Borussia Dortmund have spent the vast majority of the second-half of the season outside the top four, but their recent four game-win streak has set Edin Terzic’s team within touching distance of the top four. This past weekend they extended that win streak to five games, securing an important 3-2 win over RB Leipzig.
Dortmund pressed from the front right from the very first whistle, taking a marked defensive approach to the match that they’ve often neglected in months past. The intensity set by Hazard, Reus and Sancho in leading the press stopped Leipzig from playing out from the back and developing rhythm, where Dortmund were then deadly in establishing a foothold in attack. Reus scored the first goal of the game off of an innovative touch by Thorgan Hazard, and from then on Leipzig found it very difficult to come to grips with the game.
Last month on Futbol Masterminds, I was asked who Dortmund’s most important player was. To the surprise of my co-hosts, I said Raphael Guerreiro. Guerreiro is exceptional at what he does from both an attacking and defensive standpoint at left-back. It was he who set up the second goal of the match for Jadon Sancho to curl home, and it was he who made a significant last-man tackle minutes later. Of course Dortmund will miss Erling Haaland whenever he’s not there, but Dortmund can always adapt from an attacking perspective with the wealth of talent they have in their side. When they don’t have Guerreiro, not only is their attack not as strong, but their defense weakens as well.
Speaking of Dortmund’s defense, Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji stuck to their tasks well throughout the game and could do very little about Lukas Klostermann’s headed goal to draw the game back to within one. Lukasz Piszczek was also formidable, following Mateu Morey’s injury in the DFB Cup Pokal semi-final last week. Morey will certainly be a miss, but Dortmund fans will be excited to see the Polish defender back in the team, and back doing so well in what should be his final season at the club.
Dortmund’s injury luck did however worsen as the match went on. Marwin Hitz came off with a nasty looking arm injury in the first half, while Mahmoud Dahoud was a miss after his departure from the match, with Leipzig scoring two goals immediately afterward. Not only did the normally solid Thomas Delaney fail to fulfill the same prowess as Dahoud, but he was wasteful in possession in lumping it forward too early. So with Dortmund’s rhythm slipping away, Leipzig clawed their way back to 2-2 with some incisive passing and moving from the team to first put Hee-Chan Hwang through on goal and then connect with Dani Olmo. Guerreiro was left stranded, and couldn’t make up this time with last ditch tackle to stop the Spaniard.
Luckily for Terzic and his team, Dortmund didn’t stop there and only turned up the gears. Julian Brandt’s long-pass into the path of Sancho was touched down by the Englishman, before some innovative play to put Guerreiro in on goal. But when Guerreiro’s in on goal, you know what he’s going to do. The Portuguese defender returned the ball back to Sancho, and the 21-year-old battered the ball into the back of the net for 3-2. A nail-biting affair in the end, but an important win for Dortmund nonetheless.
RB Leipzig had solid possession in the match, but ultimately couldn’t come to grips with Dortmund’s pressure, and attacking prowess. The win leapfrogs Dortmund into the top four for the time being, with Frankfurt still to play this weekend against FSV Mainz 05. What seemed impossible just weeks ago, is looking increasingly likely.