For perhaps only the third time this season, Borussia Dortmund deserved to win a match from the first whistle to the final whistle. In fact, Die Schwarzgelben displayed their best performance in the Bundesliga this season as VFB Stuttgart visited the Westfalenstadion.
Dortmund entered this game in poor form. They were eighth in the league and had one win in their last four games. Stuttgart on the other hand, having just fired Pellegrino Matarazzo as head coach, had scored 10 goals and conceded 1 in their last two games. Both sides came into this match with 13 goals scored on the season and Dortmund’s -1 goal difference was only slightly higher than Stuttgart’s -2. All the signs were there for Dortmund to slip up once again. It was vital that the team started strong and took control early on.
They did just that. One minute and twenty-nine seconds in, Dortmund found the back of the net through Jude Bellingham, the Englishman’s first Bundesliga goal this season. The assist came from Niklas Süle who was deputized as right back due to Thomas Meunier’s injury. Sure, some suspect defending was involved but this was a well-worked goal from the hosts. In the 10 seconds leading up to the goal, 5 Dortmund players touched the ball and six passes were completed before Bellingham slotted it home. Not only was it a quick and decisive buildup, but it was a collected finish from Bellingham to put Dortmund ahead. Attributes that have been hard to come by in the Bundesliga this season.
From there, Dortmund took control. In the twelfth minute, Giovanni Reyna, who was making his first start since September 14th, won a foul in the final third with some tricky footwork. On the ensuing freekick, Ralphael Guerreiro found Süle and the assisted turned scorer as he provided Dortmund’s second goal. This was also the team’s first goal of a setpiece this season. In the forty-fourth minute, incisive and quick passing from Julian Brandt and Youssoufa Moukoko allowed Reyna to provide a pinpoint shot into the bottom right-hand corner for his first goal of the season. It was a fantastic finish and definitely a wonderful moment for Gio who scored for the first time in 421 days.
Dortmund continued their pressure after the half. In the fifty-third minute, Nico Schlotterbeck won the ball and found Jude Bellingham twenty-five yards out from goal, surrounded by four defenders. The Englishman then danced around the defense and slotted a fantastic finish into the same corner Reyna found in the first half. It was easily the best goal of the game and a middle finger to Fear The Wall’s “Which Players are Behind Dortmund’s Finishing Woes in the Bundesliga”. With his two goals, Bellingham scored his first Bundesliga brace and is now Dortmund’s top goalscorer this season. He’s also probably a hattrick away from me getting his name tattooed across my ass.
With the fourth goal, Dortmund took their foot off the gas and made some substitutes in preparation for this week’s Champions League tie against Manchester City. Hummels, Adeyemi, and Reyna were replaced by Passlack, Hazard, and Modeste. Despite the changes, Dortmund found the back of the net for the fifth through Moukoko in the seventy-second minute. A brilliant pass from Bellingham found Guerrero who flashed the ball across the goal for Moukoko to tap it in. It was fantastic play from all three players.
The game wasn’t without chances for Stuttgart, however. In the ninth minute, Tiago Tomas’s shot from 8 yards out was saved by Gregor Kobel. This game could have looked very different if the Stuttgart player had teed the ball to his teammate on the far post. The final ten minutes actually saw additional pressure from the visitors. An 86th-minute header from Luca Pfeiffer was just over the bar and he actually put the ball in the back of the net three minutes later. To add additional misery to the visitors, however, VAR overturned this one.
Here’s the highlights:
Here are some of my additional thoughts on the game:
The biggest complaint of this Dortmund’s attack is the lack of clinic passing and shooting in the final third. Ya’know, two things that are pretty important for scoring goals. In his return to the starting lineup, Reyna reminded everyone that he has the ability to find his teammates in the final third and the ability to pick up the corner of the goal, rather than the keeper, when he takes a shot. In 67 minutes today, Reyna created 3 chances, 0.37 expected assists. won a foul that led to Dortmund’s first setpiece goal, and scored 1 goal with a fantastic finish. For comparison, Adeyemi created 0 chances and 0.02 expected assists in that same amount of time. Against Hannover 96 in the Pokal this week, Hazard and Malen created 3 chances across 136 minutes combined. Reyna produces results. That’s what the team needs.
Adeyemi Continues to Struggle
I love Adeyemi. He’s willing to run, fight for the ball, and is excellent when given space ahead of him. His end product, however, is simply horrendous. In the Bundesliga, he’s played 252 minutes in the Bundesliga this season, has 0 goals, 0 assists, 0.8 xG, 1.5 xA (A hefty portion of that coming from the game against Bayern when Modeste skied it), and today's game contributed to that. I bring this up because I noticed both his body language and the body language of other attackers when Adeyemi gets on the ball. Often times Adeyemi would have options available and would, instead, elect to pass back to one of the centerbacks or take an overly-ambitious shot from outside the box. His teammates would then yell at him about it and the cycle would repeat 10 minutes later. It’s obvious that his confidence is shot and I’m not really sure how he gets out of this funk. Hopefully, he finds his form, for his sake and Dortmund’s.
It was another terrific display by Bellingham who grabbed his first Bundesliga brace, helped set up Dortmund’s fifth, and even wore the captain’s armband for the last 20 minutes. Despite being snubbed for the Golden Boy Award, Bellingham continues to show that he is a world-class midfielder despite being only 19. He’s easily Dortmund’s most important player and, if he is able to continue scoring in the Bundesliga, he has the potential to become so much better. Still, it’s important Terzic knows when to rest him. Several moments during this game saw Bellingham stop, hunch over, and take a breather. It’s obvious he works hard but it’s up to Terzic to make sure he’s not run into the ground.
What were your thoughts on the game?