Borussia Dortmund won only their fourth away match of the Bundesliga campaign on Saturday afternoon, beating SC Freiburg 3-0. It was also their first clean sheet on the road all season. BVB have now won 12 straight over Freiburg.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel went with we can presume is his first-choice tactical setup by now, as Dortmund played with a back three and a free-flowing attacking line. The returns of Sokratis Papastathopoulos after overcoming the flu and Raphael Guerreiro were important boosts to the side.
Tuchel’s plan to stretch Freiburg’s defence worked brilliantly until his counterpart, Christian Streich, was forced into going with a back three himself after 24 minutes, with Freiburg sacrificing winger Onur Bulut in order to maintain some level of defensive stability the rest of the way.
At that point, the match could already have been decided, only Dortmund’s finishing was to blame. Sokratis scored the opener with a well-placed header from a delicate Guerreiro free-kick cross after 13 minutes, but between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Erik Durm and the Portugal international, Dortmund could have been up by three without Freiburg having much to moan about.
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Regardless of their lack of proficiency in the finishing department, however, Dortmund were superb from the first minute, putting Freiburg under a lot of pressure in all phases of the game. With the hosts never stringing together more than five passes, the Black and Yellows had all the control over the game and it felt like a matter of time until they would make their dominance count on the scoreboard.
Dortmund’s ineptitude in front of goal bordered on the grotesque the rest of the first half, with Aubameyang and Guerreiro going as far as missing numerous chances from within the six-yard box.
In other games, BVB would have lost their way thinking about the chances they wasted, but, to their credit, they kept playing in their dominant style throughout the 90 minutes. Marco Reus, wearing the captain’s armband with Marcel Schmelzer rested ahead of a few decisive weeks in all competitions, finally got his team and his friend Aubameyang over the hump 10 minutes into the second half.
Julian Weigl, who continued his own impressive run of form, played a perfectly weighted, arching long ball towards Reus on the left wing. The Germany international sized up his opponent Caglar Söyüncü, nutmegged him with an elegant move and squared for Aubameyang in a way that not even the Gabon striker searching for his form could miss from three yards.
The second goal thrust any doubts over the outcome of the match aside and the only question that remained was how many Dortmund would score.
Aubameyang got a second with 20 minutes to go, thanks to brilliant work from Ousmane Dembele, who once again ran riot in the half-spaces for much of the game, and a selfless assist from Durm, who squared to his striker instead of going for the goal himself.
From that point on, Dortmund switched into cruise control, intent on not wasting any energy with important fixtures coming up in rapid succession in the coming weeks. The attacking trident of Dembele, Reus and Aubameyang was taken off a few minutes early and, bar a Shinji Kagawa header that should’ve found its way into the net, the game largely fizzled out.
It was arguably one of the most convincing performances of the entire season — certainly on the road — and it was down to a collective effort from the team. Even with Reus, Dembele, Weigl, Guerreiro and Marc Bartra excelling, it seems impossible to pick out one player as the man of the match or the main reason Dortmund won.
BVB confirmed their positive trend in recent weeks — the Darmstadt game being the outlier — and will remain in third place unless Hoffenheim beat Schalke with six or more goals on Sunday. With Cologne losing to RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC and Eintracht Frankfurt facing each other in Saturday’s late kick-off, Dortmund’s three points should seperate them from the pack a little bit in the hunt for UEFA Champions League spots.
Other than that, the most important takeaway has to be Aubameyang’s getting over his ever-so-short and overdramatised dry spell in front of goal with a brace.