After four weeks away from Bundesliga football, Borussia Dortmund returned and grabbed all three points on the road to Werder Bremen with a 2-1 win. However, despite the rest and regeneration, Thomas Tuchel’s side showed some concerning similarities to their play before the break.
Line-up: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter, Schmelzer – Weigl – Pulisic, Castro, Kagawa, Reus – Schürrle #bvb
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) January 21, 2017
In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence, Tuchel opted to play Andre Schürrle up front, who was able to combine well at times with Marco Reus, as the two looked fluid and provided Werder’s defence with a lot of problems early in the first half. It was an emphatic start to the game for Dortmund, as Schürrle put the black and yellows ahead in the 5th minute, netting his first Bundesliga goal of the season. It was a half Reus assist, half Serge Gnabry deflection that played Schürrle in, who then rounded the keeper and easily slotted home with his left foot.
Dortmund were on the front foot for the first 15 minutes, overwhelming Bremen with great movement between Reus and Schürrle, whose partnership looks to be effective enough to keep Dortmund going while Aubameyang is away at the African Cup of Nations.
However, Dortmund failed to capitalise more on their early dominance, as Bremen started to grow into the game around the 25th minute. Serge Gnabry came close to equalising for Bremen, and some good saves from Roman Weidenfeller kept Dortmund’s 1-0 safe.
Bremen went down to ten men in the 39th minute, as Jaroslav Drobny came off his line and fouled Marco Reus outside of the box, denying Dortmund a clear goalscoring opportunity, as well as making a painful challenge, going studs up straight into Reus’ thigh. Bremen were forced to take off Claudio Pizarro to bring on back-up keeper Felix Wiedwald.
Once again, Dortmund weren’t able to take full advantage of their man advantage in the second half. Dortmund struggled to replicate their fluidity from early in the first half, and Bremen capitalised immediately after Marco Reus failed to put away a one on one chance with the goalkeeper. Fin Bartels and Bremen equalised off a throw in, nutmegging Matthias Ginter, while beating Sokratis with pace and slotting the ball in past Weidenfeller.
Dortmund were looking much like the Dortmund of the Hinrunde, conceding an unnecessary goal due to some ugly defending from Ginter and Julian Weigl. The team has been able to shake the complacency from the Hinrunde, and it looked for a while that Dortmund might fail to win a game they were once dominating.
The game changed positively for Dortmund with the introduction of Ousmane Dembele and Raphael Guerreiro in the 70th minute, with the latter making his first appearance since October. Guerreiro’s impact was immediately noticable, albeit thanks to a lucky deflection, as his lofted ball into the box bounced off a Bremen player and fell kindly to Lukasz Piszczek, who scored his fourth league goal of the season.
Guerreiro is changing the game. He's been on five minutes.
— Dortmund USA (@dortmundusa) January 21, 2017
Everyone knew Guerreiro was indispensable for Dortmund, as his absence over the past three months had been drastically felt. Today showed how key he is to their possession game and creativity, as he asserted his dominance within five minutes of coming onto the pitch.
The Ruhr side had multiple chances to seal the game, as Andre Schurrle missed two good chances to make it 3-1, but opted to go for goal himself rather than finding an open Christian Pulisic. Bremen pushed hard for an equaliser, and Dortmund were doing their best to make the hosts look good with a man down.
It was an unnecessarily nervy ending, as Dortmund were clearly tiring towards the end despite the four-week break and multiple friendlies. Dortmund fans let out a collective sigh of relief when the whistle finally blew. While this was far from a convincing performance, the rusty Dortmund side ultimately got the all important three points and should look forward to a healthy Raphael Guerreiro in their midfield very soon.