Despite a lackluster Hinrunde, Borussia Dortmund managed to draw level with RB Leipzig in fourth, and just a point behind Stuttgart in third, after a 4-0 win against FC Köln on Saturday. The first half was pretty slow, but a nicely worked corner saw Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen combine to give BVB the lead. In the second half, however, Dortmund opened the game up. Niclas Füllkrug’s penalty and Malen’s second of the afternoon put the game to bed after an hour, before Youssoufa Moukoko grabbed BVB’s fourth in the final moments of the game.
Just as was the case last week against Darmstadt, the final score flattered BVB a little, but it was still a big improvement on how Dortmund were approaching these games in the first half of the season. With Stuttgart and RB Leipzig playing each other next week, Dortmund are in the unexpected position that a win would guarantee they climb back into the top four, just three games into the Rückrunde. It has been quite the turnaround!
Here are our match ratings from Saturday’s 4-0 win against FC Köln:
Produced a great stop to deny Jan Thielmann in the 46th minute. He’s there when you need him, but he wasn’t really busy.
Just like last week—one shot, one super save.
Maatsen inverted to support in midfield when BVB had possession, and did a great job of it. His assist for Malen’s second goal was fantastic.
It’s clear that Maatsen is the exact play that BVB have lacked for so long. Good movements when playing out and delivered an amazing assist for Malen. If he keeps going, Kehl will have to strongly consider whether 35 million euros might be worth it.
A shame that Süle had to leave the pitch at half time now that he finally had his chance. Get well soon, Fridge!
Meunier is generally pretty dependable, and given that there is probably very little value to be gained from his sale, I have no issue with holding him on until his contract runs up and using him wherever necessary. He’s useful.
It seems like the coaching staff has realised Öz offers next to nothing in the way of creativity (though he did have a lovely pass that nearly set up Sabi) and is best used as a destructive midfielder alongside a more free-roaming one. Turned in a disciplined and tenacious performance as usual, though he did pick up a stupid yellow early on.
I feel like Özcan was a bit of a weak link. He got bullied quite a bit in midfield, and he’s not really useful when playing out from the back. If he can somehow incorporate a bit more movement in possession and become better at turning upon recieving the ball, we’re looking very good.
Given a little more of a free mandate this time out, with Maatsen inverting and Öz sitting deep, Sabi performed admirably on both sides of the ball, with typically intelligent movement and passing. The extra support he got today really helped him shine.
Closer to a 7.5 for me personally. I don’t think we really appreciate how good Sabitzer actually is on the ball. Him and Maatsen made sure that we could continuously break into the final third. Helped out quite a bit on the defensive end as well.
The assist for Malen’s opener was well-worked, but otherwise I thought Brandt struggled to have a significant impact on the game, and was at times a little sloppy in possession.
A beautiful delivery to set Donny up aside, Brandt followed up his slack Darmstadt performance with yet another one.
The usual Brandt flicks n’ tricks weren’t as impactful in Köln, sadly. Maybe it’s time for Reus to have a go?
I thought Malen was pretty solid even without the goals, but he did a great job in front of goal as well.
Really no way around it. Personal MOTM for the sole reason that he bagged two well-taken goals. Let’s hope he can find his feet again, as it has been reported that he has been contemplating a move. I still think he has a lot to offer.
It’s clear that Sancho is still getting used to playing competitive football, but there were flashes of brilliance against Köln, just as there was against Darmstadt. He’s going to need a moment to get fully up and running, but the fact he is already able to make valuable contributions is a great sign.
Köln’s defense was up in arms about the penalty decision, and I can’t say I disagree; it’s one of those pens that we’d have been angry about had it been given against us. Still, Sancho’s willingness to link play and support with runs allowed us a lot more flexibility going forward.
I mean... It was a really soft pen to be honest, but just the move itself showed how good Sancho really can be. I think he was almost invisible apart from that one action.
Struggled to get involved for large parts, but he did take his penalty very well.
Putting a 19-year-old kid in at short notice to play a full half of senior football at center-back is asking a hell of a lot of them. Although I think there were moments where Hendry Blank showed naïvety, he otherwise performed admirably. His timing and judgement out-of-possession was a little off the pace, but I thought he looked extremely assured in possession.
Giving Blank a 7 is probably grading on a curve, but I think we should generally give kids credit for the good bits and be more forgiving of the things they get wrong in the process of their development. Blank is a large child and he did a solid job filling in at center-back. He deserves the credit!
I’m generally pretty hard on player ratings, but (early wobble aside) Blank didn’t look out of place. He played with the kind of maturity and poise you wouldn’t expect of a teenager making his senior debut, and, while someone watching closely might notice he probably wasn’t a hundred percent comfortable with the speed of the game early on, he looks a top prospect, especially with his composure and ability on the ball. I watched quite a lot of his games for our U-19 side, but it was only this time that I was struck by how absolutely humongous he is. Ginormous, even.
Reminded me a lot of Zagadou’s early days. Very assured, borderline nonchalant in possession, but clearly wasn’t ready for the speed of Bundesliga football. Also launched some pretty daring passes a couple of occasions. It was only a 45-minute cameo, but I really saw something I liked, albeit still being very raw.
A lovely, darting run to combine with Reyna and Mouki. He really looks his best coming on against more tired opposition, with more space to run into.
Having Sancho means JBG can come off the bench, and he came off like a meteor. Great interplay for Mouki’s goal.
I don’t think it was a dazzling performance from start to finish, but I still believe there is reason for optimism in the way BVB played against Köln. I gave BVB a seven last week, and that was deliberately a little generous, because I wanted to take the optimistic view and praise the last half hour instead of dwelling on the first hour. I think this week’s performance was a little better than last week’s, but there were still signs of the Dortmund we saw in the first half of the season too. Even so, progress is still progress.
Dortmund are lucky enough to have a pretty favourable run of games right now, and it serves as an opportunity to build confidence and set this team back on the right path.
Against Darmstadt, we saw flashes of the positive, combination-heavy football we’ve come to expect of Dortmund over the years. This time, those flashes were a little more frequent, in part due to small tactical tweaks that got the best out of some of the boys. Maatsen continues to look a wonderful player, and I was extremely impressed by the mental side of Blank’s game (which I believe is the hallmark of a genuinely elite talent). While this wasn’t the consistently dominant performance one might hope for against one of the league’s worst team—they did put up 1.4 xG—we looked good value for our win. On the negative side, I’m a little concerned about Brandt’s recent performances; while he’s had goal contributions in both, he hasn’t looked anywhere near his brilliant best. Hopefully it sorts out soon.
Onwards and upwards!
Better than Darmstadt, that’s for sure. I still don’t quite get why we are not better at holding onto possession, but it’s clear that Maatsen has done wonders, as he’s just so tenacious and willing to recieve the ball in poessesion. All the four goals were deserved, coming from both set pieces and open play, which I find very assuring. Now let’s smash Bochum at home.
Who was your standout player from the match? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments.