Borussia Dortmund continued their downward spiral in a wretched autumn of 2017 with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich on Bundesliga Matchday 11. A late Marc Bartra goal was little consolation after a game that showed, once again, just how many issues the Black and Yellows have at the moment.
Lineup: Bürki; Bartra, Sokratis, Toprak, Schmelzer; Yarmolenko, Castro, Weigl, Pulisic; Aubameyang, Kagawa.
Head coach Peter Bosz made three changes after the disappointing 1-1 draw against APOEL in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, with Marcel Schmelzer, Gonzalo Castro and Andrey Yarmolenko coming in for Raphael Guerreiro, Mario Götze and Maximilian Philipp. Curiously, the summer signing didn’t even make the bench, where 17 year old Jadon Sancho was among the substitutes.
Bosz changed his team’s set-up against perhaps the strongest opponents Dortmund will host all season in the Westfalenstadion, opting for a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 hybrid system in which Shinji Kagawa performed as a second striker off the ball and dropped into the No. 10 space when his side was in possession. Yarmolenko and Christian Pulisic also dropped a bit deeper than usual to help out against Bayern’s strong wing play.
The visitors played into Dortmund’s hands by allowing the game to be a dogfight in the early goings. The Black and Yellows got their fans involved with a few crunching challenges and were thus able to overcome their recent run of form for a while, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang getting the first opening after 12 minutes. Niklas Süle put in a strong block to deny the Gabon international.
Minute by minute, however, Bayern got more of a hold of the game and displayed their superior quality in terms of passing and spacing and, even though they scored with their first real chance of the game, the visitors were clearly the better side after about a quarter of an hour. For Arjen Robben’s goal, Thiago Alcantara lobbed a nice pass toward James Rodriguez, who then laid off for the Dutchman. Scoring yet another goal against Dortmund in very much predictable fashion — a sweeping curler with his left foot into the far corner — Robben profited from lax guarding of Ömer Toprak, who failed to close the most dangerous shooter on the pitch down.
The rest of the half turned into a to and fro of big scoring chances for both sides, with Dortmund failing to convert through Yarmolenko, Pulisic and Kagawa. The Ukrainian had the biggest opening but couldn’t put the ball past Sven Ulreich in Bayern’s goal.
As it so often happens against the Rekordmeister, Dortmund’s punishment eventually had to come. After Roman Bürki had done well against him minutes before and Sokratis Papastathopoulos had put in a nice block on him, too, Robert Lewandowski doubled Bayern’s lead in the 37th minute. Schmelzer didn’t prevent a Joshua Kimmich cross, which the former Dortmund striker converted with his heel by way of a Julian Weigl deflection.
It added insult to injury as Sokratis was forced to watch the goal from the sideline, having suffered a presumed foot injury in a clash with Kingsley Coman a few minutes earlier. Jeremy Toljan replaced the Greek defender with Marc Bartra moving inside from his right-back spot.
Yarmolenko wasted another opportunity to score in what German commentators love to call “a psychologically favourable moment” — as if there were moments in which scoring isn’t favourable — a minute from intermission.
Bayern exuded confidence and control, although they were lucky Yarmolenko and Aubameyang didn’t communicate properly who ought to get on the end of a Pulisic ball across the face of goal early in the second half.
Lewandowski should have killed off the game twice, but found his master — at least temporarily — in Bürki, whose sensational reflex save against the Pole’s wide-open header would’ve been the turning point of the game had things gone differently. Lewandowski also missed the target altogether in a one-on-one with the Switzerland international.
Pulisic was Dortmund’s lone bright spot apart from Bürki in the early goings of the second half, running at and past defenders time and time again, putting the team on his back. The young American would end up winning eight of 14 take-ons, both Bundesliga records this season, per Paul Carr of ESPN.
However, even if Dortmund looked threatening from time to time, Bayern ended any hopes of a comeback with 23 minutes to spare. Yarmolenko, whose defensive contributions were appalling all game, gave David Alaba acres of space and the Austrian left-back played in a cross aiming for Lewandowski. The Pole missed the ball but put off Bürki enough for the cross to find its way into the net regardless, giving Bayern a three-goal lead.
The rest of the match amounted to little more than garbage time, with Marc Bartra getting a consolation goal with two minutes of regulation left, a fine curler. Castro almost made it 2-3 in stoppage time but he couldn’t quite get on the end of some fine work from Sancho and Götze due to an Arturo Vidal deflection.
While it’s true that Dortmund could have scored three goals (or more) in the game, it’s imperative players and the coaching staff don’t view this defeat as a matter of some poor puck luck and missed chances. Bayern weren’t overly impressive, especially struggling to defend counters, and still were far better on the day than Dortmund. Even with Bosz changing up his system for this meeting with the league leaders, BVB’s defensive performance was nothing short of woeful.
It’s easy to pin all of this on the Dutch head coach, who undoubtedly will face some heavy criticism over the coming international break, but, at some point, the players themselves have to be held accountable for their constant mishaps. Perhaps it’s also time to accept the fact that Dortmund’s squad just isn’t as good as most will have thought at the start of the season.
Then again, it’s fair to criticise Bosz for still not being able to find a way to implement some solidity in defence and structure on the ball. Worst of all, he’s not found a way to get some of his best players in a position to succeed, namely Weigl and Aubameyang.
Dortmund end their stretch of brutal matches between the October and November international breaks having won just one of seven matches — the win coming against third-division side Magdeburg in the DFB-Pokal — and having lost 11 points to Bayern in only four Bundesliga matchdays. Having lead the league with five points over them and Hoffenheim at the start of October, they’re now third, level on points with Schalke 04, whom Dortmund will host after meeting VfB Stuttgart away from home on November 17.