On a rainy Saturday afternoon, Borussia Dortmund rode their luck more than once to get away with three points against promoted Ingolstadt. Tuchel was right in dubbing this match a “matter of patience” beforehand, as his side hardly got a foot on the ground with some of his key players missing.Yet, Borussia Dortmund managed to grind out a result, while US-boy Christian Pulisic made his first appearance in the Westfalenstadion alongside the unlikely return of Moritz Leitner.
Thomas Tuchel had to switch up his starting XI. Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus were left out of the squad due to a minor cold, Marcel Schmelzer took place on the bench after struggling with neck problems throughout the week. It was Matthias Ginter to replace Ilkay Gündogan in midfield while Adrian Ramos filled in for Reus. Gonzalo Castro surprisingly (considering his performance against Gladbach, maybe not that surprising) started the match from the bench as well.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
The less said about the first half the better. The passing accuracy was at an all-time low as Borussia Dortmund couldn’t find any structure whatsoever. Ingolstadt did well to “pull BVB down to their own level” as Jürgen Klopp likes to phrase the idea of his gegenpressing.
Dortmund struggled to find a rhythm in half that was very much a stop-and-go from the outset. Tuchel anticipated the guests approaching the match more defensive-minded than usual. As the following graphic shows, he was wrong about that.
The biggest talking point of the first half came in the 29. Minute. A long ball into the path of Ingolstadt’s Dario Lezcano, who was through on goal just a yard ahead of Mats Hummels, caused BVB a lot of trouble.
Roman Bürki rushed out of his goal only to miss the ball once again. The ‘keeper had to jump to the side in order to not collide with the onrushing Lezcano, who managed to dink the ball over Burki just in time. The extra touch gave Hummels just enough time to get his arm on Lezcano’s shoulder and to hinder the attacker to pass the ball into the empty net. The ball bounced as both fell to the ground. Lukasz Piszczek was there just in time to clear the ball away with his head to draw away the referee’s suspicion.
At this point the captain was rather lucky to not hear a penalty whistle and see a red card by referee Guido Winkmann. It’s safe to say that Dortmund would have found it enormously difficult to clinch the three points, had the referee decided differently after 30 minutes – not to mention Hummels’ absence in Dortmund’s upcoming trip to Berlin. Otherwise, there isn’t an awful lot to say about the first half aside from a couple of half-chances.
In the second half, Dortmund were riding their luck just as much as in the first period.
While Tuchel didn’t make substitutions at half-time, he ordered his team to play more patiently and to evade Ingolstadt’s pressure by keeping more bodies in the own half. Unsurprisingly, Dortmund’s passing accuracy immediately sky-rocketed to 84 percent between the 45. and the 70. minute, peaking at 96 percent in the five-minute stint after Gonzalo Castro and Moritz Leitner entered the field for Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa in the 55. minute.
Although the substitutions of Castro and Leitner reinvigorated Borussia Dortmund’s attack, the fun happened at the other end.
As Dortmund skipper Hummels turned towards Bürki to play a pass to the ‘keeper, Lezcano clipped him ever so sligtly. The ball took a little bounce before the captain could get his boot to it and then took a mesmerizing curve to sail into the net over the Switzerland international, who seemed flabbergasted by the lob and inexplicably tried to avoid touching it with his hands.
Ingolstadt celebrated, but referee Winkmann didn’t quite like what he saw and called the play a foul on Hummels rather than giving the goal. The defender might have had an eight-leaved clover for breakfast.
Dortmund fans knew fortune would favour their team on the day when Piszczek whipped a sharp cross into the box from the right wing. It was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who leaped up and scored the header. But as the replay on the Westfalenstadion’s video wall nicely displayed just seconds later, the Gabonese striker was offside.
Obviously a tough call to make in real-time, but the Schanzer and everyone else in the stadium knew that the Black and Yellows were blessed with luck once again. Arguing with the referee and his linesman didn’t help the guests wipe the 1-0 off the scoreboard, which will only add to the clamour for video reviews in the Bundesliga.
However, Dortmund weren’t influenced by Ingolstadt’s frustration and pushed on for a second goal. It was Aubameyang again, scoring his 20th league goal to put the three points in the bag. A nice combination between Leitner and Castro set up the star striker.
Going by Mats Hummels’ celebration, who looked as if he had won a grand slam (congrats to Angelique Kerber, by the way), the decisive 2-0 was of incredible importance. BVB keep their unbeaten record in front of the Yellow Wall this season intact and can proudly call themselves the “best second-placed team in Bundesliga history on Matchday 19.” Wow.
In the end, nobody in Dortmund will care how lucky the victory was. A certain U.S. youth international will remember this match better than most, as it was Christian Pulisic’s first Bundesliga appearance.
The 17-year-old did well to get the hype-train going with his 20-minute cameo. Everyone could see how pacy and technically gifted Pulisic is, as he skipped past Ingolstadt’s defenders.
The transfer window slams shut on Monday and Dortmund would be well advised to sign a player with a certain level of quality, considering there are two months of Englische Wochen coming up for the Black and Yellows.
Against Ingolstadt, Tuchel had to rely on Leitner and Pulisic alongside Castro to save the day, as Gündogan and Reus were unavailable – the good news is Thomas Tuchel could rely on them against the Bavarians.
It’s the silver lining in case sporting director Michael Zorc can’t find a suitable reinforcement, but it’s still a gamble.