Marco Rose’s RB Leipzig visited Dortmund today in a crucial match that could potentially be the deciding factor in the race for the Bundesliga top four. With RB Leipzig leading Dortmund by a point in fourth place, Edin Terzic’s side desperately needed a win to prevent the gap from widening any further. Unfortunately, Mats Hummels picked up an early red card and Leipzig's attacking football proved too much for Dortmund’s defense. The loss means Dortmund sit four points adrift of Champions League Qualification. If BVB can’t manage wins against Augsburg and Mainz in the coming weeks, then hopes of European Qualification will be in serious jeopardy. However the scoreline, I still found some positive takeaways:
More Attractive Football IS Possible
We weren’t playing Darmstadt or Heidenheim. No, we were playing against RB Leipzig, a Bundesliga heavyweight, yet Dortmund maintained a slightly higher possession rate than their opponents, even against ten men. There’s no reason Terzic couldn't have implemented this approach against Leverkusen and Stuttgart.
Before Hummels was sent off, Dortmund looked pretty good. Even a man down, there was still clear effort being exerted in progressing the ball and utilizing the strengths of creative players like Julian Brandt and Marco Reus. The placement of Brandt’s assist to Süle... WOW! My point is this: 10-man Dortmund looked better against Leipzig than 11-man Dortmund in the previous two matches. Without the red card, I think Dortmund would have pulled off the win.
Let’s Talk About the Red Card
This was the single most decisive moment of this match. I also re-loaded ESPN+ to review the Penalty/Not Penalty call. I paused and watched it several times, frame-by-frame, and could not find any angle that made the contact look clearly outside the box. The on-field decision was a yellow card and penalty. Then VAR changed this to a Red card and free kick, deeming the contact outside the box, clinically delivering a red for Hummels bringing a player down on a breakaway. This was a match-altering decision and I believe VAR got it wrong. But either way, did Sven Jablonski make a “Clear and Obvious Error?” With the length of time VAR took to deliberate their decision, I’d argue no. The on-field decision was NOT a clear and obvious error. The technology that is supposed to take subjectivity out of refereeing decisions has unfortunately become a tool to subjectively officiate games. What’s more subjective than a group of people crammed into a small room arguing over wether the Match Official’s error was “clear and obvious?” If you ask a BVB fan and a Schalke fan about the Official after a derby, they will have very different opinions on what ‘errors’ the refs made and how ‘obvious’ the calls should have been.
Is Dortmund Teetering on Crisis?
The objectives have been clear: a reasonable Cup run, a Round-of-16 place in the Champions League, and a top-four Bundesliga finish. It’s unrealistic to expect Dortmund to challenge for the Bundesliga title every season, but with the talent BVB has at their disposal, they should be managing to qualify for the Champions League. The cup loss to Stuttgart represents a major missed opportunity. With teams like Bayern and Leipzig eliminated, Dortmund had at the opportunity to be one of three Bundesliga teams in the Quarterfinals. This was arguably their best shot at silverware, and that’s gone. In their last six league matches, Dortmund have recorded one win, two draws, and three losses. That is simply not good enough. BVB’s best hope is a draw or win against PSG this Wednesday, to win the Group of Death and line up a statistically better chance of playing a weaker team in the Champion’s League Last-16. BVB could still be something of a UCL Dark Horse, but given the style of play in recent weeks, it’s hard to Imagine BVB will make a deep run in Europe.
What did you think today’s match?
Any gripes with Jablonski? At least he’s better than Zwayer
Terzic IN? Terzic OUT? What do you think?