Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Mönchengladbach: Dortmund Keep Step With Bayern By Blowing Gladbach Away (5-2)
Borussia Dortmund registered yet another big win to keep the pressure on Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race. They effectively got the job done against Borussia Mönchengladbach by half-time, but allowed things to liven up ever so slightly late in the second period.
Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.
Bayern Munich’s form and performances this season have given Borussia Dortmund the best opportunity in a decade to put an end to their dominance, yet they started this weekend still in second place with a point’s deficit to their title rivals. With just three matches remaining including this one, they knew they had to win them all and then hope for some help from elsewhere.
If there ever was a team that knew how to get one over on Bayern Munich, it is Borussia Mönchengladbach. A win and draw in the league against them this season means that it is now over two years since Gladbach have lost to the record champions, so Dortmund really have to thank them for keeping them in the title race. Despite that, Daniel Farke’s side have had a poor season overall as they have dropped points in winnable matches far too often, languishing in the bottom half of the table as a result.
Dortmund lined up in a 4-3-3 formation once again, with Gregor Kobel continuing in goal behind Marius Wolf, Niklas Süle, Mats Hummels and Julian Ryerson. Emre Can had Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt ahead of him in midfield, whilst Donyell Malen and Karim Adeyemi flanked Sébastien Haller up front.
Gladbach sprung no surprises either in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation ahead of goalkeeper Jan Olschowsky, who started as Jonas Omlin had to sit this one out due to a hip injury. Stefan Lainer, Marvin Friedrich, Nico Elvedi and Ramy Bensebaïni made up the back four, Julian Weigl and Manu Koné started behind Florian Neuhaus in midfield, whilst Jonas Hofmann, Nathan N’Goumou and Hannes Wolf formed the front three.
Dortmund carve Gladbach apart early on
The best way for a less-fancied side to trouble Dortmund this season has been to sit in a compact low block and frustrate them, but Gladbach did not seem to want to do that. Instead, they set out in a fairly high block that was seemingly designed in a player-oriented manner, but not well done at all. The visitors left a lot of space between their lines, which Dortmund were quick to exploit.
5th minute: Dortmund exploit the space between Gladbach’s lines in the buildup to the opener, as Brandt drops deep to play a one-two with Bellingham, who plays a line-breaking pass into Ryerson. He goes on to lay it off for Haller, whose deflected shot is ultimately bundled in by Malen.
Dortmund did not rest after getting this early opener, as they amassed a four-goal lead in about half an hour. The buildups to their second and third goals highlighted Gladbach’s other big weakness – defending in transition – whilst the fourth was created after a quick vertical passing move similar to the opener.
In this way, Gladbach effectively lost the match 32 minutes in. Whilst the home side do deserve credit for how clinical and efficient they were after opening up spaces thanks to their fluid midfield, Daniel Farke’s side should have done a lot better in preventing Dortmund from freely playing so many vertical passes. This dynamic created an interesting-looking passmap for the hosts.
Dortmund lose their clean sheet but comfortably keep the win
Farke unsurprisingly changes his tactics at half-time, replacing Wolf with a center-back in Ko Itakura. With that, they switched to a much more centrally compact 5-2-1-2/5-2-3 medium block out of possession. This change, coupled with the fact that Dortmund did not really need any more goals and were happy to comfortably pass the ball around, helped Gladbach’s defense look a lot better in the second period even as they saw less of the ball (going down from 47% to 43%).
Of course, Borussia Dortmund are almost allergic to “perfect” performances or results, so they did not follow up the anomalous 6-0 win against Wolfsburg last week with a similar scoreline. Instead, they let in a couple of late goals to keep the fans in their seats. Both goals were quite avoidable, as the foul conceded for the 78th-minute penalty was in a relatively harmless position and the second came very late on after long ball over the top of a tired block that was very slow to drop back, so Edin Terzić and his coaching staff will need to have some words with the players about that.
Nevertheless, Giovanni Reyna added one more to his side’s tally late on to make the gap on the scoreboard look more reflective of how the match went, as Dortmund came away with a thoroughly deserved win after creating and converting lots of very good chances.
Borussia Dortmund remain within a point of league leaders Bayern Munich with just two games to go until the end of the season, so the title race is still on. Dortmund absolutely must win their matches against an effectively already-safe Augsburg side and a Mainz team whose European dream is probably shattered by now, and they look in the right nick to do so. Then, they will have to hope for a big favour (most likely) from Champions League-chasing Leipzig next week or pray for some miraculous assistance from mid-table Köln on the final day.
Borussia Mönchengladbach have very little to play for in the bigger scheme of things in the next couple of weeks, and this performance shows why that is the case. Whilst their biggest issue this season has been consistently faltering against sides they would have been expected to beat, they showed some concerning naivety in their initial tactical setup and were unsurprisingly made to pay. Their decision-makers will no doubt have to have a serious discussion about Farke’s future in the coming weeks.
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