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Match Ratings: Ragtag Dortmund Defense Hang Onto an Ugly Point at the BayArena

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Facing off against the league leader is always a daunting task, one which Borussia Dortmund needed to face head-on for Matchday 13. In the Bundesliga, this typically means a trip to Munich for a regular thumping by the resident Bavarians, but this season, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Despite the change of leadership at the top, Dortmund still managed to play an underwhelming game against the league leaders, bereft of attacking threat or ball retention. The defensive actions of several key players were enough to keep BVB’s effort somewhat respectable. Read on to find out who stood above the rest.

Starting XI

Gregor Kobel

Sean: 7

Paul: 7

Joey: 7

He made five saves and covered his box well for most of this match.

Julian Ryerson

Sean: 8

I was extremely worried about Julian Ryerson defending Jeremie Frimpong, but he actually did a fantastic job, and of course scored a goal.

Paul: 8

Bagged a goal and showed up consistently in defense.

Joey: 8

The early goal was instrumental in frustrating Leverkusen. His marking of Jonas Hoffman was also superb.

Nico Schlotterbeck

Sean: 6

Paul: 6

Joey: 7

Schlotti looked up for the day’s challenge but it was clear he’s struggling to maintain is pace for more than 45-minutes. I think he’s still recovering from illness.

Mats Hummels

Sean: 8

Paul: 8

Another commanding defensive performance by Hummels. Shares the blame with Emre Can for Leverkusen’s goal, but it could have been worse without his efforts in defense.

Joey: 8

If Hummels gets injured, we’re in BIG trouble.

Marius Wolf

Sean: 5

I don’t think Leverkusen attacked Wolf as much as they may have wanted to (at least as much as I would have), but he still struggled in possession.

Paul: 4

Joey: 6

This was an improvement from what we’ve seen in recent weeks, but Wolf’s passing continues to be subpar while his crosses are rarely accurate. However, Wolf still won 75% of his ground duals in a tenacious defensive performance.

Marcel Sabitzer

Sean: 6

Paul: 6

Served as Dortmund’s primary source for ball progression, in a game where progression was extremely limited!

Joey: 6

Sab was silenced for large portions of this match, but his touches leading to Ryerson’s goal were phenomenal.

Emre Can

Sean: 5

Paul: 5

Joey: 6

Jamie Bynoe-Gittens

Sean: 6

JBG had a hand in BVB’s goal, but didn’t do much else.

Paul: 5

Joey: 5

JBG showed us his brilliance recently, but Leverkusen had him marked from the first whistle.

Julian Brandt

Sean: 4

Pretty much a non-factor.

Paul: 4

There was very little coming from either Brandt or Reus, both of whom should serve as BVB’s main creative outlets.

Joey: 4

Marco Reus

Sean: 4

Paul: 4

Joey: 4

The match-plan was not conducive to the play style of Reus or Brandt. I can’t blame them too heavily.

Niclas Füllkrug

Sean: 6

Füllkrug’s hold-up play was critical to Ryerson’s goal. He showed excellent control and strength to set up the Norwegian.

Paul: 6

Joey: 6

Substitutes

Antonios Papadopoulos

Sean: 7

Paul: 6

Joey: 7

I was impressed, to be honest. He won most of his ground duals and accurately passed the ball on 90% of his attempts. That's a much higher rate than anyone else in Black and Yellow.

Karim Adeyemi

Sean: 5

Paul: 5

Joey: 6

Thomas Meunier

N/A

Overall

Sean: 5

I wrote more extensively about this in my post-match reactions, but I thought that Borussia Dortmund defended fairly well for about 80 minutes, but other than that we were pretty poor. Leverkusen dominated possession, the shot counts, and ultimately the scoring chances and BVB were pretty lucky to escape with a point. I would have liked to have seen Gio Reyna in the match at some point to help facilitate possession.

I feel the match also highlighted Dortmund’s weaknesses at full back. I know I just gave Ryerson an 8 because he did score a goal and defended quite well, the lack of ball progression really hurt Dortmund over the long run.

Paul: 5

In interview, Edin Terzic acknowledged that Bayer Leverkusen had control of the game, but argued that this was in areas of the pitch that Dortmund dictated. I think this holds some weight, as despite putting up a significant xG differential, Leverkusen didn’t have tons of really high-value chances. I think the defense deserve credit for stifling such a good Leverkusen side, especially away from home.

That said, BVB’s offense was almost non-existent, and that was disappointing. Dortmund sat deep, but there was little in the way of a counterattacking threat, and giving Leverkusen very little to worry about on the other side of the ball meant that they were able to really pile the pressure on. I think we were very lucky to come away with a point.

Joey: 7

Defensivly, I have to give Edin Terzic credit for his somewhat makeshift back-line, with both Süle and Bensebaini out injured. This required additional defensive effort from the midfield, especially in Emre Can and Marcel Sabitzer. But our defense DID hold for the most part, against a team that has scored at least two in EVERY match this season, including the cup and Europa League. In that regard, BVB heavily frustrated Xabi Alonso’s men in their home stadium.

My criticism of Terzic however, lies in the attacking make-up he chose to deploy. With such a ‘park-the-bus’ structure, Dortmund needed to heavily rely on counter-attacking opportunities which were few. Marco Reus and Julian Brandt are creative playmakers who shine when BVB press in attacking formations. If BVB is relying on countering, then players like Donnell Malen and Karim Adeyemi might have been the better choice, simple due to their speed. I love Marco Reus, but he’s not going to be the player who breaks into a sprint with the ball from just outside our own box.

At times, I think Terzic relies too heavily on which players have impressed in the previous match or two, rather than utilizing the players who best fit the tactics he’s trying to implement.