Only a few days following Borussia Dortmund’s hideous performance against Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and with a potential trip to the Champions League knockout rounds hanging in the balance during today’s match against Newcastle FC, all eyes were on the black-and-yellows to see whether they would rise to the occasion, or yet again crumble under the pressure of a vital match at the Westfalenstadion.
Fortunately, unlike this weekend, Borussia Dortmund hit the ground running from the first whistle and rarely looked back. Riding the atmosphere of the packed Westfalenstadion, BVB took the fight to Newcastle and broke through early, with Marcel Sabitzer bulldozing through Newcastle’s midfield before setting up a tap-in for Niclas Füllkrug.
Dortmund continued to cause problems for Newcastle throughout the first and second halves, and while Newcastle did threaten on a handful of occasions, BVB remained the better side throughout. Julian Brandt would go on to ice the game in the second half with a brilliant finish off a counter launched by Karim Adeyemi.
A Massive Effort
One of the laziest clichés that a pundit or analyst can utter is the time-honored classic, “they wanted it more,” when used to explain why the team that won did so. I don’t necessarily know whether Borussia Dortmund wanted today’s match more than Newcastle did, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that Erin Terzic’s men wanted it real bad. Whether it was a burning desire to redeem themselves following Saturday’s disaster against Bayern, the recognition that today’s match would be vital in pushing them through to the knockout rounds, or some combination of both, every single member of the Dortmund starting XI came to play. They were tracking back with maximum effort for the full 90 minutes, flying into every challenge, and pressing relentlessly every time Newcastle were on the ball.
A Winning Formula?
Edin Terzic’s formation today resembled a classic 4-2-3-1, with a central midfield of Marcel Sabitzer, Felix Nmecha, and Salah Özcan. Julian Brandt took to the left wing, which I normally would have been critical of, but it worked perfectly today, with Brandt frequently cutting inside and overloading the center of the pitch, and Julian Ryerson providing galloping overlapping runs. This overload of technical ability was very difficult for Newcastle to deal with, and helped create BVB’s first goal.
Niklas Süle, who has been blocked out at center back by Nico Schlotterbeck and Mats Hummels, started at right back, and I thought the results were stupendous. Few defenders (read: Marius Wolf) have the combination of pace and strength that Süle possesses, and he was darting up and down the line like a thundering war horse today.
Even Karim Adeyemi, who has been functionally useless in almost every minute he’s played this season, has a terrific match. While many of his attempted dribbles came to naught, at least he was pushing Newcastle back with each successive attempt, and he finally notched an assist with a terrific long ball to launch Julian Brandt on a counterattack.
Risen From the Dead
After the first two match days in the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund looked dead in the water. They had been steamrolled by PSG and stalemated by Milan. BVB would need to sweep Newcastle, one of the strongest sides in England, in order to have a realistic chance at making it into the Round of 16. Thankfully, Edwin Terzic’s men have shown up when it mattered most, and are now on the precipice of advancing. They only need one win from their two remaining matches to all but guarantee a top-two finish in the group. Say what you will about this club’s supposed mentality issues, but at least on this occasion, they stepped up.
What did you think of today’s performance? Let me know your thoughts!