Borussia Dortmund continued to pile the pressure on Bayern Munich with a convincing victory at the Volkswagen Arena, ahead of the Der Klassiker on Tuesday. In the absence of the other European leagues, many football fans are turning to the Bundesliga as a source of fulfilment for their footballing starvation, and Dortmund have been a popular team to support. Their win saw them temporarily cut the gap at the top of the table to just one point, but Bayern’s 5-2 thrashing of Frankfurt in the late kick off saw the gap return to four points.
Wolfsburg, who were unbeaten in seven previous encounters under Oliver Glasner, started the game confidently in front of their home support – which came in the form of speakers which have been installed inside the stadium. Dortmund named an unchanged line up from last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Schalke, as the hosts lined up in a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to counter Dortmund’s 3-4-3 system with explosive wing-backs. However, it did not work effectively as Raphaël Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi both found the back of the net in a 2-0 win.
The game began in an even tone, with both teams finding themselves on the end of half chances. However, none of them troubled Burki or Casteels. Neither teams pressed very intensely in the afternoon sun, and were content in playing the game of patience. The visitors were rewarded for this patience in the 32nd minute of the game, as they broke the deadlock. Julian Brandt, who started the game on the left hand side, found himself on the opposite flank, and a slick pass after some good intricate play between himself and Hakimi released Thorgan Hazard into space, who cut the ball back to Haaland. Being the prolific goal scorer that he is, it was a bit comical to see him lose his footing just before he was supposed to be tapping the ball into the net. Luckily for him, Portuguese left wing-back Raphael Guerreiro was unmarked and in loads of space, and could calmly tap the ball into the back of the net following the young Norwegian striker’s mix-up. Die Schwarzgelbe’s tactic of Brandt and Hazard cutting inside with the overlapping wing-backs worked perfectly as the overload on the right hand side saw the left wing-back with acres of free space in all four directions.
There was no other significant opportunity before the break, apart from Hazard’s shot which he dragged wide. At half time, Dortmund were in control and were on the lookout for the second goal which would kill the game off. The second half, however, unfolded with Wolfsburg piling on the pressure as the experienced Hummels was subbed of for Emre Can by Lucien Favre. Weghorst, who is often tasked with creating space for his teammates with his lanky physique, played the ball to Renato Steffen who had all the time in the world to pick his spot. However, he went for power over precision, and costed his team a brilliant opportunity to draw the game level.
It was Borussia’s time to sit back now, as Wolfsburg dominated the ball. They carved out an opportunity once again after Swiss centre-back Akanji slipped in a dangerous area, but his international teammate Mbabu’s poor touch saw him escape punishment. The Switzerland connection continued as Steffen, who managed to get the shot on target this time, saw his effort parried away by Burki. However, with the introduction of Jadon Sancho, the Black and Yellow soon found their rhythm once again, and he played a crucial role in the second goal. His darting run through midfield caught Die Wölfe off guard and allowed the overlapping Achraf Hakimi a free shot, which he hit to perfection beyond the diving Casteels. Sixteen assists for the season for the 20 year old, bettered only by Muller (17). The hosts’ chances of a comeback evaporated completely when they were reduced to ten men eight minutes from time. Substitute Klaus was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Akanji following the intervention of VAR and the on-pitch monitor.
The game finished 2-0, with the xG figures reflecting a deserved victory for Dortmund (0.5-1.04). They also finished with a significantly higher share of possession with 61%, but however had one lesser shot (six to Wolfsburg’s seven). Despite the continued absence of Axel Witsel, Dortmund made an impressive 693 passes with 86% accuracy, controlled by the duo of Dahoud and Delaney. Their high pressing game worked well as they made 16 interceptions and allowed Wolfsburg just 14.5 passes per defensive action.
The result did not make a difference in either team’s position in the table as Dortmund remain four points behind leader Bayern, and remain four clear of third place Leverkusen who leapfrogged M’gladbach and Leipzig. The usual names of Brandt, Hazard, Hakimi, Guerreiro impressed, with Sancho making an impactful substitute appearance. Gio Reyna, who lost out on a starting spot after being injured in the warm-up in last week’s fixture, also came off the bench. Hummels was missed by Dortmund in the second half, as they looked shaky at the back without him. Haaland had a rare poor outing, as he failed to get involved into play. Weghorst continued to taunt the Borussia defenders, as Brooks looked pretty solid at the back. However, it was not sufficient to prevent the visitors from taking the three points, as they head into the Der Klassiker with high spirits.