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Post Match Reaction: Dortmund Finally Show Backbone in Vital Win Over Union Berlin

Borussia Dortmund v 1. FC Union Berlin - Bundesliga Photo by Frederic Scheidemann/Getty Images

Finally! A win! A legitimate win! A close one, sure, but Borussia Dortmund finally put in a 90 minute performance against a solid opponent where, barring a few jitters here and there, they were the better side from start to finish. After two straight abysmal performances that mortally wounded one trophy hope and destroyed another, BVB finally emerged from their shell and put on the type of dominant performance that we would have liked to see against Chelsea, Bayern Munich, or RB Leipzig.

Don’t let the scoreline fool you: this wasn’t a close game performance-wise. Dortmund controlled the vast majority of the game, with Union failing to register a shot on target until Kevin Behrens’ goal in the 61st minute. According to the Bundesliga’s AWS game stats (an imperfect measurement, but adequate for our purposes), the expected goals were incredibly lopsided in Dortmund’s favor, by a total of 2.92-0.3.

Raphael Guerreiro Can Still Play Left Back

With Marius Wolf out of the lineup with illness, Edin Terzic had to swap Julian Ryerson to the right back position and move Raphael Guerreiro back to his normal position at left-back. While Guerreiro’s technical ability has proven quite useful in central midfield in recent weeks, his strength at his own position turned out to be just what Dortmund needed to open the scoring. Julian Brandt, who had a magnificent game pulling the strings in midfield, played a quick pass to Guerreiro right in his wheelhouse at the top of the 18-yard-box. Guerreiro whipped in an inch-perfect cross right in front of the goal, perfectly curling around the defenders to the foot of Donyell Malen for the opening goal.

Guerreiro almost had an identical assist later in the game, when he whipped a cross into the box that found the head of Sebastien Haller. Unfortunately, Union Berlin’s keeper Frederik Rønnow got across his line and made an excellent save to keep the game close.

Dortmund Finally Rise to Meet Adversity

When Kevin Behrens’ shot hit the back of the net, it really could have been a knife to the heart. Despite dominating virtually the entire game, Dortmund were back at square one with the score level and only 30 minutes to go. If the last week has been any indication of Dortmund’s mindset, then a complete mental collapse after the setback was legitimately on the cards.

Thankfully, unlike last weekend, BVB actually managed to rise to the challenge. They kept their heads down and pushed for an equalizer. They kept pressing and kept moving the ball forward without counterproductive individual attempts at heroism, of the kind we saw last weekend against Bayern. Dortmund’s hard work eventually paid off, with the help of a little ball luck:

They all got the basics right. Moukoko dropped into space so that Emre Can could bounce a pass off him. Marco Reus collected the ball and pushed into space, taking on a pair of defenders until Paul Seguin, in an attempt to clear the ball, inadvertently knocked the ball into the path of Youssoufa Moukoko, who dribbled around the keeper and buried the ball into an open net.

Dortmund managed to close out the game without much incident, other than a stupid yellow card by Emre Can for mouthing off. The final whistle blew with the score 2-1, and a loud roar emerging from the Yellow Wall.

Other Thoughts

  • I really liked Donyell Malen’s performance overall. In addition to his goal, he was very dangerous on the attack and actually seemed to be playing with confidence. If he could somehow establish a role on the team that will be a massive switch in trajectory from his former status as a “likely bust.”
  • Julian Ryerson proved to be a reliable option at right back in a pinch, although I would still prefer Marius Wolf.
  • Although Karim Adeyemi did look dangerous, I did not appreciate his obvious dive early in the first half, for which he was rightly booked. In this day and age with VAR, the odds that you’re going to successfully draw a penalty with a dive are remarkably slim. He had his defender beat, I would have preferred if he had just continued towards goal and tried to score than go down with the hope of fooling the referee.

In Conclusion

Dortmund’s title chances are still alive, at least for the time being. They unfortunately didn’t gain any ground on Bayern, who defeated Freiburg this morning, but are still in a position to take advantage should the Bavarians slip up in one of their remaining games. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, or even that it’s likely, but there is still a chance. Heading into Match Day 28, that’s about all you can ask for, isn’t it?