In an exciting evening of football, Borussia Dortmund beat Borussia Monchengladbach 1-0.
The Bundesliga season has been topsy turvy to say the least. This weekend alone has seen three teams pass up the chance to go top of the table. With Gladbach as the current table-toppers sat on 16 points and Bayer Leverkusen on 14, Peter Bosz’s men could have gone top on Friday night but got blown away in Frankfurt.
On Saturday afternoon Freiburg (also on 14 points) lost to Union Berlin whilst Leipzig and Wolfsburg both missed the chance to take top spot after drawing 1-1 with each other (although Wolfsburg did go level with Gladbach on 16 points). This seemingly opened the door for Bayern Munich, the defending champions, to head back to the top. But they conceded a stoppage time equaliser against lowly Ausburg to keep them from glory.
All this seemed set for Borussia Monchengladbach to extend their lead to three points. They were facing a Borussia Dortmund without star striker Paco Alcacer and their wing wizard Jadon Sancho was missing the game after a strong bit of internal team discipline from Lucien Favre. This was a Dortmund side that were down in mid-table with just 12 points. Even if they won, the best they could do was go joint third.
All Marco Rose’s men had to do was beat their sometimes rivals in the Borussengipfel. Given they had won four in a row and smashed Ausburg 5-1 before the international break, that would be easy for them to do right? Wrong.
For the vast majority of Saturday evening’s match, Dortmund were the dominant side. They pushed forward and created the better chances, only being denied by an impressive display from Gladbach goalie Yan Sommer (he made six saves and was never afraid to act decisively). In fact both goalkeepers excelled themselves in what looked for a good while like it would end 0-0.
VAR played its ridiculous part as always, with Dortmund opening the scoring through Thorgan Hazard in the first-half only for VAR to rule it out because of a precision offside about three passes back in the attacking move. It was a ludicrous decision, but it was the decision. And to be fair to VAR it did correctly disallow a later Dortmund goal from Julian Brandt for offside.
As much as Dortmund dominated, they weren’t at their fluent best without Sancho and Alcacer. Marco Reus was leading the line but even though Hazard The Younger was in fine form – his five chances created was a game-high – the fact that Reus had to play further forward meant that Dortmund missed him in a deeper position. Hazard tried against his former club, but the whole chemistry was off.
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But if having to push Reus up and bring Hazard in had cost Dortmund in general, it also gave them a great reward as recompense. And if one Gladbach oldboy saw his goal ruled out, another was dead on target.
With the hour mark approaching Hazard picked the ball up about 30 yards from the Gladbach goal and immediately saw Marco Reus making a forward run. Hazard fed him the ball and as Sommer came racing out to close him down, Reus kept his cool and clipped the ball with his first touch up and over the onrushing goalkeeper. Bang. A captain’s goal for Dortmund.
Gladbach tried to fight back. They upped the pressure and began throwing everything they had at the Dortmund goal. Roman Burki was in no mood to concede, and even when he went off injured his replacement Marwin Hitz acquitted himself so well. The third Swiss goalkeeper in the game became the third goalkeeper to excel as he made a stunning stop from Florian Neuhaus, taking a boot to the chest in the process.
In the end that was the final scare. The game finished 1-0 and Dortmund won their ninth straight game against Gladbach. This rocketed them up the table to joint-second alongside Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig.
Gladbach had missed their chance to establish a cushion atop the Bundesliga and even though they played well in the end, one cannot help but feel nervous for them. There’s only so many chances that the likes of Bayern Munich will give you before they put their foot down, to say nothing of the likes of Leipzig and Dortmund who have both shown the kind of quality (in flashes) you’d want to see from a Bundesliga winner. On a weekend when no one wanted to go top, the team that stays there despite losing might end up really regretting the fact that they didn’t take their chance when it was presented to them.
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