Borussia Dortmund will enter the international break top of the Bundesliga table after a hard-fought 2-1 win at FC Augsburg on Saturday afternoon. The Black and Yellows remain undefeated and have added pressure on 1899 Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich, who both play on Sunday.
Lineup: Bürki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Toljan; Weigl, Dahoud, Kagawa; Yarmolenko, Aubameyang, Pulisic.
Head coach Peter Bosz made five changes to his side after the midweek defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. Marc Bartra, Julian Weigl, Mahmoud Dahoud, Shinji Kagawa and Christian Pulisic replaced Ömer Toprak, Nuri Sahin, Gonzalo Castro, Mario Götze and Maximilian Philipp.
Rotation and freshness were important as the game in Bavaria was the final hurdle of a seven-match sprint over 21 days between international breaks. Summer signing Jadon Sancho made the bench for the first time, but the 17-year-old did not enter the game due to the tight nature of the affair. Götze did not make the trip as Bosz remains careful with one of his most important players after the 2014 FIFA World Cup champion played two games in a row for the first time against Borussia Mönchengladbach and Real.
There was no feel-out period, rather the game started with end-to-end stuff. The first chance fell to Augsburg’s in-form striker Alfred Finnbogason, whose tame header Roman Bürki collected without difficulty.
Dortmund kept the pressure and tempo high in the early goings and won a corner after three minutes. Augsburg’s defence failed to clear the area despite getting two or three swings at the ball, and Andrey Yarmolenko had the composure and presence of mind to try an audacious back-heel that found its way into the net thanks in part to a slight deflection. Still, it was a great way to get off the mark in the Bundesliga for the former Dynamo Kiev attacker.
Augsburg took the hit on the chin and continued playing their usual style, meaning they played a lot of long balls behind the last line of defence and counted on their physicality to win rebounds or hold up play long enough for larger numbers to advance up the field.
Dortmund’s lead lasted only seven minutes, with Brazilian Caiuby nodding home a wonderful Philipp Max cross from the left wing. Jeremy Toljan was closest to the powerful attacker, but it seemed more as though Bartra had actually committed the positional error, seeing as Toljan was covering two men at the same time.
BVB also played their usual style and dominated on the ball, with Augsburg happy to defend relatively deeply. Apart from a few half chances, Dortmund struggled for a while to break down that block and it was not surprising that it took a defensive error for the visitors to get back in front.
Max and Austrian defender Martin Hinteregger made a hash of what should’ve been a harmless long ball, running into each other and leaving the ball for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese played to Yarmolenko, who laid off for Kagawa. The Japanese playmaker took a quick glance at the goal and beautifully lobbed the ball over the outstretched arms of Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz. An incredible goal, reminiscent of the one Kagawa scored in a Revierderby at Schalke in 2016.
Aubameyang should have iced the game in the first half, receiving a brilliant Bartra pass with lots of room to run at Hitz, but made a mess of an attempted stepover and allowed the Switzerland international to get the ball without much difficulty.
Augsburg came out of the half-time break a much more decisive opponent and quickly won the possession battle for a certain amount of time. Dortmund defended diligently but gave away set piece after set piece, one of which would have been the equaliser if not for an insane Bürki reflex against Caiuby in the 59th minute.
Dortmund failed to get out of their half cleanly far too often, relying instead on long balls aimlessly hoofed forward to afford the defence some time to reorganise itself. Thankfully for BVB, Augsburg lacked the individual quality to make them pay for their inacurracies.
Helped by countless stops in play for fouls, most often committed by the aggressive hosts, Dortmund took back some level of control in the final quarter of the game. Aubameyang had the team’s first second-half chance off a delightful Pulisic cross after 70 minutes but aimed straight at Hitz.
The Gabonese’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day was completed 10 minutes later. Dortmund won a penalty by VAR decision, Lukasz Piszczek had been dragged to the ground by Koo Ja-cheol. The decision was delayed but correct, the problem was a lack of stoppages between the foul during a free-kick and a corner for Augsburg.
Aubameyang, in his 200th competitive appearance for the club, decided to try the Panenka that has (largely) served him well, but Hitz was prepared, stood still and caught the ball.
Luckily for Dortmund’s star striker, his mishap didn’t cost the team, as Augsburg failed to threaten Bürki’s goal for the final minutes of the game. A few half chances for Caiuby were all they mustered until the final whistle.
A team with better individual quality than Augsburg would likely have punished BVB for their worst 45 minutes of football under Bosz. However, one shouldn’t be too hard on Dortmund given their hectic schedule in the last few weeks and the physical nature of the game. Had Aubameyang, who suffered from an undisclosed illness during the week, been up to his usual standards, chances are we’d be talking about another scoring rampage for Dortmund.
Yellow Wall Game Ball: Roman Bürki
Yarmolenko has a shout for his goal and being involved in the second, but it was Roman Bürki’s reflex against Caiuby that won the match for Dortmund. The Swiss was also alert off his line, involved in the team’s buildup play even more than usual and exuded calmness when his team-mates looked a bit flustered.