It was not without drama at the Westfalenstadion on Friday night, with two equalizing goals from the visitors forcing Borussia Dortmund to dig deep to find their winner, scraping out a 3-2 victory by the skin of their teeth. The game sends the squad off to the season’s first international break, and gives Marco Rose some time to evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly from the start to his tenure.
Here are today’s matchday observations.
Dortmund Show their Grit
Dortmund was made to fight for a victory at home today, and with their home record against Hoffenheim, a fight was always going to be in the cards. The game began with tremendous aggression, with the earliest league yellow card since 2010 being recorded in the opening minutes. This set the stage for a rough opening half, with challenges continuing and Dortmund being forced to match the intensity. To their credit, the BVB boys kept their cool, not allowing the opposition to get in their heads and distract them from maintaining possession. Despite the intensity, Dortmund finished the first half with a heat map primarily in the opposition half.
In addition to the game’s intensity, the black and yellows found themselves forced to fight back into the game twice, with equalizing goals from Georginio Rutter and Mu’nas Dabbur leveling the scoreline twice. A stunning strike from Jude Bellingham restored the lead the first time, while a searing smack from Erling Haaland delivered the winning goal in extra time. Whereas in the last few seasons a goal after 85’ would be curtains for Die Schwarzgelben, the boys got right about their business and flew up the field, showing a determination that will hopeful become characteristic of the charismatic Marco Rose era.
ERLING HAALAND WITH AN INJURY TIME WINNER FOR DORTMUND! pic.twitter.com/S1t2GZNRTv— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 27, 2021
Yes, yes, I know we are all excited BUT, we must always talk about sad pieces. Dortmund have conceded three sad pieces in as many games, a worrying trend that Rose will be eyeing to snap after the international break. It is worth noting that Dortmund have begun the season without Mats Hummels, whose contributions to the stability of the Dortmund back line cannot be overstated. With a slight discount to Vincenzo Grifo’s goal (who, as a friend said to me, “does not have that in his locker the other 364 days of the year”), Dortmund have conceded two goals to late runners at the back post. What is the answer? Maybe instead of Marco Reus standing like a telephone pole at the front post, keeping the runner onside, he slides to the back post. Just a thought. Either way, the reintroduction of Hummels or a tactical change needs to snuff out this issue ASAP.
The Solid Subs
While the super-sub title is certainly not ready to be dusted off, both Julian Brandt and Marius Wolf looked remarkably good off the bench. Brandt looked comfortable today in the role that Gio Reyna has carved out in the midfield, making very progressive runs and passes. He also did well to close down the opposition through double team coverage, which is certain better to see than his lackluster solo tackle attempts last season.
Marius Wolf raised my eyebrow coming in for Jude Bellingham, immediately asking questions of the Delaney sale when the midfield runs thin. To his credit, however, Wolf put in a more-than-standard shift, linking excellently with Haaland and nearly finding the back of the net on two occasions baring some astute goalkeeping from Oliver Baumann. He was composed on the ball, and except for his late challenge on Mijat Gaćinović in the dying seconds, very competent when helping the defense. Wolf was a winger when we bought him, a full back when he returned from Koln, and now he is a central midfielder, I guess. Whatever this guy is, it would be interesting to see him contribute successfully in black and yellow this season.
Colder Reus, Warmer Malen
After a searing preseason and game against Frankfurt, our talisman has grown a teensy bit cold in the last two games. Marco Reus was practically absent against SC Freiburg, and found himself a little all over the place today. He was caught in no man’s land for Dabbur’s goal, playing the forward onside. When the opportunity game to atone and put the game to bed, Reus struck an easy chance (by his standards) wide of the post. Maybe I am being a bit critical, but hopefully his stint with Die Manneschaft will iron everything out.
Donyell Malen, on the other, hand looked better today, finding some chemistry on the left side and nearly opening the scoring with a solid strike to the bottom corner. Expecting Malen to be an immediate star at Dortmund given the cast around him would be unfair, but the signs are pointing to the young Dutchman settling in and finding his feet sooner rather than later. Given how eager he seems to use his right foot, Rose might consider swapping him and Haaland to provide some better chances to shoot across the face of goal.
What did you think of today’s match, and who will you be watching during the international break?