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Match Ratings: Borussia Dortmund Find a Late Goal in 1-0 Win Over Mainz

Axel Witsel popped up with a rare goal to help BVB get the job done

1. FSV Mainz 05 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

For the vast majority of Wednesday’s game against Mainz, I was regretting agreeing to cover both the man of the match and ratings articles, because it was forcing me to pay at least some attention to a game that didn’t really deserve any of my attention. Borussia Dortmund were pretty flaccid, and Mainz weren’t much better either. It was exactly the kind of performance that you’d expect from an injury-riddled side that have patched their starting eleven together, so I wasn’t mad, but I was disappointed that it was wasting my evening.

Luckily, Axel Witsel popped up in the dying moments of the game to grab the winner and keep BVB in with some vague hope of making a title race out of an otherwise languid season. Unluckily, I was checking on my dinner and I missed the goal.

Here are the ratings from Wednesday’s 1-0 victory:

Starting XI

Gregor Kobel

Paul: 6

Zac: 6.5

Emre Can

Paul: 8

Can is a frustrating player. So much so that I think there is a good chance he is one of the players that is shown the door come the end of the season. But the frustration doesn’t come from his lack of ability. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Emre Can is clearly able to do virtually anything with a football. He’s incredibly competent, and capable of playing almost anywhere on the pitch. But he plays with the kind of reckless abandon that you’d expect from a toddler screaming around the living room, like it’s not full of pointed edges and danger.

But every now and then, when the stars align, Emre Can’s danger ball ends up being exactly what the doctor ordered. Whether it’s a screamer from 35 yards (because why the hell not?) or, like on Wednesday, it’s a dominant defensive display. Can was putting in the same risky tackles as ever, testing where the line is between a perfect tackle and a penalty, but they all came off (except for a couple dumb passes and one or two heart-in-the-mouth moments defensively).

Gotta give him credit when it works out because I’m definitely gonna complain when it doesn’t.

Zac: 8

The only thing to add to Paul’s assessment is that if the Emre Can who turned up against Mainz had been the other version, Dortmund would certainly have lost.

Marin Pongracic

Paul: 6

Zac: 6.5

I think we should all give Pongracic some credit for stepping into a dumpster fire and not immediately getting himself burned. Dortmund were in a bad way before the game against Bielefeld and Pongracic likely did not expect two 90 minute performances in his future. But to his credit, the Croatian has filled in, maybe not as a world class defender, but as a player who needed to do a job. He put in the same shift against Mainz.

Felix Passlack

Paul: 6

Zac: 6

Not as good as against Bielefeld, but still decent and definitely working hard. Felix is much better on the right than on the left, that is for certain.

Nico Schulz

Paul: 6

Zac: 5

All I remember from Schulz’s game is him running the same channel and delivering the same poor cross he does every time he has a ball. It’s like watching a loop.

Mahmoud Dahoud

Paul: 5

Zac: 4.5

I actually thought Dahoud was quite poor against Mainz. He was disposessed several times, did not complete any clearances or interceptions, and picked up a yellow for his troubles. Some of his passing was also uncharacteristically poor. Mo has been asked to put in a LOT of minutes lately, he could surely use a break.

Axel Witsel

Paul: 6

I mean, he didn’t do a great deal right or wrong. He was just there, being a net neutral contributor, in a game that needed a little more from midfield...

And then he found his contribution.

Zac: 7

Scored. Love to see it.

Thorgan Hazard

Paul: 7

I thought Hazard was alright today. Not great, but he was the best option BVB had going forward, until Haaland and Reyna came on.

Zac: 6

It’s tough with Thorgan these days. I really, really rate his ability, finishing, and game sense. But hearing that he is frustrated about a lack of minutes, seeing him do very little with the minutes he is getting is not encouraging. Especially when he should be one of the best players on the pitch.

Jude Bellingham

Paul: 6

My lasting memory from this game was Jude Bellingham coming back on after having his clock thoroughly cleaned. That’s a young lad, with his whole career ahead of him, allowed to get back on the pitch after he was doing the concussion shuffle on his way off it. The concussion protocols in football are fucking awful. We’ve got to do more.

Zac: 6

Agreed Paul, we need to be protecting these guys better.

Marius Wolf

Paul: 7

Zac: 7

Another 100% effort performance.

Donyell Malen

Paul: 6

Zac: 6

Unlucky again not to be further in the game, but his efforts were not as potent as they were against Bielefeld.

Substitutes

Erling Haaland

Paul: 6

Zac: 6.5

Was definitely looking to make things happen, and had a good effort saved by Robin Zentner.

Julian Brandt

Paul: 5

Zac: 5

Gio Reyna

Paul: 7

Reyna was very bright when he came off the bench, grabbing the assist for Witsel’s goal, with a lovely set piece. Lets hope the latest knock is nothing serious.

Zac: 7

Overall

Paul: 6

I think BVB deserve some credit for getting the job done, and I’m not really looking to dock any marks for the fact they didn’t play particularly well, because the squad is a bit of a mess right now.

Zac: 7

Typically in games that Dortmund simply have to win, they find a way to lose. That theme has rung true not only this season, but over the years and across many coaches. I can recall many games where a 1-0 scrappy win would have made me happier than ever. This game against Mainz was the second of two must wins and to everyone’s surprise, Dortmund won them. The team deserves credit for overcoming a deflated mentality and lack of motivation to churn out results. The reward? Closing the gap to Bayern Munich and maybe instilling some fire in the players to see out the end of the season.