Football Features

“Neuer needs to recognise Germany’s best ‘keeper” – Big winners & Losers from Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:25, 17 September 2019

After a tense night in Germany, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona played out a 0-0 draw.

After a tight and tense first-half the German side dominated the second period but couldn’t find a way past a resolute Blaugrana defence. Who were the winners and losers from this opening night’s action?

Winner: Mats Hummels

Discarded by Bayern Munich this summer as part of the Bavarian’s rebuild, Hummels could perhaps feel aggrieved that a player as good as him was first choice to make way for the younger generation of defenders. Still, Hummels made the most of the situation by joining former club Borussia Dortmund, and today against Barcelona he showed just why he still has so much to offer.

Hummels was absolutely titanic against Barcelona. The regal German was at his dogged best, marshalling the Dortmund back-line to squeeze out the spaces around Barcelona’s attackers and when they failed, Hummels just went and did it himself. Almost literally. Most tackles for Dortmund? Hummels with three. Most interceptions? Hummels with seven. Joint-most blocks? Hummels with one. Clearances? Hummels with 10. 10 clearances! For all the talk of Dortmund dominating the game, this was built largely on Hummels shutting down any and every half-chance the Blaugrana were able to muster. Mats Hummels is nowhere near done.

Loser: Manuel Neuer

When Manuel Neuer was asked about Marc-André Ter Stegen’s comments feeling frustrated by a lack of minutes at international level, his response was telling. “We have great goalkeepers. We have Kevin Trapp, Bernd Leno… these are all great goalkeepers who also want to play and then sit on the bench,” said the German captain. That he chose to compare Champions League and La Liga winning Ter Stegen to some above average stoppers was staggeringly disrespectful.

Ter Stegen has since fired back twice, one off the pitch but most impressively on it against Borussia Dortmund where the German pitched an incredible shutout. The ease with which Ter Stegen shut out Dortmund even as the hosts were rampaging all over an out-of-sorts defence was nothing short of miraculous.

After Jordi Alba went off and Dortmund realised that Luis Suárez couldn’t outrun a brick, the German side were flooding forward every time and as a result Ter Stegen was being constantly called upon to save his side and every time he was more than up to the challenge. He stopped shots (including 1-on-1’s), he dominated his box and when he had to literally step up and stop a penalty? He flew across the goal to stop a penalty, then casually stood up and snagged the loose ball right off Marco Reus’ toes like he was picking up the morning paper.

Ter Stegen dominated and kept a clean sheet in an arena where Neuer has lost his last two matches conceding five goals in the process. So perhaps Manuel Neuer should recognise Germany’s best goalkeeper and sit himself down on that bench next to Kevin Trapp and Bernd Leno.

Winner: Junior Firpo

Barcelona spent all summer looking for a back-up for Jordi Alba having ridden the tiny Spaniard through all of last season, they ended up bring in Junior Firpo from Real Betis. But as Lucas Digne found out, getting on the field to replace Alba is hard enough let alone replacing him on a more permanent basis. And true to form, Firpo has been riding the bench thus far this season.

Except Jordi Alba left the field at Westfalenstadion with what appeared to be a muscle injury. The full-back was clutching the back of his thigh just above the knee and after trying to run it off but being in a clear amount of discomfort, he came off. Sergi Roberto took his place and Nelson Semedo filled in at left-back, but that is not a long-term solution and so now Junior Firpo, who shone so much at Real Betis last season, will get his chance to show just what he can on a stage as big as Barcelona.

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Loser: Luis Suárez

Luis Suárez scored twice at the weekend but both goals involved the Uruguayan taking about three steps cumulatively. He didn’t move well, he didn’t have to. But against Borussia Dortmund he very much had to move and was completely incapable of doing so. He couldn’t beat the historically slow Mats Hummels in a foot race early on, and that was a warning of things to come.

Suárez still has good strength and balance, and so his two good moments in the match were when he slipped by Manuel Akanji with one and shoved Hummels out of the way with the other. However as a way to show just how gone he is, when those nice moves left him face-to-face with the Dortmund goal he predictably held the ball too long and killed the chance.

Suárez’s complete and utter lack of ability to do anything beyond look vaguely annoyed as if someone has stolen his sandwich from the work fridge was a huge detriment to Barcelona. Not only did it prevent Barcelona from mounting any sort of serious attacks from open play but it also allowed Dortmund to flood forward in attack and cause the Blaugrana no end of problems. Suárez is now officially more of a hindrance than a help in elite games away from home and now Leo Messi is back fit, he probably shouldn’t play any of them again.

Winner: Inter

Earlier in the day, Inter kicked off against Slavia Prague at home. The Italians knew that this was their big chance to make a huge statement and go top of the group, knowing that there would be a chance that Barcelona and Dortmund could produce a draw. And, well, they drew. They needed a late goal to even rescue that solitary point having trailed for most of the game.

That was a huge blow, but Barcelona and Dortmund playing out a goalless draw makes their life a whole load easier. Now their draw is far from a tragedy and even if they lose against Barcelona on week two and Dortmund beat Slavia, they will only be three points behind both sides. That’s huge for a side that looked for all the world like they were going to lose their Champions League opener at home.

Loser: Marco Reus

Ultimately the reason this game ended goalless isn’t down to Mats Hummels, Gerard Piqué or even Marc-André Ter Stegen (well, maybe Ter Stegen a bit) but it was because of Marco Reus. The Dortmund captain has been incredible and came into the game having scored twice at the weekend, but when he was gifted his chance (well, his chances) tonight he whiffed repeatedly. Some shockingly askew shots were topped by his penalty, which alright Ter Stegen made a great save, but then Reus’ inability to bundle the rebound into the net and allowing Ter Stegen to so nonchalantly pick the thing up was an absolute crime. Marco, get thee to shooting training!