On Saturday afternoon the coverage surrounding Mats Hummels’ future was shortly interrupted for 90 minutes of football. Borussia Dortmund played away to VfB Stuttgart in their quest to extend the small lead of only 26 points to FC Schalke in the league table.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
3-0, job done for BVB, who breezed past a hapless Stuttgart side, beating them in an accumulated 10-2 scoreline over 270 minutes in league and cup this season.
Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter, Durm – Weigl – Mkhitaryan, Reus, Kagawa, Pulisic – Ramos
To little surprise, Tuchel made a couple of changes to the team that beat Hertha Berlin in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (bone splintering in his toe) and Ilkay Gündogan (knock on the shin) stayed back in Dortmund, while Mats Hummels (rested), Sven Bender and Marcel Schmelzer (slight knocks) took place a at the bench.
Borussia Dortmund started out in a 4-1-4-1 system, but formed a back three in possession with Piszczek on the right, Sokratis in the middle and Ginter on the left and Weigl ahead. It often looked like a 3-1-0-0-0-3-3 shape as there was a yawning space between Weigl and the offensive lines, forcing the poor lad to play vertical passes across the entire midfield.
The first chance fell to Marco Reus in the 09th minute, who was lucky to get the ball in the box as Piszczek’s shot was deflected right to his feet. Reus scuffed his shot and it would have counted despite his offside position – which was to become a theme throughout the match.
After 20 minutes Henrikh Mkhitaryan rolled his eyes and mumbled “fine, I’ll do it myself,” as he started an attack from deep. A one-two with Reus put him into space on the left wing, which gave him enough time to pick out an exquisite pass for Shinji Kagawa. The ball went across all Stuttgart defenders for the Japanese to tap-in at the far post. 1-0. Fans already had their money’s worth (careful, sensible issue in Stuttgart).
The hosts tried to show a reaction – emphasis on tried – which they did to some extend, as they edged closer to Dortmund’s penalty area a couple of times. But Dortmund’s defence, with a strong Matthias Ginter, didn’t allow the Swabians a direct shot on goal.
Adrian Ramos made an appearance in the 37th minute, forcing Przemyslaw Tyton to a fine save after pulling the trigger.
Mkhitaryan had a similar idea when he let fly from distance right before the halftime whistle. Stuttgart’s Polish goalkeeper, who is not Mitch Langerak, could only parry right to Golden Boy Christian Pulisic.
The 17-year-old had no trouble pushing the ball over the line to double the lead, making him the youngest Bundesliga player to ever score two goals (17 years, seven months, five days) – after already being successful the week before against HSV. How do you like them apples, Nuri Sahin?
The story of the second half is quickly told. In the 56th minute Pulisic showed great vision to find Kagawa free at the left edge of the box. The Japanese had all the time in the world to lob the ball right onto Ramos’ head, who was denied by Tyton’s reaction save.
But Mkhitaryan claimed the rebound, chested down the ball and took his time to pick out his favourite spot of the already gaping net – with the outside of his left boot, of course.
The 3-0 was the final nail in Stuttgart’s coffin. At this point it was beyond any doubt that FC Bayern would not be able to start their title celebrations on Saturday in Berlin. The spirit of the Swabians was broken and Dortmund continued to see out the match without any great troubles.
Matthias Ginter took one for the team in the 72th minute, reminding everyone by blocking Martin Harnik’s shot from very close range that he had quite the game on the centre-back position. Even our very own Lars Pollmann approved.
Some block from Ginter. Best he's looked at centre-back in yellow, imo.
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) April 23, 2016
• Even on Matchday 31, with not much left to play for in the league and a heavily rotated lineup, Borussia Dortmund are extremely fun to watch. Chapeau!
Sure, 15th placed VfB Stuttgart were not an in-form team full of confidence, winless in five before Saturday, but relegation-threatened teams often pull themselves together towards the end of the season.
Either way, BVB didn’t allow Stuttgart to have any belief throughout the game. That was a collective effort and also down to Dortmund’s patient build-up play. It’s quite amazing how Tuchel has transformed this team into such a dominant force and that they claim routine 3-0 victories on the road with ease after making five changes, including putting a 17-year-old in the starting XI.
• Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a beast! There is no other way to put it. The Armenian completely bossed the match and was simply in a world of his own, adding one goal and two assists to his name.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) April 23, 2016
Mkhitaryan played his 49th competitive game of the season against Stuttgart, no other Bundesliga player has gathered that many appearances, as per SkySportNewsHD – an awesome stat in and of itself, but considering he was completely flat after 70 minutes against Liverpool, one could argue that a couple of rests here and there could have helped.
• Shinji Kagawa’s ascend in form might have gone a bit under the radar, but he now has scored four goals in his last six Bundesliga matches. Against Stuttgart he not only contributed with yet another goal, but was a reliable source of creativity.
• 29 – After the blue team bottled a 2-0 lead in Gelsenkirchen to lose 3-2 to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga “Topspiel”, Borussia Dortmund are now 29 points ahead of bitter rivals Schalke after 31 Matchdays. This season cannot be an unsuccessful one.
VfB – BVB goals https://t.co/dNX7TpUWv2
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) April 24, 2016