Football Features

From Brandt to a ‘ninja turtle’, Dortmund’s ‘supporting cast’ demonstrated why Sancho wasn’t risked vs Wolfsburg

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:35, 23 May 2020

Borussia Dortmund prepared for their upcoming top-of-the-table clash against Bayern Munich with a hardfought 0-2 win away to Wolfsburg.

This was a contest between two teams that haven’t tasted a Bundesliga defeat in a while: matchdays 19 and 21 respectively to be precise. Luicen Favre’s side, who came into today on the back of a five-game winning streak, were made to sweat for all three points.

Raphael Guerreiro, who registered a brace against bitter rivals Schalke 04 last weekend, opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark, tapping home a well-worked attacking move. His partner-in-crime on the other flank, Achraf Hakimi, made sure of the win late on with the ultimate challenge now around the corner.

Conspicuous by his absence

It’s no secret that Jadon Sancho is a wanted man and for a third consecutive Bundesliga game the league’s most creative player started on the bench. His omission from Borussia Dortmund’s starting line-up, though, has nothing to do with any transfer speculation. Rather, it seems Favre is easing Sancho back to match fitness after a calf injury.

Before the recent self-imposed break, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Londoner had registered 15 assists plus 14 goals. Putting up double digits in both metrics is something only he and Lionel Messi have mustered across Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues this season.

Has he been missed? As crazy as that may sound, no. Thorgan Hazard – who scored and assisted last week against Schalke and before today had completed the full 90 minutes in 20 previous league starts – was again on hand in the creative department. His 12th assist of the campaign equals his best Bundesliga assist total. Only the aforementioned Sancho and Thomas Müller have produced more to date.

He’d come on for the final 11 minutes against Schalke 04 last time out and in today’s meeting at Wolfsburg he was afforded more (25 minutes) which was enough time for him to grab his 16th assist and matching Bayern’s raumdeuter this term as well as taking BVB’s outright record for most assists in a single season.

Guerreiro grows

Spending time on the bench never harmed Raphaël Guerreiro, who is excelling in Favre’s 3-4-3 system. The 26-year-old Portuguse left wing-back was an unused substitute in their 2-1 defeat at Hoffenheim last December, since then he’s been an ever-present, playing virtually every minute as Dortmund look to end Bayern’s reign.

To say the former Caen academy graduate is chipping in would be an understatement, his opening goal – a third against this same opposition – was Guerreiro’s sixth across this current period of 10 uninterrupted league starts, during which time he’s created a further two for his teammates.

Goals and creativity aside, he’s really come to epitomise the industrious nature of Favre’s team. By having the entire left flank to himself, Guerreiro does the work of two players, and on the backfoot he’s proving to be a challenge for any self-respecting forward and one that he is enjoying.

“I think it’s super, I love playing so much and really enjoy when I get to push forward and join in the attacks,” he told Ruhrnachrichten during the winter break.

“That plays more to my strengths and gives me the security of having another defender behind me. The approach we have adopted gives us the opportunity to be even more dynamic in reacting to our opponents.”

The same can be said regarding Achraf Hakimi on the other side of the pitch. The flying Moroccan buried Sancho’s pass late in the second half. But like his opposite number he prides himself on ensuring the zero. It’s now five clean sheets in six games.

Guerreiro also happened to be playing the last time Wolfsburg scored against them. Since that 5-1 win in September 2016 – when he scored his first BVB goal and created two more – they’ve now gone 667 minutes (or just over 11 hours) without penetrating Dortmund’s defence.

Wolves struggle to contain Brandt

Wolfsburg came into this game proudly boasting a seven-match unbeaten streak, in which they accumulated 15 points from 21 available, but this was undoubtedly going to be their stiffest challenge. Oliver Glasner no doubt had a plan to contain Europe’s fastest-rising star Erling Braut Haaland, who registered his 10th league goal last time out, and it worked to an extent. John Brooks – at the heart of their defence – did a respectable job, but the same couldn’t be said ahead of him.

No one was causing the Wolves more problems than Julian Brandt, who is currently riding along on the crest of a wave; the news of captain Marco Reus potentially being out for the season wasn’t received with the usual downbeat mood, which is a testament to the former Leverkusen man’s form, and how he’s been stepping up to now becoming undroppable.

Brandt was given the freedom of the pitch by Favre and he certainly made use of this responsibility. His movement played a significant role in the opening goal. By drifting wide right, he pretty much forced a Wolfsburg overload, thus leaving few in Guerreiro’s path. We should also note his cute pass for Hakimi, who made that all important pre-assist. There’s no question he’s on fire and that number 10 jersey could be his in a few month’s time.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga this afternoon:

  • Borussia Monchengladbach 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen: Kai Havertz scored a brace as Leverkusen moved into the top three. Marcus Thuram pulled one back for the hosts.
  • Freiburg 0-1 Werder Bremen: Leonardo Bittencourt scored the only goal of the game as Werder Bremen pick up three much-needed points in their quest to stave off relegation.
  • Paderborn 1-1 Hoffenheim: Both of the goals in this game came inside the opening 10 minutes. Robert Skov opened the scoring for Hoffenheim before former Norwich City forward Dennis Srbeny equalised for the hosts.