Last week’s emphatic victory over Bayer Leverkusen seemed like the perfect response to the disappointing defeat to Schalke the week before. For the first time in a long time, possibly since Thomas Tuchel left the club, we saw exactly what this Dortmund side was capable of. Fast attacking moves, incisive and decisive passing, well-co-ordinated movement. This is a side that is not short of talent and ability. The young players last week showed us what they will bring to the team once they mature into fully-fledge first teamers. It seemed like a platform for everyone to showcase themselves again. It seemed like day one after the apocalypse.
The most pleasing thing apart from the four goals was that they came without reply. Not only were Dortmund effective going forward but they were also unyielding at the back. Peter Stoeger made a brave decision dropping Marcel Schmelzer for Manuel Akanji, a centre half who had been moved across to the left back. It turned to be an inspired choice though. Akanji’s defensive instincts allowed Jadon Sancho to push on and gave Lukasz Piszcszek license to get forward more too, safe in the knowledge there were still three other defenders on the cover. Akanji didn’t play too badly either so the tactic went exactly to plan.
Going to Bremen this week we knew that we were within touching distance of the Champions League, or at least of our qualification being mathematically confirmed. A win at the Weserstadion, a stadium we notoriously do well at, would make it impossible for whomever finished the weekend in fifth place to catch us. Florian Kohfeldt had managed to drag his side away from the drop zone and Bremen have been in admirable form during the second half of the season. Nonetheless, this was a game that was more than winnable.
We didn’t get the desire and ruthlessness we were looking for though, did we? I mean, with that prize being so close you’d think that those lads would have went out there and made sure it was sealed at the earliest opportunity. That wasn’t the case however. Instead, it was almost played at a pre-season pace. It was a bit of an ‘after the lord mayors show’ vibe the players were giving off, like they had thought it was job done. Newsflash boys – the job is NEVER done until it is mathematically confirmed in domestic football.
Marco Reus’ goal added to that feel. It was a great finish and it is rare that you see a ‘keeper, especially one as good as Jiri Pavlenka has been this season, sent the wrong way from the edge of the box. But BVB still played after a walking pace after, never really getting out of second gear – that was until Thomas Delaney’s equaliser. It’s never a good thing that it takes conceding a goal for your team to finally wake up. By that time the worst has already happened and your chasing the game. But wake up they did.
Dortmund came forward in waves. The pace and intensity was finally there. Where was this in the first half? Where was the fire and the fury? Where was this sharp off the ball movement? It didn’t matter because it was here now, and it was a joy to watch. Reus, Pulisic, Phillipp, Sancho and the runs from deep of Gotze. Bremen couldn’t live with it. This was what we had seen at Signal Iduna Park, this was what had blown away Leverkusen. Leverkusen didn’t have one thing that Bremen had this week though, and that was an inspired goalkeeper. Jiri Pavlenka has been one of the signings of the season in the Bundesliga and he showed why here. Shot after shot rained down on his goal and Pavlenka was equal to each one. If he was at fault for the goal his side conceded, he more than made up for it by saving a valuable point for his team.
Dortmund may have come away from this game slightly demoralised following a result they didn’t envisage. Yes, this is two points dropped against a side in the bottom half of the table. However, the reaction to giving the equalising goal was exactly what you would want from your team. Speed, intensity, quality, overall just a display of superior ability over the opposition. Dortmund may not have come away with maximum points from this game, but they did show all of that.
Peter Stoeger is likely to leave at the end of the season, but he leaves us in much better shape than he found us. Maybe we needed to experience the two extremes of football tactically to move forward. Maybe we needed to take a step or two back to take three or four in the right direction. Maybe we aren’t such a bad side after all. Maybe, just maybe.