Borussia Dortmund celebrated another football holiday in the Bundesliga on Saturday evening, feasting on overmatched Borussia Mönchengladbach in a 6-1 win. The Black and Yellows remain top of the table and have now opened a three-point lead on Bayern Munich.
Lineup: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak, Toljan; Weigl, Götze, Dahoud; Pulisic, Aubameyang, Philipp.
Head coach Peter Bosz made a number of changes in the final game of a stressful “Englische Woche,” with Jeremy Toljan, Mario Götze, Mahmoud Dahoud and Maximilian Philipp coming into the team. Most notably, though, midfielder Julian Weigl made his first start of the campaign, closing the book on his four-month injury layoff with a fractured ankle.
Bosz said in his pre-match press conference, and reiterated before the game, that the UEFA Champions League match with Real Madrid on Tuesday did not factor into the equation “whatsoever,” and the selection of Götze, who has not played two games in quick succession so far, could prove that self-assessment correct.
Dan-Axel Zagadou, Nuri Sahin, Gonzalo Castro, Shinji Kagawa and Andrey Yarmolenko were rotated out of the team.
The game developed rather slowly, with Dortmund looking a bit more cautios than in previous Bundesliga matches for the first quarter of an hour or so. That may well have something to do with the individual quality of Gladbach attackers Raffael, Lars Stindl and Thorgan Hazard.
It was the younger brother of Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard who had the first opening of the game, being released by Stindl after a Weigl giveaway. The Belgian, however, fired straight at Roman Bürki, who need not fear to lose his clean sheet record in the situation.
Dortmund took 19 minutes until their first chance of the game, a Sokratis volley that forced a decent save out of Gladbach’s replacement goalkeeper Tobias Sippel. That situation sounded the charge for the hosts, who rolled attack after attack for the next 45 minutes or so of game time and crushed haplessly overwhelmed Foals in an awesome display of pure attacking power.
In the 25th minute, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit Sippel from close range with a difficult first-time hit of the ball, seeing his next attempt clanging on the outside of the post just a minute later.
Another two minutes later, the floodgates were finally opened: Weigl released Aubameyang with a perfectly weighted pass down the right channel. The Gabonese sprinted after the ball and just about managed to whip it into the box before it rolled over the goal line. Philipp moved into an ideal spot and took the ball first-time, guiding it past Sippel with a delightful, difficult-to-pull-off finish to give his team the lead.
The summer signing doubled up on his tally for the day seven minutes from intermission with another smart finish, this time from a Toljan cutback pass. The former Hoffenheim man showed excellent awareness deep in enemy territory, with his side winning the ball from a
trademark catastrophic misplaced pass by former Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter.
The next few minutes were the definition of good old “end-to-end stuff,” with Stindl missing a chance to make it 2-1 in the 41st minute, Aubameyang hitting the post for a second time with a header (although Sippel deserves a lot of credit for tipping the ball there) and Hazard copying his weak finish from earlier in the game.
Aubameyang did finally put a lid on the game moments before the half-time whistle. Sokratis (!) played a brilliant low ball behind the last line of the visitors’ defence, where Philipp displayed unforeseen technical abilities with two outrageous touches to set his feet and find his striker, who slotted home without difficulty this time around.
Dortmund continued to run riot out of the gates, Aubameyang scoring his second after just four minutes. Gladbach had put an emphasis on being more physical, per assistant coach Dirk Bremser’s half-time interview on German TV, and were promptly punished off a free-kick close to the box. Götze played a sweeping ball in for the unmarked Aubameyang, who hit the post for a third time but got to the rebound to slot home for his brace.
Dortmund’s star striker completed his hat-trick on 62 minutes, with Dahoud collecting another superb assist, this time with a first-time through ball into the run of Aubameyang, showing quick thinking and the necessary technique to pull such a difficult pass off. Aubameyang remained strong despite the lumbering behemoth that is Jannik Vestergaard stumbling into him a bit, while also displaying that unteachable knack for goal by scoring with a lobbed finish on his way to the ground.
BVB finally took their foot off the gas notably, promptly conceding their first league goal of the season when Hazard, with help from a deflection by Weigl, found Stindl in the 66th minute. It ended their run to start the season at (officially, meaning without added times from the previous matches) 515 minutes. Bürki was miffed but will probably agree that there are few better circumstances to concede than when a game is decided at 5-0.
The match fizzled out with the outcome so clear long before the final whistle, but it had one more special moment in store. Picking up the ball from a wayward Jonas Hofmann –remember him?– header, Weigl put it top bins from outside the box to score his first ever Bundesliga goal in his 62nd match, the cherry on the icing on the cake that was Dortmund’s fifth win of the season.
If they didn’t have Real Madrid waiting for them, Dortmund could probably have gone into double digits against Gladbach. They were this relentless against opposition that, on paper, was supposed to be their first real test of the Bundesliga campaign. As it was, the Black and Yellows cemented their status as the best team of the division at this early stage.
Yellow Wall Game Ball: Maximilian Philipp
It’s almost impossible and certainly a bit unfair to choose just one player from this excellent, marvellous team display, and Aubameyang, Toprak, Dahoud and Götze all could be co-winners, but, ultimately, one cannot look past Philipp, who scored the first two and assisted the third, basically deciding the match in a span of 17 minutes.