Borussia Dortmund booked another important Bundesliga victory on Saturday at the Signal Iduna Park, as they push to win the first Bundesliga title since 2012. This time, Borussia Monchengladbah were on the receiving end, with the match ending 5-2.
Donyell Malen was on hand to score a rebound off Sebastien Haller’s shot in the fifth minute. Jude Bellingham added the second from the spot in the 18th after Florian Neuhaus was judged to have brought Haller down in the box. Then Haller himself took on the lead role and netted twice, both great goals, in the 20th and 32nd. Ramy Bensebaini pulled one back for the visitors from the spot in the 75th as referee Daniel Schlager decided Giovani Reyna had brought the Gladbach left-back down. Lars Stindl bagged a great goal for Gladbach from outside the box in the 85th, but the final goal of the game was the work of Reyna in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The USA international took advantage of Gladbach goalkeeper Jakob Olschowsky spilling a Raphael Guerreiro free-kick to poke home from close range.
The game of two halves
It may be a worn-out expression, but this game certainly had two very different halves. In the first, there was only one team playing.
Boosted by the traditionally loud Westfalen atmosphere, and lead by the brilliance of Haller, Dortmund completely annihilated their guests, cutting through their ranks with unforgivable ease. Gladbach simply had no answer for anything, and with maybe a quarter of the match gone, head coach Daniel Farke probably wanted the referee to blow the final whistle then and there to spare his team further embarrassment. Haller’s second goal, Dortmund’s fourth, only added to the feeling of misery in the away dugout.
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention how well some of the others in the black-and-yellow played, namely Julian Brandt, Bellingham, Emre Can and Karim Adeyemi. It was a great collective performance, one that Gladbach had no means of stopping.
But after the break, things were expectedly different. Farke added another defender into the mix by sending on Kou Itakura in the place of winger Hannes Wolf, and proved to have been the right move. The team looked far more stable at the back straight away, finally limiting the danger Olschowsky had been constantly facing before.
The introduction of Stindl from the bench 15 minutes before the end was another moment which contributed to Gladbach looking much better, and the 34-year-old immediately created a great chance for fellow substitute Luca Netz, before scoring a fantastic goal himself less than 10 minutes later.
Had Netz managed to put that chance away, the contest would’ve likely been incredibly exciting through the remaining period. But as it happened, it all proved too little too late and Gladbach’s efforts waned in the final minutes.
Farke’s failed experiment
It’s never a good idea for a coach to experiment when facing a strong side, and Farke will likely be heavily criticized for his decision to start with Nathan Ngoumou, a winger by trade, as the furthest man upfront. Whether his plan was to rely on counterattacks and utilize a player whose main quality is pace, or simply to surprise Dortmund boss Edin Terzic, one thing is certain – it didn’t work.
Gladbach barely got a sight of the opposition box in the first half or the following 30 minutes. It could’ve perhaps worked, had Stindl started, but with Neuhaus increasingly frustrated and Wolf completely out of the game, there was no-one to send useful passes towards Ngoumou and it was far too easy for Dortmund to concentrate on their own attacking plans and cause problems for the visitors’ defence repeatedly. Ngoumou proved completely incapable of playing against the likes of Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule.
The former Norwich City manager will likely think twice before trying something like this again.
The race goes on
Bayern Munich dismantled Schalke by 6-0 earlier, and this victory has brought Dortmund back to being behind the defending champions by one point again. The goal-difference is by far on the side of the Bavarians, so Dortmund must hope their great rivals slip up in one of their remaining two matches while they win both of theirs.
The game where that could happen comes next for Bayern – it’s Leipzig who come to the Allianz Arena next week, and on the final matchday, Thomas Tuchel’s side travel to 10th-place Koln.
Meanwhile, Dortmund play away to Augsburg first, and then the last game is at home against Mainz.
As things stand, Bayern remain the favourites, but Dortmund must make sure they keep the pressure up, just in case.
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