Fresh off an international break that saw Borussia Dortmund’s injury list climb to ten, the black and yellows struggled to a 1-1 draw at home to Hertha Berlin. Similar to Bayer Leverkusen, Hertha Berlin were another tough physical challenge for an adolescent Borussia Dortmund team.
— Sebastian Weßling (@fluestertweets) October 14, 2016
Due to the absurd number of injuries, Thomas Tuchel was forced to hand Mikel Merino his Bundesliga debut in an unnatural position, while Matthias Ginter and Felix Passlack filled in for Marc Bartra and Lukasz Piszczek, respectively. The line-up was filled with youngsters from defense to attack, making the average age of the team 22.5 years old, the youngest it has been since 2011.
Dortmund had a little over 70% of the possession in the game, and this saw Passlack, Ginter, and Merino line up in a back three from right to left. Marcel Schmelzer was pushed forward, often chastising Emre Mor for some poor passes and decision making.
Much of the first half was an even affair, with Hertha coming close twice through Alexander Esswein on speculative efforts. Christian Pulisic was the lone bright spot for Dortmund, as the 18 year old American was at the center of the few penetrating attacks that Dortmund could muster. Dortmund’s best chance of the half fell to Emre Mor in the seventh minute, blasting a Pulisic cross well over the target on a volley.
Dortmund fell behind early in the second half on a goal from Valentin Stocker. Rather than an actual attack, the goal came from a throw-in that fell to Vedad Ibisevic, who back heeled the ball perfected to play in Stocker, who calmly slid it in past Roman Bürki. It may have been mostly luck and it certainly was way too pretty of a goal for Hertha Berlin to be scoring, but Dortmund deserved nothing less for their lackluster performance.
— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) October 14, 2016
Without a doubt, Sebastian Rode was Dortmund’s standout worst performer on the day. Playing next to Julian Weigl is clearly not his strong suit, as he appears to be a fish out of the water when under the slightest bit of pressure from the opponent. The sooner he was off, the better, and the switch finally came in the 60th minute when he was replaced by Shinji Kagawa.
The substitutions of Shinji Kagawa and Ousmane Dembélé put a spring in Dortmund’s step, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw a lot more service in the last thirty minutes of the match. He’s been in a funk for most of 2016, and this game proved to be no different. The Gabonese striker squandered three great chances, each miss worse than the previous one. The second miss was a result of an ill-advised chip when he was one on one with the goalkeeper Rune Jarstein, who all but begged Aubameyang to just roll the ball into the back of the net.
Dortmund were gifted another huge chance to equalize, this time from the referee, as he called for a penalty after a handball from Genki Haraguchi. The ball first bounced off Kagawa’s arm as he tried to control it, then his shot hit Haraguchi’s arm from nearly point blank range. The arm was not in a natural position, justifying the penalty call. Aubameyang took the spot kick, and it was promptly saved by Jarstein to complete Aubameyang’s hat trick of misses.
Mikel Merino looked solid in his Bundesliga debut, and came through big in the 78th minute as he played an inch perfect ball to Ousmane Dembélé, who was able to perfectly cross it to Aubameyang for a chance he could not miss. It was the type of goal that Dortmund fans have seen many times before: a through-ball from a center back, to a speedy attacker, who lines the ball up perfectly for Aubameyang.
In the final ten minutes, referee Patrick Ittrich watched his handle fly off from the game. Fouls were made, nerves were tested, and tempers had flared by the end of the 90 minutes. As expected in such a young side, there’s some glaring immaturity, especially when decisions do not go Dortmund’s way. Ousmane Dembélé was booked for dissent, while Emre Mor was sent off for pushing Sebastian Langkamp, who used the push as a chance to pretend he’d been shot. And to top it all off, Valentin Stocker was red-carded for a dirty two-footed challenge from behind on Matthias Ginter, at the halfway line.
Disgraceful dab from Langkamp. pic.twitter.com/oCdT9CnQzA
— Daniel G. (@guba1a) October 14, 2016
With ten players out injured, including both starting center backs and key players like Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Schürrle, one can forgive Dortmund for only earning a point, but the performance was dreadful for the first 60 minutes. Even Marcel Schmelzer was subbed off early with a groin injury, making way for Park Joo-Ho to make his season debut.
Next up for the injury-ravaged Borussia Dortmund is Sporting Lisbon this Tuesday in the Champions League.