Borussia Dortmund fall 2-1 to Hertha Berlin, with mistakes from Matthias Ginter resulting in two goals for the hosts.
Playing their third game in a span of seven days, head coach Thomas Tuchel adjusted his lineup, giving starts to fringe players Andre Schürrle and Shinji Kagawa, while Matthias Ginter took the place of the injured Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Raphael Guerreiro returned to the starting XI after being a pre-game doubt, and Shinji Kagawa made his first start since January’s 2-1 win at Werder Bremen.
— Ruhr Nachrichten BVB (@RNBVB) March 11, 2017
Despite the changes, Dortmund set up in their 3-4-2-1 formation that has seen a lot of success recently. Marcel Schmelzer lined up as the left centre-back, with Ginter in the middle and the in-form Marc Bartra to the right. The first 10 minutes saw no shortage of chances, with Schürrle spurning the first great chance of the game, just the beginning of an abysmal performance from the 26-year-old.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 11th minute, after Ginter’s heavy touch from a Gonzalo Castro pass allowed Hertha striker Vedad Ibisevic to break away and easily find Salomon Kalou, who tapped it home. Ginter had enjoyed a relatively solid run at centre-back in the first half of the season, but recently had been displaced due to Bartra’s re-emergence as a reliable defender.
However, the Spanish defender looked shaky at times as well, without his usual Greek partner to his left. Ginter’s mistake was a costly one, as Hertha’s play in the first half only improved after the opening goal.
After the goal, Dortmund failed to put much pressure on Rune Jarstein’s between the sticks for Hertha. Schürrle was incredibly ineffective, either playing back passes on the left wing or hoofing hopeless crosses into the box when he received the ball.
Half of Schurrle's passes today were directly backwards passes down left touchline pic.twitter.com/1Bg2t0ctDo
— Saturdays on Couch (@SaturdayOnCouch) March 11, 2017
Hertha continued to cause Dortmund problems in the first half, as Kalou forced a very good save from Roman Bürki on a strike from 25 yards out. Not long after, Guerreiro was called upon to clear a shot off the line that was trickling in after a touch from Kalou, who could have had a hat-trick in the first half. When not in possession, Dortmund looked uncomfortable, in large part to due to the absence of Sokratis’ presence in defense. Even the ever-consistent Julian Weigl looked sloppy at times.
Dortmund’s best player throughout the day was Kagawa, one of the few technical players. His quick feet with the ball caused problems for Hertha all day, and he nearly provided Erik Durm a dazzling assist with an outside-of-the-boot flick into the box. Durm took it poorly, deciding to attempt to cut the ball back for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
There were no half-time changes for Dortmund, despite calls for Ousmane Dembele or Christian Pulisic to come off the bench. Aubameyang nearly got on the end of an awkward cross from Durm immediately after the break, showing some positive signs early in the second half. However, Dortmund still were sloppy off the ball, and Hertha missed a huge chance to go 2-0 up through Per Skjelbred.
Dortmund finally got an equaliser 55 minutes in, as Guerreiro collected the ball and fed Kagawa in the box. The Japanese international then manoeuvred around the Hertha defence and played in Aubameyang who calmly fired it in with his left foot. It was a deserved goal, mostly due to the brilliance of Kagawa, who always looked likely to break down the defence when on the ball.
Shortly after the equaliser, Dortmund looked much more likely to grab a winner than their opponents. However, Aubameyang and Castro both missed great chances within minutes of each other, and Ginter’s second mistake of the day gave Hertha the chance they needed.
After coming on as a substitute, Mitchell Weiser caused the Dortmund defence problems with his pace, and Ginter was forced to foul the 22-year-old at the edge of the box, a perfect opportunity for Marvin Plattenhardt, Hertha’s free-kick specialist, to give the hosts the lead. It was Plattenhardt’s seventh goal in his Bundesliga career, all coming from free-kicks.
Dembele and Pulisic finally came on for Dortmund, but for the second time in the game, Hertha’s play improved following their goal. Schürrle came the closest to finding an equaliser, but he curled a shot just wide of the post.
Hertha closed the game out, but not without some theatrics from the substitute Weiser. After fouling Dembele, the former Bayern man picked up the ball and punted it, then took a dive next to Dembele, acting like the 19-year-old had kicked him. Both players were carded, but the yellow card was much more costly for Dortmund, as it was Dembele’s fifth, meaning he is suspended for next week’s match against Ingolstadt.
Whose mans is this?!?
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 11, 2017
Frankly, Dortmund did not play well enough to win. The task was difficult, considering Hertha’s phenomenal home form. There was an obvious hole in the defence with the absence of Sokratis, and some dreadful performances from players in all areas of the pitch. The loss is not devastating for Dortmund, as they remain one point ahead of Hoffenheim in third place, and should properly rebound when Ingolstadt comes to town on Friday.