Borussia Dortmund cured their Europa League Hangover with a 3-0 win over Hamburger SV on Matchday 30 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season on Sunday. Seventeen-year-old Christian Pulisic and Adrian Ramos with a brace scored against Dortmund’s (now former?) bogey team.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel made no fewer than eight changes to the side that crashed out of Europe in midweek, with only Mats Hummels, Gonzalo Castro and Shinji Kagawa keeping their spot in the starting XI.
Among the players rotated into the team, Felix Passlack and Pulisic were the most notable names. The two 17-year-olds started their first match in front of 81,000 fans in the Westfalenstadion. Dortmund started in a 4-2-3-1 with Passlack and Pulisic manning the left wing.
Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan weren’t included in the squad, while regulars Marcel Schmelzer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both came on late in the game. Julian Weigl sat on the bench for the entire game. Erik Durm missed the game with a knee problem, joining defender Neven Subotic on the injury list.
The visitors sat fairly deep, allowing Dortmund a lot of possession in harmless zones and waiting to hit them on the counter when the Black and Yellows lost the ball. Dortmund failed to get speed into their attacks, which led to a boring first 35 minutes or so.
Hamburg had two chances to score the opening goal early on, but Nicolai Müller’s shot went wide of the post (14th minute) and Ivo Ilicevic’s header didn’t find the target, either (17th minute).
The game fell back asleep until Sven Schipplock, who had replaced injured Pierre-Michel Lasogga in the 35th minute, picked up the ball off a poor touch from Sven Bender and had an open run on goal. The 27-year-old dallied, however, allowing Mats Hummels to recover in time to make a goal-saving tackle – Schipplock had the option to play the ball to Müller, who was all alone in the box.
This scene seemed to work as a wake-up call, as Dortmund scored the opener just a minute later.
Kagawa found Hummels in the box after a short corner routine and the captain released Pulisic with a lovely weighted pass. The recent USMNT debutant made no mistake and slotted home – his first professional goal at the senior level.
Ramos doubled the lead with a wonderful goal in the 44th minute, making a fool of defender Cleber with a step-over before curling the ball into the far corner.
Tuchel changed the system at the start of the second half, moving to three at the back, which allowed Passlack to run more freely on the right wing. The Germany under-18 international immediately looked lively and could’ve won a penalty early in the second period.
If the two goals in quick succession didn’t already do the job, a red card for Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler certainly decided the game. Ramos had released Kagawa with a perfect pass in the 52nd minute, and the former Germany international left Hamburg’s goal and penalty box to get to the ball, clobbering Kagawa in the process.
It was a harsh decision from referee Marco Fritz, seeing as Adler wasn’t Hamburg’s last man.
At any rate, Dortmund were now in cruise control and had a few chances to score a third goal, but didn’t waste any energy with the DFB-Pokal semi-final against Hertha BSC in midweek on their minds. Hamburg didn’t offer any resistance, especially after midfielder Albin Ekdal had to leave the pitch with an apparent knee injury. They finished the game with only nine players.
Ramos added a third goal with two minutes to play, after substitute ‘keeper Jaroslav Drobny spilled a Kagawa shot. A special mention goes out to Moritz Leitner, who assisted Kagawa’s shot with a cheeky backheel flick.
What Does It Mean?
The game was of no larger consequence for Dortmund, who have nothing to play for in the Bundesliga at this stage. However, after the heartbreaking loss at Anfield Road, it was important to get back on track, even if the teams from Thursday and Sunday barely looked alike.
Beating Hamburg comfortably for the first time in what feels like ages is a fine accomplishment, and Dortmund can now travel to the capital with a good feeling. The Cup is the only objective left in this impressive season for the Black and Yellows, and that much was evident on Sunday – both in Tuchel’s lineup and the way the game went.