo just in time for the run in. Reyna was a constant threat today and could have easily bagged a goal with an assist to boot. Whenever Gio gets the ball it appears he knows exactly what to do with it again, which was something we were not seeing over the last few months. I have been particularly impressed with his close control on the sideline when being closed down by defenders as he seemingly squirts away from challenges and then drives inward creating opportunities. If Reyna can continue this form through the end of the season, Dortmund have a much better chance of winning silverware and getting back into the top four.
On another day Haaland has at least a brace, if not a hat-trick with the chances he had for Dortmund today. Not only did the Norwegian miss his penalty kick, but his follow-up was also saved, and it took an opportunistic Marco Reus to finish the play. Haaland also had chances assisted by Reyna, Sancho, and Bellingham that he was unable to finish off today. Haaland had been in a bit of a funk before his brace against Werder Bremen, and even though he scored two that day, he was not his usual self. All this talk of a move to another club probably has the youngster’s head turned a bit at the moment, but I believe Haaland will be ready to score goals this weekend. Which is good, we will need him to do just that.
The San-Show is back!
Immediately thrown out into the fray and Jadon Sancho delivered as only he can. Silky smooth passing, quick movement, and a couple nutmegs to boot as Sancho strolls back into the Bundesliga making his 100th appearance in the competition. The only thing missing was his end product but given he only had half an hour, Sancho was ballin’. I have to admit that I was cringing when he came on and went full sprint behind Union’s back line, but Sancho looked as if he was never injured. His volley from the Reyna cross was shanked, but it was not exactly an easy chance, and his left footed effort was heading for the top corner of the net until it was deflected wide for a corner. Was it me, or did everything on the pitch speed up when he stepped onto the field?
What did you think of today’s performance from BVB?