Against bottom side Darmstadt at the Merck-Stadion, a win was the only result that would be deemed acceptable. Edin Terzic stuck with the same XI that started both friendly games in Marbella, with the only changes being Nico Schlotterbeck moving back to central defense allowing Chelsea loanee Ian Maatsen to start at left-back and Marcel Sabitzer replacing the ill Mats Hummels, with Emre Can dropping into center-back.
The first hour of the game was dreadful, with Dortmund’s sloppy, disjointed possession on full display, and they only went in to the break a goal up thanks to a moment of individual inspiration from Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, setting up Julian Brandt to slide home a cute finish. That jaw-dropping moment was an anomaly, however, and Terzic decided he’d seen enough just after the break, replacing JBG and Brandt with Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus.
The substitutions provided an immediate improvement, as BVB began to hold on to possession significantly better and create more chances. They eventually doubled their advantage as Donyell Malen played a lovely pass in to the inside-right channel, and prodigal son Sancho found Reus with a pinpoint pass to tap home from about a yard out. More subs were brought on as the tide continued to turn against our beleaguered hosts, and Youssoufa Moukoko added the icing on the cake with a sumptuous goal following some neat interplay between him and Sabitzer. The 3-0 scoreline was more of a reflection of a terrific final half-hour than a great overall performance.
Here are your match ratings:
One chance. One phenomenal save.
Had a nice and easy game, but made one absolutely massive save on Luca Pfeiffer to keep Borussia Dortmund up 1-0.
Excellent throughout, the only player consistently making good decisions on the ball and getting himself into pockets of space without it throughout that turgid first hour. I particularly enjoyed his ability to pull wide and invert into central midfield, it made us look really good on the ball once Reus and Sancho were introduced. My personal MOTM.
I cannot stress enough how nice it was to see a technically gifted full-back who can both contribute positively on offense and track back defensively.
His new awful hairstyle notwithstanding, Schlotterbeck had a solid game, doing much of the grunt work on defense and winning the ball.
He performed admirably as a center-back, which was required of him because Mats Hummels fell ill before the game.
Meunier was a little isolated when he had the ball, and he really seemed to struggle, giving possession away too often. Not his best day.
A nice, quiet game by Meunier. I don’t expect much of him, so if he can do his job defensively I will be more than happy.
He made an assist, and, like the majority of the team, seemed to perk up significantly after the introduction of Reus and Sancho. Sabitzer had a lack of support in the first hour, and was handed an unenviable mandate as a result.
I think too much was being asked of Sabitzer against Darmstadt. He was solid enough in possession, but was unable to get back and offer as much support as was needed in defense.
A little too many turnovers for my taste, with an abysmal pass completion rating below 70%.
Öz is a disciplined defensive midfielder who probably breaks out in a cold sweat when asked to play a forward pass, so it made absolutely no sense to use him as a playmaking pivot when building from the back.
BVB's midfield found itself getting bypassed regularly, both in and out of possession. Özcan was overrun.
Özcan often found himself behind the play, and as a result committed a team-leading six fouls.
Super pass to set Sancho in behind for Dortmund’s second, but was extremely wasteful on the ball and rarely made himself available in good positions.
Malen struggled to get himself into dangerous positions on Saturday, but did a pretty good job of creating shooting opportunities for others, throughout the game, including the through-ball that led to BVB’s second goal.
I was getting ready to pan him for an awful game filled with wasteful dribbles and missed passes, but then he put in an absolute peach of a through ball to Jadon Sancho for the hockey assist on Marco Reus’s goal.
Scored a neat goal, but looked listless for the majority of his time on the pitch.
There are two JBGs: the absolutely terrifying winger whom we saw make an assist of the season contender, and the sloppy turnover machine we saw for the rest of his performance. In hindsight, it seems to me that the front-foot, possession-heavy style of football we’d normally play against a bottom-half side doesn’t really suit him, as JBG’s strengths clearly lie in the rapid transitional play that gives him green space to carry the ball into with speed, rather than the quick combinations and off-ball movement demanded by Saturday’s game.
Bynoe-Gittens made an amazing run and pass for the assist to Brandt’s brilliant finish, and was one of the few lively players in black and yellow for the first hour of the game.
Looked completely lost out there, with the only highlight of his performance an uncharacteristically selfish moment when he decided to take on an extremely optimistic shot, ignoring several options.
Füllkrug struggled to get in to the game, and at times made some pretty questionable decisions even when he did. Not a brilliant shift.
I might be overreacting a little here, given he did look a little rusty and give the ball away a few times, but it was just so good to see a winger in Dortmund colors consistently moving well off the ball and looking up to find teammates. He’s only going to get sharper, and it’s lovely to see him so happy at the club. Top assist from him as well.
You could see Sancho hasn't played much competitive football recently, but his quality still shone through.
To piggyback off what Paul wrote, even though Sancho looked rusty and maybe lacking a little chemistry with his teammates, the raw talent immediately made him stand out from the rest of the squad. His vision, his ability to pick out difficult passes and make them look easy, and ability and confidence to juke past defenders with ease were immediately apparent. I know it was just Darmstadt, but I expect big things from Sancho this spring.
Goal aside, he just seemed to make everyone around him better when he came on.
We would normally give an N/A to a player who featured so briefly, but his goal was a thing of beauty, so he earns a seven.
Bad football comes in many forms. For the first 60 minutes, however, our performance was the worst of those: it was unintelligent football. Tactically, our team was a mess of styles, with neither wingers showing any interest whatsoever in supporting the possession-based game it looked like we were trying to play, isolating Brandt in the middle. The attacking part of our team was both static and poorly positioned in the buildup, forcing Greg to play right into Darmstadt’s hands by launching long balls in the vague direction of Füllkrug which were easy pickings for Darmstadt’s enormous backline (seriously, what do they feed them over there?). Dropping Can into central defense meant that Öz was given a buildup role he is completely unsuited to and asked far too much of Sabi. The result? hit-and-hope passes, poor final third decisions, wasteful dribbling and cheap ball losses by the dozen. All this against the worst side in the league. The only constant during this drab period was Maatsen looking the best player in the side by some distance; he looks a good acquisition already and I hope he can keep this up.
Bringing on Reus and Sancho revitalized us, as Sancho’s significantly better off-ball movement and greater comfort dropping deep to support quicker passing combinations meant that we looked miles better in possession. Reus’s added work rate also took the pressure off the harried Sabi, smoothing out our ball progression through the middle third. Hopefully the final 30 gave our coaching team some ideas about how to retool the XI to be better on the ball, but I’m a little more optimistic now.
The first hour of the game was much of the same for BVB. They were 1-0 up thanks to a moment of brilliance from Bynoe-Gittens and Brandt, but otherwise BVB were far too passive. Then came Sancho and Reus, and the game opened up. BVB finally started attacking Darmstadt with the kind of purpose they should have from the very beginning.
I’m choosing to give out an overall rating that weights the last half hour a little more heavily than the first hour, because I’m choosing to be optimistic about what we saw on Saturday evening.
The first hour was everything we’ve come to loathe about #TerzicBall. It was boring, Dortmund created almost no chances besides JBG’s moment of brilliance, and lowly Darmstadt somehow controlled the majority of the possession. When Jadon Sancho came on, at the very least the entertainment factor shot up. Sancho and Reus played like the former had never left.
Did JBG’s assist remind you of Dembele? How good was Ian Maatsen? Do you have more hope for the remainder of the season now? Let us know!