Borussia Dortmund won their first competitive game of 2016, out-playing Borussia Mönchengladbach’s man-marking scheme after a rough first 30 minutes.
Thomas Tuchel didn’t surprise with his starting XI, as he fielded Gonzalo Castro instead of an ailing Shinji Kagawa. Park Joo-ho replaced Marcel Schmelzer, who didn’t get fit in time. Henrikh Mkhitaryan started as the left-winger, while Marco Reus took on Oscar Wendt on the right side. Youngster Christian Pulisic made the squad for the first time.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
As for Gladbach, André Schubert had to make do without Granit Xhaka, who’s suspended after a straight red card in the last match of the Hinrunde. Instead of the Swiss midfielder, Håvard Nordtveit played alongside Mahmoud Dahoud in Gladbach’s customary 4-4-2 shape.
Schubert’s defensive approach put an emphasis on a man-marking scheme across the field. Lars Stindl and Raffael, the two Foals up-front, were asked to cover Mats Hummels and Sokratis when Dortmund were starting their attacking plays. Nordtveit and Dahoud usually marked Castro and İlkay Gündoğan.
Even though Dortmund seemed to have an advantage in midfield duels, Gladbach were able to put pressure on BVB’s key players, so that the Black and Yellows tended to release the ball too quickly, which caused a lack of precision in Dortmund’s build-up play. Dortmund’s desire to move the ball downhill quickly compounded their problems.
Roman Bürki and Julian Weigl were the only open men when the Foals applied their man-marking scheme as explained above. That fact led to many long balls played by Bürki who mostly could not capitalize on the time he had. Rather, Weigl was the go-to-guy for Dortmund’s centre-backs. Both Hummels and Sokratis were forced to play short passes behind Gladbach’s first pressing line before Stindl and Raffael were close enough to block vertical passes.
At times, Weigl dropped between both centre-backs, out-numbering Gladbach’s forwards. Though, the Foals watched the central passing lanes closely.
Dortmund Making Adjustments
In the beginning, Reus, Mkhitaryan, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were exceptionally torn apart. And as if that wasn’t enough, Castro and Gündoğan needed time to find the appropriate rhythm against Gladbach’s man-markers.
Castro usually drifted towards the left side, overloading the zone out wide. Nordtveit shadowed him, which left an open space in the middle. Yet, Dortmund couldn’t take advantage of those slight holes at first.
Tuchel’s side, however, adjusted to Gladbach’s tactical approach very well. Despite being isolated most of the time, Aubameyang in particular found a way to generate shots, throwing man-marker Andreas Christensen off with ease. Meanwhile, Reus focused on running into the space behind Wendt who was very active in attack, bombing down the field at any given opportunity, but therefore exposing the left side.
Eventually, it was Gladbach who lost their composure in one moment, as Dahoud rushed forward to mark Weigl in the 41th minute. Hence, Gündoğan sneaked behind the opposing midfield line and received a Bürki pass. His great through ball found Reus who ran behind Nico Elvedi and fired a shot into the bottom corner.
Exchange of Blows in the Second Half
Six minutes after the restart, Hummels stole the ball from Ibrahima Traoré by making a decent tackle in midfield. Reus took on Gladbach’s defense before picking out Mkhitaryan who was left with an easy finish.
The hosts came back, though, as Raffael scored with a shot from close range after a few ricochets within Dortmund’s penalty area. Afterwards, it could have gone either way. Dortmund had to deal with many one-on-ones in defence, showing a speed disadvantage at the back.
Although Tuchel went full Mourinho, bringing on Erik Durm and Matthias Ginter for Marco Reus and Gonzalo Castro, Dortmund regained the control over the match slowly but surely, displaying their strong self-belief and ball-handling abilities. After 75 minutes, a counter-attack through the right half-space was finished by Gündoğan drifting in to convert a Mkhitaryan cross pass.
The Black and Yellows’ third goal closed the show, in which Tuchel saw his side struggling early on, but staying calmly and putting pressure on the opponents consistently.
Dortmund now 8 points behind 1st place, 8 points in front of third place. Somehow middle of nowhere. #bvb
— Stefan Buczko (@bvbawesome) 23. Januar 2016