Eintracht Frankfurt – Borussia Dortmund: Borré Brace Superseded By Last-Ditch Dortmund Blitz (2-3)
When people talk about “peak Bundesliga”, they generally refer to a game full of end-to-end attacks where teams often seem detached from conventional notions of game management. Eintracht Frankfurt versus Borussia Dortmund provided exactly this sort of unhinged performance, with Frankfurt’s smart first half display being overturned by the visitors’ surge towards the very end of the game.
Tactical analysis and match report by Manasvin Andra.
After a harrowing start to life, Oliver Glasner has stabilized his Eintracht Frankfurt side to the point where they came into this game with some momentum. Morale-boosting victories over Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach preceded the opener to the second half of the 2021-22 season, with Borussai Dortmund posing a stern challenge coming out of the break. Glasner made just two changes from the side that eked out the win against Mainz, with Tuta replacing Makoto Hasebe in defense and Ajdin Hrustic coming back in place of Djibril Sow in midfield.
As the second half of the Bundesliga season gets underway, Dortmund have only the DfB Pokal and Europa League to compete for. Once again, the Bundesliga title seems out of reach, and a poor showing in the Champions League group stages knocked them out of Europe’s premier club competition. Still, the Bundesliga offers a valuable opportunity to build confidence for the banana skin fixtures that await in the cup competitions, and the game against Eintracht Frankfurt was an example of what awaits Dortmund in Europe.
Rose accordingly opted for the 4-3-3 shape, with Emre Candropping into defense alongside Mats Hummels. Raphael Guerreiro replaced Nico Schulz at left back, with Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt playing in front of Mahmoud Dahoud as the holding midfielder.
Frankfurt do well to contain Dortmund
At the halfway point of the season, teams’ basic schemes and key players are by and large known to one another. This knowledge allows them to prepare specific counters against certain opponents, while still relying on their base tactical plan. This is precisely what we saw in the initial moments of this game, as Frankfurt defended exactly as expected against the Dortmund buildup. If there was a surprise, it was about how effective they were on offense, at least in the first half.
As expected, Frankfurt used a 3-4-3 structure against the Dortmund buildup.
Frankfurt lined up in a 3-4-3 shape, with Daichi Kamada playing in the attacking midfield role behind Rafael Borré and Jesper Lindstrøm. Kamada was often the one covering Dahoud in buildup, while the strikers shifted towards the flank that the center-backs picked to initiate the play. The fullbacks were marked by wingbacks Timothy Chandler and Filip Kostić, while the double pivot remained alert to the movements of Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt. The wide center-backs were comfortable stepping out on the attackers, particularly Obite N’Dicka on the left against Donyell Malen.
Dortmund are an intriguing team – while the general idea is to pull a team to one side and expose an underload on the opposite flank, they are equally capable at using wall passes and third man runs to slice through a team on the near side. This is why Dortmund crossing the halfway line acted as the trigger for Frankfurt to fall into a 5-3-2 low block; particularly, this was the situation when the Dortmund defense kept and moved the ball. This is because the usual 3-4-3 medium block proved sufficient with regard to containing direct passes into the forwards and the accompanying counter and double movements that followed.
The result was that the Dortmund defense had to circulate within itself, while Frankfurt maintained their vertical compactness to avoid any moves between the lines. When the defense was stretched, the visitors also had to be wary of a striker or midfielder flying in to intercept a pass – all in all, it made for a difficult watch with few promising moments from a Dortmund perspective.
Borré brace breaks the defense
On the few occasions when Dortmund worked the ball forward, they were unable to really get into the box for good opportunities. There were always one too many bodies in the way, with Reus and Haaland being virtual nonfactors in the first half. This is a credit to Glasner’s side, who seemed refreshed and relished snatching Dortmund’s opportunities away.
On the other side, the offense seemed to be on a mission to maximize its opportunities, with a set piece resulting in Borré nudging the ball past goalkeeper Gregor Kobel. It seemed like Frankfurt was promised an opportunity on the break if they could just intercept Dortmund’s passes in midfield, and Lindstrøm had an excellent opportunity after he picked up a loose pass from Dahoud in his own half. By this time, Borré had already forced Reus into a miscontrol in the box en route to scoring his second, but Lindstrøm should have scored or at least passed on his opportunity. Another opportunity fell N’Dicka’s way from a set piece, but his shot smacked the upright as Frankfurt were unable to capitalize on multiple opportunities to add to their lead.
The rest defense from Dortmund was abysmal, as the center-backs were often left to fend for themselves against the charging trio of Frankfurt forwards. It seemed like the second line was often out of place, as it was bypassed whenever Frankfurt wanted to find its forwards in good positions. This lack of cover – leading to the defense having to put out fires on its own – spoke to the deeper troubles facing Dortmund’s flailing back four.
Dortmund begin the belated comeback
Having taken the lead, there was a small change from Frankfurt out of possession. They shifted to a structure that was oriented towards locking down the center and ensuring that support could be sent to the flanks, as they moved into a 5-2-3 structure. Kamada moved to the left of the froward trio, seemingly with a remit to guard the halfspace and support the double pivot when necessary. Wingbacks Kostić and Chandler were now in deeper positions, though Kostić did occasionally move out on Meunier and remained a prominent member of the offense. However, the Dortmund fullbacks certainly had more space to run into after receiving, which was a change from the first half when they were immediately stopped in their tracks.
The more significant change occurred on the Dortmund side of things, as Thorgan Hazard came on for Julian Brandt. While his appearance did not instantly shake things up, Hazard offered a more physical and direct presence than the more understated Brandt.
Accordingly, Dortmund shifted to more of a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Hazard and Malen on the wings and Reus playing through the middle.
72nd minute: The 4-2-3-1 shape seen late in the second half. However, given the game state, the Dortmund players moved much more freely than indicated.
It was fitting that the substitute converted the jolt he provided into actual production, as Haaland flicked on Hummels’ header into Hazard’s path for a neat finish from the winger.
Glasner had sent on some fresh legs around the time of Dortmund’s Hazard substitution, but the hosts remained defensively oriented. To some extent, this was understandable, as their biggest opportunities had come on the break. But as Frankfurt sank deeper, Dortmund began monopolizing control of the ball. They were also the more physical side when it came to duels, trying to attack the ball carrier on every occasion. A cross from Meunier in the 85th minute found Bellingham’s head, which pulled the visitors’ level.
By this point, the game had become frantic and stretched, with coaches having little control over how the proceedings were unfolding. In such a scenario, it is generally the talent differential that tips the scales, unless the defensive team retains its compactness. Here, it was not to be, as Dortmund would ultimately get the better of the hosts. In keeping with the frantic (and unsustainable) nature of the latter stages of the game, Dahoud scored the winner by curling one from outside the box. Despite an accomplished first half performance, Frankfurt were thwarted, in perhaps the most painful way possible.
This was a much-needed win for Rose coming out of the break, but the way it was achieved will be of little comfort to the coach. Dortmund were only able to get job done in the closing moments, but even against a more conservative approach from Frankfurt in the second half, the defense deserves credit for not conceding again. For Glasner, the defeat will feel like a missed opportunity, as his side had led on merit for the most part. They were decidedly the more threatening team for the better part of an hour, but were undone by missed finishes and a more cautious game plan later in the game.
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