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Match Ratings: Dortmund Do It the Hard Way in Leverkusen

A thrilling seven-goal affair ended in success for BVB

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Dortmund once again showed their fighting spirit to down a red-hot Leverkusen side who had been running rampant before the international break. After an early goal from Florian Wirtz set the tone in favor of the hosts, but Dortmund were not content to forfeit the points, and worked back numerous times for a thrilling finish.

With a Champion’s League clash on the horizon, Dortmund will be raring to kick on after this wild win.

Starting XI

Gregor Kobel

Zac: 7

A tough day for Kobel, who will be frustrated to concede as many as he did. To his credit, goals from Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick were essentially un-saveable. The backfield still feels safer with Kobel than it has in the past, and his save against Lucas Alario late was sublime.

Paul: 7

Sean: 6

I will admit that all three Leverkusen goals were excellent finished, but I disagree with Zac that they were un-saveable. It’s worth noting that all three goals were located in the exact same spot: low to the ground, to Kobel’s left. I noted in an article a few months ago that he seemed to be beaten there quite often last year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if scouts are beginning to catch on to it as a weakness.

Raphael Guerreiro

Zac: 5.5

Some lower ratings for Guerreiro will be unpopular given his sublime free-kick yesterday, but the Portuguese was poor by his typical standards. Guerreiro and Dahoud worked together to lose the ball over and over on the left side, putting extra pressure on Manuel Akanji.

Paul: 5

One of the tradeoffs you get with Guerreiro is the incredible offensive output in exchange for some pretty mediocre defensive work. On the whole, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable tradeoff, because he gives more than he takes. Yesterday, but for a fantastic free-kick that leveled things up at 3-3, Guerreiro’s light defense was overwhelmingly worse than his good offense. He found a way to just about fix things though!

Sean: 4

As I wrote yesterday in my observations, Guerreiro’s performance prior to his free kick yesterday was the worst that I could remember. He was a turnover machine on offense and defense, when he even bothered to show up on defense at all. His free kick is the only thing preventing the rating from being a 2 or lower.

Manuel Akanji

Zac: 7.5

The Swiss center back was tasked with helping new signing Marin Pongracic bed in, as well as putting out a slew of counterattacking fires from the Leverkusen attackers. Akanji put in a solid shift, but failed attempts with his new partner to close down the Leverkusen attack led to goals like those from Florian Wirtz and Patrik Schick.

Paul: 7

Sean: 7

Marin Pongračić

Zac: 8.5

What a standout debut for the Croatian! Pongracic put in a number of strong tackles, completing 100% of his challenges while on the field. Dortmund need Pongracic to hit the ground running, and he seems eager to impress linking back up with Marco Rose.

Paul: 8

Pongo’s debut was a perfect chance for him to get to grips with what his role will be at BVB. He’s there to fix the gigantic mess that everyone else has made, and he’s gonna be busy fighting fires left, right, and center. I’m sure Manu and Mats have filled him in on how things go here at Dortmund. He certainly looked up to the task yesterday.

Sean: 8

I have nothing further to add, but we are calling him Pongo now. That is decided.

Thomas Meunier

Zac: 7

Paul: 7

Sean: 5

Once again, I thought Meunier looked pretty awful during the first half, but his beautiful cross to Erling Haaland helps his case in my book. He should’ve had another hockey-style assist if it weren’t for the referee’s decision to cancel out Jude Bellingham’s goal.

Axel Witsel

Zac: 4.5

I believe I asked in another piece whether the decision to keep Witsel and move Delaney had any merit; today’s performance from the Belgian did not help his cause. Leverkusen’s first two goals came on the counter, and the deepest player in the midfield was ineffectual to stop them. Witsel then failed to get in front of Moussa Diaby for Leverkusen’s third goal.

Paul: 4

I thought Witsel was really poor yesterday. I think there are real question marks over whether he can cut it at this level anymore. I hope he answers those questions in the coming games.

Sean: 4

I would be less worried about Witsel starting against lower-level competition, but it’s pretty clear that he shouldn’t start against more capable opponents like Leverkusen. He doesn’t have the pace to cover the back line as a holding midfielder, especially in Rose’s system that pushes the full backs so high.

Mahmoud Dahoud

Zac: 6.5

Dahoud put up a dismal 75.6% pass accuracy against Leverkusen. He lost the ball several times when interchanging with Raphael Guerreiro on the left, and attempted some dangerous plays out of the back that put the defense under pressure.

Paul: 6

Sean: 5

Jude Bellingham

Zac: 7.5

Paul: 7

He was robbed of a goal, but he managed to make up for it with this:

Sean: 7

What a snag! One-handed, no less. The Miami Marlins should pick him up. Oh, and he was robbed of a goal.

Marco Reus

Zac: 6

Reus was a bit out of touch with the attack, failing to link correctly with Haaland or to make his usual impact. I think Reus may be struggling a bit to find rythmn with the new build of the midfield behind him, but he will tick on soon.

Paul: 5

Sean: 5

Julian Brandt

Zac: 7.5

Julian Brandt looked more composed and connected with the team than he had all of last season, and was rewarded with a well taken goal. He may not have had the pizzazz of Gio Reyna moving through the opposition guard, but I hope today’s performance helps him to find that spark again.

Paul: 5

Sean: 5

7.5? I think my 5 is generous! He was one of the worst players on the pitch in the first half, missed a sitter, missed easy passes, and constantly turned the ball over. He was a bit better in the second half, and his goal was obviously well-taken, but I’d hoped for much more from Brandt.

Erling Haaland

Zac: 9

Big man, big game, big goals. It was not a vintage Haaland performance by his standards, but his header was a welcome surprise and his penalty well taken.

Paul: 8

Sean: 8

It’s crazy that Haaland can score a brace and leave me sitting here thinking, “Not one of his better performances.” It goes to show how spoiled we are.

Subs

Donyell Malen

Zac: 7.5

Malen gets extra credit from me today because, in fighting off Jeremy Frimpong who nearly tore off Donny’s shirt, Dortmund were able to get forward for the play that eventually led to the penalty. Malen did not get on the scoresheet today, but his fight has been unquestionable, and I know we will see him off the mark soon.

Paul: 7

Sean: N/A

I honestly don’t remember a single one of his touches, if he even had any.

Mats Hummels

N/A

Great to see him back on the field.

Marius Wolf

N/A

Bonus points for the sweet neck punch, completely ridiculous.

Overall

Zac: 7.5

Against a team who are flying into the new season, Dortmund, the commentators, and the fans all new this game would be a thriller. There would be goals, there would be drama. In the end, Dortmund threw the final punch, but another day may have been another case. Marco Rose will have plenty to consider after this performance, especially the strength and shape of the midfield which allowed so many counterattacks through. Dortmund need to get the hard points to challenge Bayern, and these three may go a long way come May.

Paul: 7

I really don’t know how to rate the overall performance. It was a mess, but Dortmund got the job done. There was just a mass of defensive chaos at both ends, yet somehow the defenders were some of BVB’s better performers (which says something about the mess the midfield was making). I guess I’ll be generous here and give them a decent rating, because they found a way to win in a game that could easily have ended any other way. It was a dumb penalty, but there’s something to be said for a team that seizes on any and all luck that comes their way, and uses that to walk away with three points.

Sean: 6

There’s an old sporting cliché that goes something like, “Good teams find a way to win even when they don’t play well.” Well, I also think that good teams tend to find a way to, you know, play well, which BVB didn’t do for most of the game yesterday. There are serious defensive holes in this system that good teams will exploit, even if Leverkusen couldn’t do so to a full extent yesterday. Marco Rose has his work cut out for him.