Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, once said, “If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you can use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.” If you’ve ever flown Ryanair, I believe this is a concept you’d be familiar with.
Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 victory against Bayer Leverkusen today was the Ryanair of football matches. It was bumpy, uncomfortable, turbulent, and it’s a miracle that more people didn’t walk away injured.
Even BVB’s goal, the only one of the match and the goal that sealed all three points for the good guys, was a sloppy mess. It started in midfield, when despite being surrounded by at least four Leverkusen players, Jude Bellingham managed to poke a ball free to Youssoufa Moukoko, who managed to hold off a looming Edmond Tapsoba before whacking a low ball across the goal mouth to Karim Adeyemi. For the second straight game, Adeyemi almost blew an easy tap-in by shooting the ball right at the goalie; however, the ball idled on the line just long enough for Marco Reus to pounce on it and bury the lone tally of the day.
It’s hard to give a point-by-point recap of the match because it didn’t really have much of a flow. It was 90 minutes of sheer chaos: endless loose balls in midfield, constant, unnecessary turnovers by both sides, skin-of-their-teeth defending by both sides, brilliant (and at times, mind-numbing) goalkeeping, and more. I can generally say that Leverkusen started the match well, putting BVB under pressure and pushing Dahoud, who was nominally playing defensive midfield, into a de facto center back role at times. Dortmund came into the match, and broke the ice with Reus’s goal.
I wanted BVB to grab a second goal, but the match settled into an uneasy stalemate, with both sides collecting their modest share of chances. Leverkusen gradually began to ratchet up the pressure as the match approached its conclusion. I was waiting for one final barrage of attacks from Die Werkself, but it never came. In the final minutes of stoppage time, Lukas Hradecky made a bone-headed error by handling the ball outside the penalty area, earning him a red card and forcing Leverkusen, who had already used all their subs, to play Edmond Tapsoba in goal.
The final whistle blew 1-0. Much like an early-morning Ryanair flight to Birmingham, it was far from glamorous, but it got the job done.
My Miscellaneous Thoughts:
- This may have been a 1-0 win, but a Simeone-esque masterclass it was not. BVB were bailed out numerous times by poor finishing from Leverkusen, quality saves from Gregor Kobel, and last-ditch tackles from Mats Hummels, Nico Schlotterbeck, and Mahmoud Dahoud.
- This was a very dirty game. Both sides were throwing their fair share of cheap shots and hard challenges. I may be biased, but I thought Leverkusen were the dirtier of the two sides, who seemed on a mission to cause as many injuries as possible. It’s a miracle that Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus escaped with healthy Achilles tendons today, given Palacios “accidentally” spiking them both.
- Schlotterbeck did have a few iffy moments, notably an errant back pass in the first half and a few lunging tackles that he completely whiffed on, but outside of these rare instances he basically single-handedly carrier the back line. He won challenge after challenge both in the air on the ground, had a few brilliant long balls, and was constantly firing up the crowd. He looks to be a real gem.
- Before the season began, I wrote an article criticizing Gregor Kobel’s performances last season. Fortunately, at least today, Kobel looked very much the elite goalkeeper we all hoped he would be. As Leverkusen increased the pressure in the second half, Gregor Kobel stood on his head and made two fantastic saves, both on Patrik Schick. The first was a somewhat straightforward save: all Schick had to do was smash a ball floated to him by Diaby, and it would have been a goal. The second, though, was a solid save, with Kobel making the right decision to charge out to meet Schick, and making his body large to block the shot. He was also excellent in possession throughout the match.
- Karim Adeyemi, who had a bright start to the game, was subbed off with what appeared to be a toe injury early in the first half. Stand by for updates.
- Jeremie Frimpong and Moussa Diaby in particular ran circles around Raphael Guerreiro, especially in the second half. It was distinct from last season in that Guerreiro was actually trying to fulfill his defensive obligations, and he did have a few strong interceptions here and there, but by and large he was overwhelmed by Leverkusen’s multiple speedsters.
What are your takeaways from today’s game? Let me know your thoughts below.