Borussia Dortmund have started their 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign with a bang, beating hapless VfL Wolfsburg surprisingly comfortable by three goals to nil. Christian Pulisic, Marc Bartra and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the goals that may well put Dortmund at the top of the table after the conclusion of Matchday 1.
Lineup: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Zagadou; Sahin, Castro, Götze; Pulisic, Aubameyang, Philipp.
Peter Bosz went with the expected starting XI for his first Bundesliga match in charge of the Black and Yellows. Debutant Dan-Axel Zagadou started at left-back over Jan-Niklas Beste, who had got the nod for the DFB-Pokal tilt against sixth-division side 1. FC Rielasingen-Arlen, while Mario Götze played instead of Mahmoud Dahoud after overcoming back issues. Finally, Pulisic started for the injured Andre Schürrle.
Captain Marcel Schmelzer, Raphael Guerreiro, Marco Reus, Sebastian Rode, Schürrle, Julian Weigl and Erik Durm were unavaible for selection with various injuries, whereas Ousmane Dembele remains suspended.
Dortmund started with an incredible dominance on the ball, as they registered close to 90 per cent possession during the first 10 minutes. They followed Bosz’s typical footballing philosophy, swarming the opponent during the build-up phase, high up the pitch, while they tried themselves to find a rhythm in their passing by building a lot of small-area connections. Of course, they also sprinkled in a long ball here and there to switch the play or take many defenders out at once but, with Wolfsburg sitting deep, this was most effective when attacking after defensive set pieces.
Gonzalo Castro had the first real opening of the game, putting a difficult volley just wide after superb work between Götze and Pulisic. The next chance already put Dortmund in the lead: Zagadou played a wonderful 50-yard pass to Aubameyang when Wolfsburg had committed a few players forward for a change. The Gabonese played on to Götze, who set up Pulisic. The 18-year-old hesitated for a moment, seizing up Koen Casteels in the hosts’ goal and then cheekily put the chance away with a perfectly directed shot towards the lower left corner.
Wolfsburg clearly had to reset themselves after going behind, which the visitors used to basically decide the game. The Wolves failed to clear a corner properly, the ball skidding back to Castro. The midfielder laid off for Bartra, who was just about level with the last defender and curled an absolutely delightful shot past the outstretched arm of Casteels. It had clearly been a special game for the long-time FC Barcelona man, who commemorated the victims of Thursday’s terror attack by taking of his black ribbon, kissing it and holding it into the sky.
Dortmund were content with letting Wolfsburg have a bit more of the ball now, opting to not go for the third goal straight away, but the hosts did not come close to getting back into the game.
Wolfsburg had two half-chances through captain Mario Gomez, but didn’t really trouble Roman Bürki, whose only true save of the day came when three Wolves were simultaneously offside.
Aubameyang got off the mark in the Bundesliga after an hour of play, with Pulisic getting a superb assist for a pass he smashed across the face of goal towards his striker, who was left with a simple sliding finish.
Dortmund switched into cruise control, with only occasional forays into the final third. Wolfsburg never threatened to make a game of it suddenly, so the last 30 minutes went by without many incidents. Mahmoud Dahoud made his Bundesliga debut for the Black and Yellows, replacing Götze after a strong first game back after five months away from football. Felix Passlack and Shinji Kagawa also came off the bench.
The final thing of note happened shortly before the end of regulation, with Wolfsburg substitute Maximilian Arnold getting away with a slight elbow to the face of Nuri Sahin. It could easily have been a sending off.
While Wolfsburg were probably as bad as Dortmund were strong, few would have expected a comfortable 3-0 win on the road after pre-season, the DFL Supercup and the first round of the cup. Whereas BVB had at times looked uninspiring and disjointed in those games, they were a cohesive unit against Wolfsburg, defending with diligence and attacking with cleverness and pace.
Yellow Wall Gameball: Christian Pulisic
It’s going to be a big year for Pulisic, especially in the event of a departure of Dembele, so seeing the 18-year-old start so brilliantly is hugely encouraging for BVB fans. Pulisic was at the heart of most attacking situations for his side, as the hosts were simply unable to handle him at any point in time. A great goal and an equally impressive assist were the cherry on the top of a fantastic all-around performance.
An honourable mention belongs to Bartra and Götze.