After dropping points last weekend against FC Cologne, Borussia Dortmund needed all three points as Hoffenheim came to town in the battle for third place. The black and yellows got the job done with a 2-1 win, with quite a few dubious calls from the linesman and referee Felix Brych.
Manager Thomas Tuchel returned to a back three formation, after fielding a back four in the previous two games versus Bayern and Cologne. Marcel Schmelzer set up as the left center back, with Sokratis central, and Matthias Ginter to the right. Despite featuring mostly as a center back in recent times, Lukasz Piszczek lined up as the right wing back.
BVB XI: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Ginter, Schmelzer; Weigl; Dembele, Castro, Guerreiro, Reus; Aubameyang.
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) May 6, 2017
Things started brightly for Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion, as Marco Reus opened the scoring for the hosts only four minutes into the match. The goal was fortunate to stand, as Reus was nearly a meter offside after a faint touch from Gonzalo Castro to lay the ball off. Reus cooly slotted the ball through goalkeeper Oliver Baumann’s legs, and the Hoffenheim players bombarded the linesman, who kept his flag down.
Meanwhile at the Signal Iduna Park: pic.twitter.com/lslaqkfsKs
— The Official Dude (@Ink184) May 6, 2017
Dortmund had total control for the first 15 minutes, and were even fortunate enough to win a penalty on a handball from Hoffenheim fullback Pavel Kaderabek. Reus controlled the ball with his bicep, before his cross found the defender’s hand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up to the spot, but failed to double Dortmund’s lead, firing wide left. It was the Gabonese striker’s third miss in his last four attempts from the spot. In hindsight, the better penalty taker, Marco Reus, should have taken the penalty.
With Dortmund failing to capitalize on their huge chance to make it 2-0, Hoffenheim grew back into the game, but were unable to create any clear cut chances. The visitors came close with a few headers from Sandro Wagner and Benjamin Hubner, but it was all Julian Nagelsmann’s team could muster in the first half.
Ginter and Schmelzer deserve a lot of credit for their strong performances against one of the Bundesliga’s best attacking sides. Ginter has struggled in recent times at center back, while the captain usually features as a wing back, but with Marc Bartra still out and Sven Bender likely not at full fitness yet, the two were called up on deputize at center back. Both players delivered a resolute performance in difficult circumstances.
Neither team exactly dominated in the second half, but both had some chances they should have taken. Ousmane Dembele’s pace and agility proved a problem for Hoffenheim on their right side, but his final ball and decision making, with lots of space available, was lacking.
Roman Burki had a solid game in goal, but one nervy moment came around the 65th minute when a short goal kick landed at the feet of a Hoffenheim attacker, but substitute Jeremy Toljan was too eager to make an immediate impact, and sent a speculative shot well off-target.
The game looked as though it were heading to a dramatic ending as Hoffenheim made some attacking substitutions, bringing on striker Adam Szalai for a defender while behind 1-0. However, Dortmund seemingly sealed the game in the 82nd minute, as Aubameyang got his name on the scoresheet with an easy tap in header after Raphael Guerreiro’s effort struck the post.
Dortmund’s celebrations were interrupted four minutes later, as Brych awarded a penalty to Hoffenheim after Ginter wrapped his arms around Hoffenheim’s Wagner while a cross was sent into the box. The call was lenient, in this writer’s opinion, as calls like these are rarely made, even when a player is tackled in the box. Andrej Kramaric stepped up and fired it right down the middle to make it 2-1. The clean sheet was harshly taken away from Dortmund, and they were forced to fight just a little bit longer for the win.
Hoffenheim were unable to muster anything in the dying minutes of the game, and Dortmund even came close to grabbing a third. Holding the Hoffenheim attack at bay for 90 minutes is no small feat for Dortmund, and the Yellow Wall Game Ball could be awarded to any one of the back three, but it’ll go to the captain Marcel Schmelzer.
With the win, Dortmund move into third place, two points above Hoffenheim. Both teams close the season out with identical fixtures, Augsburg and Werder Bremen.