Today's game may not have been the most spectacular of attacking displays, but Borussia Dortmund really got the job done. Youssoufa Moukoko and Karim Adeyemi spurned great chances in the first half, while Manchester City struggled to create anything against our compact and disciplined backline. In the second half, winger Riyadh Mahrez passed up City’s best chance of the game, as his penalty was saved by Gregor Kobel. The second half was more of a slog than the first, as BVB looked a little more tired, and, as a result, the counter attacks weren't quite as dangerous as they were during the first half. However, the team defended stoutly, giving the Sky Blues no joy (except for the penalty, of course), thus sealing our progression in to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Here's my thoughts after a very solid performance:
Terzić won the tactical battle
We lined up in what was ostensibly a 4-5-1, with Süle and Hazard playing as full-backs, Can playing the holding role at the centre of the 5 in midfield, and Brandt floating about. In the defensive phase, however, we shuffled quickly and effectively into a 5-4-1, with the Fridge tucking into centre-back, and Adeyemi dropping into a wide defensive role. This worked a treat, as Adeyemi and Hazard showed real desire to press City's wide players, while Reyna, Bellingham and Brandt made for great progressive options in transition. The 5-4-1 effectively restricted both of City's full-backs, as well as clogging up the channels in which Gündogan and (later) Bernardo Silva like to operate, while Jude and Emre worked tirelessly in midfield. The extra centre-back also allowed us to neutralise City's two-man strike pairing through sheer numbers. Pep Guardiola is an experienced tactician, but Edin Terzić's tweaks to our usual 4-2-3-1 made sure that we preserved a numerical advantage in key areas, and posed a threat going forward. I've been hard on Terzić's choice of tactics on occasion this season, but this was absolutely spot-on.
In every “big” game this season (barring Tin Can FC), Dortmund have shown up. Sure, it hasn't always been the prettiest football, but they've got a determination about them that's been missing in recent years. The team have shown a commitment to fight for the shirt that I'd like to attribute to Edin Terzić. Long may it continue. Today, they didn't look like an overworked team facing an opponent whose budget and wage bill is several times their own (that also had the luxury of resting key players over the weekend). They pressed effectively, stayed compact and disciplined, and really made life tough for the opposition, while also looking a consistent threat on the counter. Despite only having 27% possession, our npxG was 1.1, almost three times the Cityzens’ 0.4. The work without the ball was fantastic, and Adeyemi and Brandt were both excellent at finding space and initiating counters.
There wasn’t a single bad performance out there (Can’s penalty concession was the only blot on an otherwise immaculate game), but everyone’s determination and willingness to work without the ball really stood out today. I think we’re taking real steps towards banishing the mentality demon this season.
Extend Hummels. Now.
He may not win the most duels, or be the most spectacular tackler, but his ability to be in the right place at the right time and elegantly snuff out danger combined with his masterful marshalling of the defence make him invaluable. Today's man of the match, and a must extend.
What did you make of the game? Do you think we won the tactical battle, or was it just sheer luck? How many zeroes should Hummels’ contract contain? Let us know!