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Four Observations from a Critical Win over VfL Wolfsburg

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Dortmund once again struck early and late, but did the job to make up ground in the race for top four.

VfL Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Focke Strangmann - Pool/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund came into Matchday 31 knowing the stakes; win to stay in contention for the Champions League, or fail to do so and kiss that chance goodbye. VfL Wolfsburg have a challenging run in to the end of the season, and compared to Eintracht Frankfurt, their position looks the more vulnerable. Knowing this, Dortmund needed to capitalize on the points Die Wölfe had dropped to Bayern Munich and Frankfurt to bring the gap in the table to two.

The game began very open, ebbing in the favor of the hosts as both teams sought to exploit the spaces left by their opponents and seek out the opportunity to counter. Paulo Otavio had an early chance to bring his side ahead, but the resulting miss would prove more and more costly as the game wore on. A mistaken back pass from Ridle Baku sent in Erling Haaland, who made sure he brought his shooting boots after a frustrating performance against Union Berlin. From then on, both sides exchanged shooting chances but neither found the net before halftime.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, Dortmund lost their prodigious English midfielder after he was awarded a yellow card for his lazy challenge on a Wolfsburg defender. Despite going down to ten men and working to absorb tremendous pressure from the opposition, Dortmund managed to squeeze through a second goal when Mahmoud Dahoud’s excellent awareness allowed him to pick off a pass from John Brooks. From there, he played a perfectly-weighted through ball to the Norwegian Machine who did not need an invitation to blast past the Wolfsburg back line and slot a shot past Koen Casteels. From here, Dortmund hunkered down to see out their lead and earn a clean sheet for their efforts.

Here are today’s major match observations.

No Hummels... Some Problems

It was mentioned in the match ratings from the game against Union Berlin that Mats Hummels had really put his team in the firing line by collecting his fifth yellow of the season before today’s game. Knowing how shaky Emre Can has looked in the midfield of recent, the idea of him sliding into Hummels’ role in one of the showdowns of the season heightened the nerves of many BVB faithful. Though Die Schwarzgelben held a clean sheet against Wolfsburg today, that was often times more a result of poor finishing by the opposition than the defensive work of Dortmund. Lukasz Piszczek served admirably on the right side to quell the pace of Paulo Otavio while Emre Can managed Wout Weghorst, but when the need for organization was called upon, Hummels was certainly missed. Today’s game served as a reminder of the need to recruit at the center back position this summer.

The Golden Boy has a Rusty Showing

Hey Juuuuude, what are you doing! After a string of performances that made even Pep Guardiola stop and take notice, Jude had an evening to forget. A set of lazy and late challenges saw Jude collect two yellows to leave the game after only 60 minutes. The first yellow was enough to suspend him for the game against Leipzig, having garnered his fifth of the season, but Bellingham went a step further and finished the job by becoming Dortmund’s youngest ever player to receive his marching orders!

After playing non-stop due to Witsel and Delaney’s injuries, it seems likely Jude was simply worn out from his high-octane play style. Hopefully the management takes note, and ensures that Jude does not get burned out in the future.

Marco Reus Impresses Again

Marco Reus is Dortmund born and bred; he bleeds black and yellow, and today he showed that he embodies the industrious spirit of his city. 81% pass accuracy and 1 key pass are not exactly the stats for a man of the match performance, but Reus’ play today was that of a captain. He was the most fouled player on the pitch as he completed four dribbles to break through the Wolfsburg midfield press. He also posted four interceptions, a tackle, and a clearance to ensure his side were not pegged back. Reus was a tremendous leader of the pitch today, and even though he may not play with the pace of the young winger he once was, Marco has continued to adapt his role to contribute to his team at the top level. Any calls early in the season to bench Reus have been silenced as the captain has risen to the challenge of the Champion’s League push, and brought his team up with him.

He’s Back! (Well, he never left)

Dortmund needed their front-man today, and Erling Haaland stepped up with two expertly taken goals. Neither of Haaland’s chances could be called easy, and after a difficult midweek performances, he roared back in style. Any striker will tell you that a one-on-one with the goalkeeper when running at full speed is NOT as easy as the spectators would think it to be; the challenging of the rushing keeper and the need for a split second decision can ruffle ever the coolest of heads. Haaland kept his composure to bury his chances, and also worked hard for his team to progress the ball forward and interchange with the other forwards.

A frustrated Haaland of the previous week gave way to the high-jumping, star-kicking young striker we have enjoyed watching celebrate all season. Hopefully the big man has his head screwed back on straight now, and is tuning out any distractions from the media and his agent.


What did you think of the win today? Let us know in the comments.