Borussia Dortmund keep their momentum up with a dazzling 6-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen, winning their third league match on the run. Sometimes, however, there are only so many new takeaways from a match. Here is what we already knew before.
Marco Reus is injury prone
“It’s sad,” Thomas Tuchel said in his news conference alluding to the fact that his star player will miss the Champions League return leg against Benfica. It might as well have been a more general sentiment of the injury proneness of Reus. The 27-year-old held his thigh after a sprinting duel against Leverkusen centre-back Tin Jedvaj shortly before halftime.
Reus knew he wouldn’t be able to continue, as the pain his muscle was all too familiar. A massive blow for Dortmund – not for the fact that they couldn’t replace Reus, because Christian Pulisic took over in style – but for the fact that Reus was in irresistible form in recent weeks.
“A driving force,” as Tuchel put it. But as so often in the past, Reus’ good form is stopped by an injury.
“It could take until the international break,” sporting director Michael Zorc told The Yellow Wall after the game. Although a diagnosis that will shed more light on the severity of the injury isn’t to be expected before Sunday.
A disappointed Reus mumbled “I have no idea,” when asked about his injury as he tried to sneak past journalists in the mixed zone of the Westfalenstadion.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still scores tap-ins
…although not all of them. The Gabonese striker was at the right place at the right time thrice. He bagged a brace in typical Aubameyang fashion including a summersault that puts him back in front in the hunt for the Torjägerkanone, moving two goals clear of Robert Lewandowski (19 goals).
Yes, 21 goals in 23 games and he even had somewhat of a dry spell a few weeks ago – if one wants to call it that. His summer move to China with an upfront loan move to England will make the entire city of Dortmund debt free.
Leverkusen like it rough
Bayer Leverkusen committed 20 fouls against Dortmund. 5 on Julian Weigl alone, while Ousmane Dembele was stopped unfairly four times. And as Zorc hinted after the game, the guests couldn’t have complained if they had finished the game without all eleven players still on the field.
“I can’t put on the black robe myself, I’m not the one with the whistle,” the sporting director joked with a wry smile.
Referee Christian Dingert could/should have sent off both Charles Aranguiz and Karim Bellerabi, who both were the perpetrators of bookable offences more than twice in the match.
Sky expert and former world-class ref Markus Merk said Bellarabi should "at least have seen a second yellow."
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) March 4, 2017
However, before dwelling too much on Leverkusen’s dirty antics, it has to be pointed out that Dortmund themselves got a bit meaner since the turn of the year. Although they only committed eight fouls on Saturday and stayed without a booking in back-to-back games, they’re certainly more resolute in challenges. It’s one reason why they’ve gained defensive stability.
Expect the unexpected in football
Don’t we like ourselves a look at the expected goal statistics after the game? We certainly do, and we’ll find out that both Dortmund (2.9 + 1pen xG) and Leverkusen (0.62 xG) overperformed on Saturday.
— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) March 4, 2017
That stands in contrast to last week’s xG value of 4.06 against Freiburg according to @11tegen11 – more than Bayern amassed in their 9-0 shellacking of HSV, as Lars Pollmann pointed out on Episode 175 of the Yellowwallpod.
Dortmund’s efficiency in front of goal has been criticised in recent weeks – justifiable to some degree, but not really in general. Against Leverkusen, the Ruhr side finally pulled a tennis score out of their hat, something that already could have happened earlier against Leipzig, Benfica, Freiburg, Wolfsburg. You name it.
Football remains a funny old game in 2017, so it’s hard to predict whether Tuchel’s men will be as clinical as on Saturday against Leverkusen on Wednesday against Benfica – or as wasteful as in the first leg.
What sticks, however, is that BVB’s attack is on fire. They scored 12 goals in their last three matches – just as many as Leverkusen conceded in the same amount of games. You can laud Dortmund’s depth and different means to score…
Dortmund scored four goals without Reus, three without Dembele and two without Aubameyang. Depth. pic.twitter.com/1xC0vEYFu6
— Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) March 4, 2017
…or simply enjoy the entertainment.
Hard to describe how much fun that afternoon was. This combination of world-class football and breath-taking atmosphere is a privilege. #BVB
— David Schaefer (@dschaefer93) March 4, 2017
Marc Bartra is on form
A shirtless Marc Bartra casually strolled through the catacombs of the Westfalenstadion with a smile on his face, while dreamily gazing into the distance. It was a black-and-white filter away from a perfume commercial, but I digress. The centre-back visibly knew that he played a good game. Again.
.@MarcBartra vs Leverkusen:
— BVBstatistics (@BVBstat) March 4, 2017
His display against Leverkusen was imperial. Good timing in challenges, the necessary robustness, anticipation, passing, playmaking. It was all out there. While his partner in crime Sokratis Papastathopoulos didn’t have his best match after battling the flu throughout the week, Bartra was one of the best – if not the best – players on the field.
For Dortmund, this is highly encouraging as far too long Sokratis was the only reliable defender, while Bartra and Ginter went from bad to worse. If this stays a theme, it’ll be tough for Sven Bender, Matthias Ginter, and eventually Ömer Toprak to get past this centre-back pairing.
Christian Pulisic can play ball
No Reus? No problem. While €30m signing André Schürrle remained on the bench as Reus limped off the field, 18-year-old Pulisic got ready to rumble. Tuchel mentioned the young U.S. American in a list of players who had slightly fallen down the pecking order ahead of the game, lauding Pulisic and others for raising the bar for everyone in training during the week.
It didn’t take long in the second half until the youngster dribbled past a blur of red shirts to break an entire pressing line on his own and create a chance for his team. Very easy on the eyes. He also had a supporting role in a promising counter attack spurned by Ousmane Dembele.
Pulisic was an estimated 11 times faster than anyone else on the field when scoring BVB’s fourth, as he rushed into the box to connect with a perfectly timed cut-back from Erik Durm (whose excellent performance shouldn’t go unmentioned). Spotting the open Raphael Guerreiro in stoppage time was literally child’s play.
There is little reason to not start Pulisic on Wednesday after a goal + assist and all around great performance.
The Westfalenstadion looks better with a filled Südtribüne
Alle wieder voll. pic.twitter.com/bMy7CQXtEW
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) March 4, 2017
Some actual takeaways/facts
- Erik Durm is a justified starter after that performance
- Raphael Guerreiro isn’t an upgrade over Marcel Schmelzer as left wing-back against formidable opposition.
- Dortmund extended their own club record to 32 unbeaten league matches at the Westfalenstadion.