Borussia Dortmund won their match against VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 15 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign, 2-1, on Saturday. It was a true six-pointer, with the Wolves in third place when the weekend kicked off. Thanks to the latest of late winners, scored by Shinji Kagawa, Dortmund are now “only” five points behind Bayern Munich and no fewer than nine ahead of third place.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
In the absence of Mats Hummels, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Julian Weigl, all of whom were out with a stomach bug, Thomas Tuchel surprised with his lineup. The question before the game was who would replace Sokratis in central defence, Neven Subotic or Matthias Ginter?
It turned out to be Subotic, but Ginter was selected as well, playing in defensive midfield for the first time all season in the Bundesliga. Perhaps Tuchel wanted Ginter to provide additional cover against Wolfsburg in-form attacker Max Kruse, whose roaming between the lines and in the hole behind a striker could have caused a real problem for Dortmund. Kruse did, however, in a curious move by Tuchel’s opponent on the touchline, Dieter Hecking, play up front to start the game, .
Gonzalo Castro deservedly kept his spot in the starting XI, with November’s Yellowwallpod Player of the Month being preferred to Kagawa.
The Black and Yellows ran riot to start the game. Ilkay Gündogan’s fine free-kick was parried onto the bar by Diego Benaglio, who then saved a looping header from Lukasz Piszczek for a corner, which led to Sven Bender hitting the crossbar as well – all that between the third and fifth minute.
Piszczek wasted Dortmund’s third big chance in the 10th minute, as he tried to set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle instead of going for the goal himself. The hosts weren’t in the game and created next to nothing, but Dortmund didn’t keep their level from the early goings either.
The 1-0 came totally out of the blue just past the half-hour mark: Gündogan pressed Ricardo Rodiguez into an ill-advised pass to Josuha Guilavogui, who felt the heat from Henrikh Mkhitaryan immediately. The Armenian pried the ball away from Wolfsburg’s midfielder, and it fell directly into the path of Marco Reus, who rounded Benaglio and put the ball in.
The goal seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Wolves, who looked much sharper once they went down. Vieirinha probably had the best chance for an equaliser before intermission, but his effort from outside the box went just wide.
Hecking brought on Bas Dost for Guilavogui at half-time, and Wolfsburg seemed to be stimulated by the introduction of a classic No. 9. Roman Bürki invited the Dutchman to score the equaliser with a calamitous pass right into his feet, but Dortmund’s first-choice ‘keeper managed to redeem himself with a spectacular save. He was lucky Dost didn’t square the ball, though.
Wolfsburg were clearly the better side for the entirety of the second half, but Dortmund found a way to hold on to a precious clean sheet, be it with goal-line clearances, Bürki intervening or the hosts being too wasteful, until the very end of regulation. It has to be said, however, that the Wolves were very lucky to finish the game with 11 men, as Maximilian Arnold should’ve been sent off for a punch in Ginter’s face. Even if one says it was inadvertend and not a straight red card, the young midfielder was already booked and should at least have seen a second yellow.
It looked like Dortmund’s defensive heroics were to be for naught when Piszczek brought down André Schürrle inside the penalty box in the final seconds of regular time. The right-back tugged Schürrle’s jersey ever so slightly and the World Cup winner took the invitation, but it looked like a fair decision.
Rodriguez expertly dispatched the spot-kick to give Wolfsburg a well-deserved draw—or so it seemed. The Schwarzgelben had one more attack in them: Jonas Hofmann played the ball to fellow substitute Shinji Kagawa, who replaced Gündogan after 55 minutes. Gündogan had suffered what appeared to be nothing more than a bruise to his lower back after getting kneed by Julian Draxler in a duel in the first half. Kagawa passed to Piszczek, whose delicate cross found its way onto the magical right foot of one Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The 26-year-old produced one of the most difficult assists you will ever see, as he played the ball first time and lovely weighted to Kagawa, who remained cools as a cucumber to give Dortmund the latest of late winners.
What It Means
Prepare for a week of title talk, as Dortmund get back in shouting distance to Bayern, who lost their first Bundesliga game of the campaign at Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier on Saturday, reducing the Bavarians’ advantage to five points. More importantly, however, BVB added to their cushion as it relates to third place. They are now nine points ahead of Gladbach, who overtook Wolfsburg.
The old adage of the “game of two halves” was seldom more appropriate than on Saturday, and a draw would definitely have been a fair result. Considering Dortmund were without three key starters and a fourth missed crunch time, a draw would also have been a pretty good result.
Lucky for us, however, Dortmund’s resiliency earned them a famous victory.