A Special Day
Borussia Dortmund had not won in 6 games versus Hoffenheim. They had not won away at Hoffenheim in 8 years, but in Lucien Favre’s 300th Bundesliga game as coach, it changed. At the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Dortmund played a tough game and took home all 3 points. Former Bayern coach Sebastian Hoeneß manages a drilled outfit that finished 6th in the Bundesliga last season. They whipped the Bundesliga champions last month for Bayern’s first loss in 2020. 4-1 the scoreline, after which they lost to Eintracht Frankfurt before the break. They are no joke.
Die Kraichgauer were without record goal scorer Andrej Kramaric (78 goals and 30 assists in 154 games) due to Covid-19 protocols, it was going to be tough. The Croatian once scored 4 in a game against Dortmund and already has 8 goals in this campaign. Dortmund was without Erling Braut Haaland, who was rested with the UCL in mind. Felix Passlack started ahead of Raphael Guerreiro, and Thomas Meunier slotted in at wingback. Sigh, nothing close to the quality of the wingbacks of last season. Julian Brandt, Giovanni Reyna, and Jadon Sancho were the forwards of the day. Hoffenheim started the game with Ihlas Bebou and Ishak Belfodil in front. Munas Dabbur, one of the scorers from the Bayern game and a starter for the Frankfurt game, dropped to the bench. Christoph Baumgartner started on the bench too.
The First Half
Hoffenheim nearly took the lead in the 4th minute through Mijat Gacinovic from a Robert Skov cross but it could not be turned it. Skov who is a natural winger playing at wingback was particularly threatening. Belfodil set up another chance for Gacinovic, but the Serbian could not get enough on the shot. What a terrible week Gacinvoic is having. Playing out of position at right wingback for his country, he was at fault for the only goal of the game against Hungary earlier in the week. Marwin Hitz was in goal for the injured Roman Burki and apart from the first attempt which he was out of position for, he looked assured. Kevin Akpoguma was excellent in defense for TSG with Ken Vogt in the middle of the defensive 3 also impressing.
The build-up for Dortmund was slow, and TSG made Dortmund labor for space. Lukasz Piszczek had to leave the pitch after 20 minutes (eye injury), with the Danish Thomas Delaney coming on. Delaney was confident on the left side of the 3 at the back and he could be a contender for man of the match. With no Haaland, the option of going long was not available. In the 35th minute when Reyna wormed his way through and hit the ball with his left foot, Skov cleared the danger off the line. In the 37th minute, Meunier’s header from a Brandt corner bounced off the woodwork and into the stands. Dortmund despite controlling the game could not get the goal. Both teams played the first half without a striker and the result was a 0-0 draw.
The Second Half
BVB’s quality came to the fore in the second 45 minutes with Hoffenheim’s midfield press waning in energy and spirit. Dortmund started to pile on the pressure. There were no changes when both sides came out for the second half, but Dortmund played with more craft and intention. Reyna was trying hard to create things in attack and Passlack was industrious, shuttling up and down the flank.
Marco Reus and Erling Haaland replaced Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt and the resolute Hoffenheim backline began to crack some more as time wore on. Olivier Baumann did well to deny Reus the first time, but Haaland took him out with one pass for captain Woodyinho to score. Before that, Jude Bellingham came on to replace Mahmoud Dahoud who got a rare start. Guerreiro came on to replace Meunier who struggled with the pace of the game.
Dortmund had several chances to bury the game but it was not to be. The penetration that Haaland offers was wounding the Hoffenheim backline again and again. Haaland twice failed to hit the target, and Reyna skied a good Guerreiro chance. 0-1, but Dortmund will take it as they lift the “curse”.
Lucien Favre is only the 4th non-German to reach 300 games in the Bundesliga. He is a puzzling tactician. One would think that the departure of the flying Achraf Hakimi would see the Swiss coach return to a back 4, but he persists with the 3. He even went in without a starting striker for the game. Haaland needs rest according to him but the young striker is vital for any sort of penetration. Hopefully, youth sensation Youssoufa Moukoko will get a chance soon. He scored a hattrick for BVB in the youth Revierderby this weekend. For now, Favre has to think about facing Lazio in Rome.
Hoeneß regrets the early chances his team missed before falling flat in the second half. If only they could convert one of those early chances, then the story might have been different. His side has now lost 2 on the bounce. They welcome Crvena Zvezda to the PreZero Arena for a Europa League match and they have a chance to turn their luck around.