Borussia Dortmund claimed seventh place in the league by beating Hertha BSC 2-0 at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday. It wasn’t the most interesting matches of all time, to say the least, but for Borussia Dortmund that is a good thing.
How often this season did Dortmund fail to break down defensive minded opponents? Hertha BSC are capable of collectively defending in their own half, frustrating their opponents and making games scrappy. Time and time again BVB could not overcome a side like that. They hardly created chances upfront and got punished for individual errors in their risky play. The reverse fixture was the perfect example, when Julian Schieber scored the only goal of the day stripping Dortmund of all three points. Similar games happened against HSV or 1. FC Köln – those are the kind of games Borussia Dortmund simply need to get results and on Saturday they did without much trouble.
In fact, Hertha was the third team in a row without firing a shot on target, logically it was the third clean sheet at the Westfalenstadion. It speaks volumes about Dortmund’s regained stability – that thing Jürgen Klopp has been banging on about for all season. At last, it seemed to have arrived.
Of course, BVB won’t have exactly the same team next season as this season, but it’s important to see a positive trend. In the Rückrundentabelle they are sitting on fifth place, behind Gladbach, Bayern, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg. It’s close and Borussia Dortmund are within the regions they want to be in permanently.
Jürgen Klopp’s smile after Neven Subotic’s set piece goal said an awful lot about the season. It was joy mixed with a bit of sarcasm, because finally the work on the training ground beared fruit. It’s the curse of success, if you will, for Klopp. Because finally after so many months of midweek fixtures, the Dortmund coach is finding the time on the training ground with his team to really improve his side. “Set pieces are becoming a more and more dangerous weapon again, now that we have time to train them.” Klopp said on the post-match news conference.
Last season at this point BVB had scored 32 set piece goals, now Dortmund have only racked up 9 set piece goals during the same amount of Bundesliga matches. Set pieces are only one of the many aspects of the game, but they can make a huge difference over an entire season. Especially when it comes to unlocking tight defenses. Being 1-0 up ten minutes into the game against Hertha had a great knock-on effect. BVB could lower the risk of their entire play. They could field a little deeper on the pitch, waiting for the guests to respond. Against Hertha it worked like a charm, since the capital team had no idea what to do with this weird round object called a football. A shot from Valentin Stocker in the 38th minute skimming over the bar was the best thing they could come up with over the entire game.
Hertha coach Pal Dardai lauded his side for “showing a few great attacks between the 65th and 80th minute”. Yes, his side looked a bit livelier in that period, but still didn’t create anything worth noting. They might have found more space and eventually the net, if the score was still 0-0 at this point, but Dortmund could easily fend off their attacks, sitting on a 2-0 lead.
I think it’s not Klopp’s announcement of his resignation, what has really catalyzed this team and reinstalled the necessary stability, but the actual time on the training ground once the burden of the midweek matches was lifted. Dortmund easily beat Hertha BSC even without Marco Reus on the field, which is great news. It’s was also great to see some variation in the way BVB scored their goals. BVB vs. HBSC isn’t the kind of game in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thrives and it wasn’t surprising to see the Gabonese striker on the missing on the score sheet.
Erik Durm scoring the 2-0 just after half-time was vital for Dortmund. Durm admitted in the post match interview to be perplexed and confused to see the ball go in. It says a lot about the confidence Durm is having into his own scoring talent, but he already came close to scoring in the last couple of games. It wasn’t the occasional tap in any fullback eventually scores from a goal line scramble. It was a well composed finish from the right hand side of the box, cutting inside with the first touch and curling it into the far corner with the second. Thomas Kraft was with a chance in goal, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan blocked his view.
Speaking of Mkhitaryan, he picked up two assists again and is finally getting the numbers on paper. Goal and assist against SC Paderborn, vital assist in Munich and against Hoffenheim. Slowly but surely, he is finding his form. Hopefully he can carry it into the last three games of the season.