Marco Reus’ late equaliser against 1. FC Köln salvaged a point as Borussia Dortmund’s slump away from home continues.
The emotions to Marco Reus’ late equaliser at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night in the Champions League were quite different to the ones that followed when he struck home against 1. FC Köln to save his team a mere point in the Bundesliga on Matchday 14. Even the late goal could not gloss over an overly frustrating afternoon at the Rheinenergiestadion on Saturday afternoon.
After Eintracht Frankfurt and TSG Hoffenheim tied on Friday night, and with Hertha Berlin losing to Bremen on Saturday, Dortmund could have claimed third place with a win, but instead stagnated in sixth.
On Friday, Thomas Tuchel analysed that his team’s troubles on the road after Champions League matches are down to the little time for the many young and new players to process the games and fully recuperate physically and mentally.
Hence, it was surprising to see Ousmane Dembélé in the starting XI, as it meant the third start in the space of eight days for the 19-year-old with fresher options such as Christian Pulisic and Emre Mor at Tuchel’s disposal. Again, the Dortmund coach had to make do without Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa and Raphael Guerreiro due to injury.
Andre Schürrle was also not included in the squad, however, there was no information about his status.
Dortmund started in a 3-4-3 shape, with Lukasz Piszczek, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Matthias Ginter forming the back three, while Marcel Schmelzer and Erik Durm marked the flanks next to Julian Weigl and Gonzalo Castro. Dembélé, Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were supposed to cause similar havoc as they did in the 4-1 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Going by the first 10 minutes, the Black and Yellows were on the road to their eighth league win of the season. Dembélé dropped back to receive the ball in midfield, find Reus or Aubameyang and create chaos in Cologne’s defence.
However, BVB’s early pressure only lasted, as mentioned above, roughly 10 minutes, yielding a mishit effort by Reus and an offside goal, while the hosts arguably could have scored as well but Salih Özcan fired Artjoms Rudnevs’ cutback over the bar.
Dortmund, who had 70% possession in the first half remained in control in the opening period of the match, but a heavy touch of Marcel Schmelzer followed by a foul and a booking led to a set piece that made for an an uncomfortable afternoon against a well-organised Cologne team.
The captain claimed responsibility for the goal his team conceded in the 29th minute, but as honourable as that might be, his team-mates should have done a better job defending a dead-ball situation from 30 yards out.
The free-kick was a carbon copy of the goal BVB conceded twice(!) in the 3-3 draw away to Ingolstadt, only this time it was Erik Durm who lost hold of Rudnevs. The Latvian striker had enough freedom to place his header past Roman Weidenfeller, who realised that the double-jump only works in video games.
The comeback qualities Dortmund had proven against Gladbach and in Madrid were, however, nonexistent against Cologne, who kept the guests at bay with a barrage of fouls and slick defending.
The attempts of the Ruhr side to get back into the game were mostly pitiful, as lazy crosses from the right side or midfield seemed the only measure for the Black and Yellows to move the ball into the box. Needless to say, the backline of the Billygoats had little trouble clearing those efforts.
The Black and Yellows weren’t helped by the fact that Tuchel had to make all three substitutions due to injury. Piszczek had to come off the field due to adductor problems after 26 minutes, Castro came off in the 55th minute after almost setting up Cologne’s second goal – if it wasn’t for Anthony Modeste’s egoistic effort to try and round Weidenfeller instead of squaring it to Rudnevs – and Sokratis was already carrying bruise into the match.
One cannot help but notice that once again too many players were on the field that were out of form. Even the Greek centre-back, who has been Dortmund’s most consistent performer all season, didn’t quite have the same resoluteness to his game. To make matters worse, he was fouled several times – including one valid penalty appeal.
Castro would be another candidate who didn’t excel on the field. The 29-year-old was already a consistent source of frustration at the Bernabeu and once again did little to create any danger. Similar things can be said about Weigl, who, despite a pass completion rate beyond 95%, didn’t manage to put the hosts under threat.
As mentioned above, Dembélé looked like he could have used a break. The 19-year-old was lucky to still be on the pitch after having a small kick-out away from the ball, resulting in a booking after the half-time whistle.
Felix Passlack may well be wondering why Durm received the nod at the right wing-back spot ahead of him. Durm, who is an average Bundesliga player to begin with, could do little to help his team as he was struggling in his first start of the season. A subpar pass completion of 67 per cent for the midfielder sums up his day.
Again, the Black and Yellows are suffering from injuries. Nuri Sahin probably would have been Tuchel’s go-to guy instead of Castro, while Guerreiro, Götze and also Kagawa are obvious misses. Thus, the 43-year-old brought on Sebastian Rode while trailing 1-0 in a tricky away fixture.
Rode did what he could after coming on in the 55th minute, but he’s not the player that has the skillset to break the lines of an ultra-defensive Cologne side.
In the end, Dortmund have to thank Dembélé for keeping the ball in play on right side of the field and finding a way send the pass to Ramos, whose intelligent cutback was placed on a silver plate for Reus.
What remains is an unsatisfactory result against a resilient Cologne side, who, unlike Gladbach, roughed up the Black and Yellows. “Nice referee,” Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sarcastically tweeted after the match, making air of his frustrations in unnecessary fashion.
Referee Felix Zwayer missed two valid penalty calls for BVB, while the Billygoats were wrongly flagged offside twice in promising position. Also, nobody quite knows how Yuya Osako got away with seven fouls without being booked.
The referee’s performance can be overlooked. Dortmund not being able to create chances for roughly 80 minutes cannot, however.
Tuchel said after the match that his team are in need of more training, which was blatantly evident on Saturday. The Dortmund coach will fall under more criticism at least until Friday’s tricky away match against still-unbeaten Hoffenheim.
Like his young team, the 43-year-old coach himself is in a process of learning in his first Champions League season. He now has almost a whole week to prepare his team for the trip to Sinsheim, but vast improvements shouldn’t be expected before the winter break.