Phew. The worst fears did not become reality, Borussia Dortmund won 1-0 on Friday night against Hoffenheim. A big relief, as nobody wants to picture, a different outcome. Thankfully it was a sweet victory, with a lot to take away from.
New Hair, new guys
Jürgen Klopp not only made personnel changes for the game on Friday, but also got a new hair cut. Whether his altered appearance helped with the three points will be answered in the next YWP episode.
Mitchell Langerak was pleased to hear, that he will start on Friday night. It was a choice everyone expected ahead of the game, as Klopp announced to pick an eleven “mentally robust enough for the task”. Langerak deserved a chance and boom – clean sheet. Klopp made the switch out of “gut feeling”, but wouldn’t say whether the switch was permanent for the remaining games or not. Mitch was happy after the game, that he hadn’t had much to do, to keep his goal tidy. But of course he had to show-off with a bit of football, sending the charging striker into the wrong direction, instead of just clearing the ball.
A few days of training within the week can make all the difference. Instead of hanging around in airports and hotels, Klopp could actually work with his players. The 11 vs. 11 on Wednesday has been dubbed “awesome” by press officer Sasha Fligge. It’s new, that there are 22 players available for such a training session and hence Klopp had to make a few difficult decisions when picking his squad.
The line up Klopp came up with was everything he promised before the match. It displayed stability, esprit and fantasy with tactical cohesion. Reinstating the back line of old days with Schmelzer, Subotic, Hummels and Piszczek immediately worked like a charm. Kehl and Bender in defensive midfield gave enough defensive cover for Gündogan, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and Ramos to go on the hunt.
Ilkay Güdogan reported in the mixed zone, that Sebastian Kehl held an inspiring speech, while the team huddled up in the locker room ahead of the game. It was the last detail to help BVB back to success, because they showed true grit on the field, as a side in relegation battle would do.
It was nice pleasing to see how every Dortmund player threw himself in every challenge. That’s the ‘maximum greed’ Klopp always talks about and what fans really want to see. A shame that it took that long, to really see it in full. For once BVB out-fouled Hoffenheim and turned a few dangerous situations into harmless free kicks.
Apart from one. That was Rudy’s free kick just after half time. But professor Hummels had it covered. I ran out of the wall to clear the ball away just before going in. “I know Rudy’s free kicks are always slow enough to be reached. I told Mitch to cover his corner during the game. Though Sebastian Kehl told me not to celebrate myself too much, as it wasn’t going in anyway.”
Dortmund’s captain just completely bossed the whole game, making just terrific interceptions and giving the whole defense a stability, that hasn’t been present this season. It only leaves one wondering, where BVB would stand, if Hummels hadn’t missed 7/14 games this season, searching for form in at least three. And that leads us swiftly to the next stand out player of the night:
Oh yes, what a sweet flying header. Once his slightly over weighed body leaped forward, there was no missing this chance. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw Gündogan’s run, when he whipped in the cross. Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann just went under it and Ilkay had the open net in front of him.
The Westfalenstadion exploded and Jürgen Klopp jumped twice in celebrating not only the goal, but everything that it meant. So, so great to for Gündogan, who had to wait such a long time for this feeling. The goal in the 17′ minute was only beginning. After that Ilkay really took off and looked like he was never gone.
He played just ahead of Kehl and Bender to be the creative head behind the other attackers. Finally Dortmund had some combination play going for them, as Gündogan created space by his little turns and twists. It was him and Hummels who had to most spectacular performances of the night, showing how much Dortmund missed, while they were gone.
Now if only Henrikh Mkhitaryan would snap out his funk and finally sort his decision making out. The Armenian attacker is yet to score a goal and only has one mere assist to his name but on Friday night he has been one of the liveliest players on the field, beating defenders with dribbles and pacy bursts right left and center, but ultimately being let down by his own decision making. Taking the shot, when he should have passed and vice versa. He is like a Ferrari that doesn’t get off the spot because of too much wheel spin. But sooner or later he will bring his brilliance on the street.
We also have to talk about Adrian Ramos, who looked right where he belong as leading striker. He hadn’t had a scoring opportunity, but his back-to goal play and his relentlessness to pin balls down and distribute them is a great for the rest. It seems like Klopp has found a good solution for the offense in Reus’s absence.
But we can highlight individuals as much as we like, this was finally a convincing win by the whole collective on the pitch. No individual errors, no nervous collapses. Just dominance. And even Markus Gisdol had to admit, that BVB were simply superior. The Hoffenheim defense might be frail, but they have a powerful attack. Dortmund shutting them down to a mere free kick was just cool.
We can debate whether it was a penalty or not in the end, but who the hell really cares? Dortmund weren’t lucky, because Aubameyang got his regular goal disallowed. Such a pity.
Ultimately the three points count and the bond between team and fans. The atmosphere special and everyone could feel that things are looking upward. It was a nice gesture by the team to jump over the barriers and high-five a few fans from the yellow wall.
Now it’s on the team to build on this performance, keep the defensive stability alive and maybe learn to take chances – but who are we kidding? It was a great game, that showed how much potential is in this team. It’s safe to say, that Dortmund won’t be bottom of the league any time soon again, if they stay consistent. But that has been the big struggle all year.
At least for one weekend we can all lean back and enjoy the other games.