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Borussia Dortmund Knock Back A Buoyant Bayer Leverkusen

A win against Die Werkself puts BVB back in the top four.

Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Dortmund Photo by Bernd Thissen/picture alliance via Getty Images

It was Sunday Funday for Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 18, as a well-prepared gameplan by Edin Terzic resulted in a critical win for Die Schwarzgleben. Dortmund needed to survive the first twenty minutes of the match without conceding, and their ability to do so was the catalyst for a winning performance. Karim Adeyemi opened the scoring to give BVB an advantage, and the defense was resolute with the assistance of the standout Gregor Koblel.

Today’s victory brings BVB into the Champions League places and within touching distance of the top of the table. Defeating a competitor like Leverkusen, in the form they are in, is a statement for a team that has lacked a focused attack and a clear identity. While the crises of the Hinrunde are not out of sight, they are at least, for the time being, in the rearview mirror.

Here are my observations from today's match.

Edin Has a Plan

As we have seen against other top opposition this term, Edin Terzic seems to do his homework with a little extra vigor before the big matches. While plenty of criticism has been levied against the inexperienced tactician, often for good reason, he seems to put together an astute gameplan for the most important match-ups; Bayern Munich and Manchester City come to mind. Today, Edin Terzic prepared his team well for the type of football Leverkusen has used to dominate the season. Without starving the attack of support, Terzic was able to deploy an astute defense, with the likes of Salih Özcan and Emre Can shielding the defense and forcing the play wide. This, in addition to the composure of the center-backs, starved Florian Wirtz of service and space to maneuver. It was a gamble to encourage Leverkusen to overload the right side, where Moussa Diaby has made a career of mocking Bundesliga defenders, but Julian Ryerson and Karim Adeyemi were able to use a mixture of pace and, uh, fouling, to keep the Frenchman mostly contained. Let’s not call this a foolproof system, however, and Gregor Kobel was a big part of that shutout.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Terzic hinged his plan on Jude Bellingham, and boy did the young Englishman prove his importance. Given the defensive effort, it was up to Jude to find space to relieve pressure during turnovers and give the team time to transition into attack. The Englishman was outstanding, and his rested legs gave him 90 minutes of nonstop service to the gameplan. In attack, a level-headed Sébastien Haller rounded out a composed forward cavalry, preventing turnovers and stymying the likelihood of counterattacks. As the game wore on, Dortmund saw less of the ball and needed to remain resolute in their effort. Instead of throwing the kids at it, Terzic went conservative, leaving Moukoko and Reyna on the bench. Ultimately, this proved wise, as Dortmund remained compact and were able to see out the match with a clean sheet.

Adeyemi Breaks Duck

Wowza, finally! Karim Adeyemi found the back of the net today, and you cannot say he didn’t deserve it. Adeyemi has struggled for BVB since his summer move, and a confidence-building goal has eluded him for months. Playing on the left, Adeyemi was able to operate in new space, and his awareness, as well as that of Haller, gave him a comfortable chance to open the scoring. With the walls closing in a bit around Adeyemi and Malen, it was do-or-die for the German if he is to hold onto a place in the team. Adeyemi scoring his first goal from the left side of the attack will only compress Donyell Malen further. Dortmund’s young forward worked hard on the pitch, earned his goal, and executed his role in Terzic’s game plan to a tee.

This, is the Bundesliga

Folks, there is a lot of talk out there. This league, that league. This team, that owner, this star, that squad. League football across Europe, its quality, and its prestige will always be the subject of debate, but what cannot be debated right now is that something is cooking in the Bundesliga; something good.

This is what it’s all about, this is why we get up in the mornings or hit the pubs at night. The Bundesliga on January 29th is competitive, and every fan is eager to see how it will play out. Bayern Munich are a dominant team, and no doubt they will push for their next title to the very end, but if the spread of points on Matchday 18 is anything to go by, the Bundesliga isn’t ready to let them have it yet. Union Berlin are back in the hunt after a brief stumble in the Fall, Leipzig are hot to the touch, and BVB, to their credit, seem to be getting their artillery all pointed in the same direction. For once. But it does not stop there. It’s action packaged all the way into the double-digit positions, and every team will be looking at the team above them, ready to strike. No matter where Dortmund finish, or anyone for that matter, the stage is set for a fiery, competitive Rückrunde.

What is the most important match-up of matchday 19? Who are the hunters in this Bundesliga table, and who are the hunted? Let me know in the comments below.