At the end of the match against Wolfsberger AC Henrikh Mkhitaryan couldn’t hide his smile. His magical hat-trick in the second half to push up the final score to 5-0 (6-0 on aggregate) made the 63.000 visitors – who easily set the attendance record for a third round qualification match in the Europa League – forget about the decision making of the referee. The Romanian Marius Avram caused a lot of despair among home supporters in the first half. A yellow card for alleged handball for Marco Reus, who also had a clear penalty denied when Wolfsberger’s goalkeeper Alexander Kofler clumsily cut down Reus in the penalty area.
Other than that, the first half was chewy like a microwaved BicMac on the next morning. Borussia Dortmund’s 4-2-3-1 which again featured Julian Weigl next to Ilkay Gündogan in defensive midfield took a long time to find its rhythm. Thomas Tuchel explained his half-time adjustments after the match: “We weren’t disciplined enough in our positioning in the first half. The distances between our positions were too big, making it tough for our combination play. In the second half we were more disciplined in our positioning, which allowed us to play more freely – that doesn’t contradict itself.” In other words, the passing precision increases when the passes are shorter. But playing more compact also had the effect, that Dortmund’s density in midfield forced a lot more turnovers in the second half, which automatically led to more goal scoring opportunities.
Obviously Marco Reus’s opener after three minutes into the second half helped a lot to make it easier for Borussia Dortmund. By the latest the 2-0 on aggregate meant that the tie was decided. Because Wolfsberger AC had so little to offer, that Roman Weidenfeller could celebrate his 35th birthday in peace. The veteran in goal had not a single save to make and might have gotten a cold, if it wasn’t for the sweat-inducing heatwave around Dortmund on Thursday. The Austrian opposition was too weak to take too much away from the match, other than that Borussia Dortmund are capable of scoring wonderful goals. If you haven’t seen the highlights yet, find them. Whether it was Aubameyang’s dink over the keeper or Mkhitaryan’s hard hit stunners from distance, they were all crowd pleasers.
Yet the game did reaffirm a few impressions of the preseason. Marcel Schmelzer is flourishing under Thomas Tuchel. The more possession based combination play, which comprises the wings, brings the best out of the left back. He is playing a more important role under Tuchel and so far is delivering. Julian Weigl is cool as a cucumber in midfield. The 19 year old described his calmness on the ball as one of his strengths in a preseason interview and so far it looks like good self-reflection, but while the euphoria is slowly rising around the youngster it is still too early to say, if he can assert himself in the pressing league Bundesliga.
And last but not least a special mention to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who not only set up the 1-0, but also chipped in a hat-trick within 13 minutes, as if he had never done anything else. Will it be his season? Will he finally unveil his full potential and dazzle everyone with his undisputed class? Only hindsight will have the answers, but it was a mighty fine start. These three goals should do wonders for a confidence player like the Armenian. He definitely has won over his coach, as Tuchel only speaks with deep admiration of his play-maker:
“I can tell you that it’s a great joy to be his coach. Mkhitaryan is a model professional paired with a special character. Which is determined by his openness, his politeness, his respect towards everyone, the staff and his teammates and especially his respect towards his own talent. He arrives always on time to the training. He trains on the highest level, he never consideres himself too good for something, he wins his training matches. I’m happy, that it all unfolded so visibly on the pitch today. It will help a creative and sensible guy like him. He also assisted the 1-0 for the third time in a row, which doesn’t outshine his hat-trick, but is an important indicator for me. I also gladly observed that he picked himself up to such a performance after not everything worked out for him in the first half. We are happy for him and it was absolutely deserved.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan on his hat-trick:
(Courtesy of @BVB)
Possible play-off round opponents
With the duty done against Wolfsberger AC, BVB are two games away from the Europa League group stage. The draw which determines the opponent for the games taking place on the 20.08 and 27.08 will be held on Friday, the 07.08.
- HJK (FIN)
- FC Thun (SUI)
- FC Astra Giurgiu (ROU)
- FC Midtjylland (DNK)
- Odds BK (NOR)
- Gabala FK (AZE)