Borussia Dortmund steadily solidify their status as second best team in the Bundesliga. An overly anxious Frankfurt side threatened the Schwarzgelben for only twenty minutes, as Dortmund eventually won 4-1 on Sunday evening.
Thomas Tuchel felt the agony of choice prior to the match, because almost all first team players were available. Dortmund’s head coach decided to place his trust in Łukasz Piszczek at right-back as well as in Gonzalo Castro in central midfield. Therefore, Matthias Ginter and Shinji Kagawa had to sit on the bench of a jam-packed Signal Iduna Park. Also, Sven Bender started alongside captain Mats Hummels in the middle of a back four that was barely challenged defensively over the course of 90 minutes.
Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, went full defence, basically utilizing a 6-3-1 formation. Both wingers, Stefan Aigner and Bastian Oczipka, served as additional full-backs, while Makoto Hasebe, Slobodan Medojević, and Alex Meier covered the central zones behind lone striker Haris Seferović.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
Frankfurt catching Dortmund early
Tuchel clearly expected Frankfurt to defend in a quite defensive shape, as they did against Bayern Munich, when pulling off an upset draw on matchday eleven. During the initial build-up play, Gündoğan and Castro were positioned at the outside of Frankfurt’s middle block, trying to move the ball around the zones that were controlled by the opponent.
BVB had a few half-chances in the first minutes of the match, capitalising on Frankfurt’s lack of presence on the wings. It was Frankfurt, though, that broke the deadlock. Similar to the loss against PAOK on Thursday, Dortmund got caught by the first attack the opposing team created. Seferović picked up a long ball at the left, waiting until his team-mates moved up to the penalty area. The Swiss striker passed to Meier who fired in from the edge of the box.
Schwarzgelben fighting back
Afterwards, the guests seemed to stabilize their defensive positional play, as Dortmund did not generate another goal scoring opportunity for the next 17 minutes. It was the 23th minute, when Hummels penetrated Frankfurt’s compact block, playing a wonderful through ball to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who cross-passed to Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian equalised from close range.
Particularly Hummels’ runs into the opposing half played an important role after the opening phase of the game. As Frankfurt obviously focussed on protecting the own penalty area, they left holes next to their narrow middle block. With Hummels moving forward, Dortmund found themselves in a comfortable situation in midfield, out-numbering and therefore out-playing the guests quite easily.
A couple of promising goal attempts were the inevitable result. Though, the picture of hosts wasting chance after chance became quite comedic. While that was something to chuckle about, the 43th minute, when Kagawa replaced an apparently injured Marco Reus, caused furrowed brows. Dortmund’s superstar is more and more a problematic case as his injury crises continues.
In the meantime, Frankfurt’s head coach Armin Veh was beset by own worries. At the end of the first half, Medojević felled Gonzalo Castro in the box, not only causing a penalty, but also receiving a second yellow. Aubameyang, however, missed the shot from the spot – for the first time in a BVB jersey. Moments later, Mkhitaryan also wasted another chance from close range.
One-way football after the break
Veh stuck to his defensive approach, leading his side into the second half by applying a 5-3-1 formation, intending to still control the middle with a narrow block. However, introducing Kagawa was a blessing for Dortmund, as that particular substitution changed their attacking structure completely. While having a wide shape in the first half, the Schwarzgelben felt more comfortable in the tight zones, dominating the centre for the rest of the match.
And, eventually, the pressure took its toll. Aubameyang scored in the 57th minute. Hummels then sealed the deal, converting an attempt after a corner in the 61th minute. And even Adrián Ramos bagged a goal in the closing phase of the game, although from an offside position.
After allowing PAOK to punish them with a single chance on Thursday, Dortmund again wasted a couple of chances, even though Tuchel’s side showed their comfort and dominance in ball possession, which is, in the long run, the most important aspect of their recent performances.