Thomas Tuchel went (almost) full rotation against Darmstadt, with eight changes compared to the 3-1 against Hoffenheim on Sunday. Probably most surprising was the debut of the just 17-year-old Felix Passlack.
Sporting director Michael Zorc stated before the game that he was expecting a match where the fight for second balls, freshness and height to defend Darmstadt’s set-pieces would be key.
BVB lined up in what looked like a 4-4-2 shape, with Ramos and Aubameyang upfront. Castro and Passlack played on the wings, with Weigl and Gündogan being in central midfield. The back four from right to left was Ginter, Subotic, Hummels and Durm. Weidenfeller was in goal for Bürki who was down with a fever.
The first interesting situation came from a Gündogan free-kick in the sixth minute, which went past everyone and Darmstadt’s goalkeeper Mathenia was lucky his unorthodox save didn’t end up at the feet of a Dortmund player.
The game then continued as everyone expected it to. Dortmund had the vast majority of the ball but weren’t able to create much meaningful in possession, and Dull-eh… Darmstadt relied on their long punts and counter attacks.
Then nothing happened for quite a while. Until, in the 36th minute, Sandro Wagner almost scored a goal after a Darmstadt throw-in. Wagner showed some nice control in the box but missed the goal just wide.
In the 38th minute it was Dortmund’s turn for a goalscoring opportunity. Hummels started one of his famous dribblings into the opponent’s box. As Hummels was stopped, Castro got to the loose ball first and put in a good cross to Aubameyang. The Gabonese striker didn’t quite get to the ball with his head and rather hit it with his hand (unintentionally). Mathenia was able to save the first effort, but Ramos was there and put the ball away for a 1-0 lead.
Only six minutes later BVB almost made it 2-0 after a great through ball from Castro to Gündogan, but Gündogan didn’t manage to get the ball past Mathenia or across to the completely unmarked Aubameyang.
Tuchel and Schuster made no changes at the half and the game also continued as it was. At first.
Then the next huge chance for Borussia Dortmund occurred. Ramos received the ball on a deep run and squared it nicely for Aubameyang, who somehow managed to not put the ball into the net.
Just a minute later Durm did better. After some nice passing and eventually another great through ball from Castro, Durm found himself in front of Mathenia and made no mistake. 2-0.
Darmstadt almost pulled one back in the 60th minute. Wagner squared a ball with his head, but Vrancic wasn’t able to hit the target from close range. Hummels arguably fouled Vrancic in the process which could’ve resulted in a penalty and are card. Dortmund’s luck with referees seems to continue.
What almost worked once can’t be that bad, right? In the 68th minute Darmstadt tried their luck with another cross, Durm’s header landed on Rausch’s chest and his shot just missed the corner of the goal.
What totally didn’t work throughout the game doesn’t work again, right? Right. Aubameyang continued his lately struggle to convert chances as he ran towards Mathenia on his own but didn’t manage to get the ball past the goalkeeper.
From then on the game basically just ran out and not much more happened.
A hard-fought and somewhat deserved 2-0 win for Borussia Dortmund. It wasn’t pretty, as expected, but Dortmund were in control for most parts of the game and made their chances count.
This win and Bayern’s loss against Mainz also means there are only five points between Dortmund and Bayern before the big clash on Saturday. Game on?