After mid-week’s shocking loss to newly promoted Dusseldorf, winning Friday’s match against Borussia Moenchengladbach was an absolute necessity for Borussia Dortmund. A loss would have left the first half of the season lead at just 3 points, when Dortmund held a 9 point lead over BMG and Bayern Munich coming out of last weekend. Worst case scenario is now a 2 win, 6 point lead over Bayern should they defeat Frankfurt on Saturday and 9 points over BMG.
While BMG has struggled to get great results on the road this season, Dortmund knew coming in that they would be without their three primary central defenders in Akjani, Diallo and Zagadou to minor injuries. All are expected back when the season resumes in 3 weeks, but Dortmund would have to find a way to defeat BMG with a makeshift back line. Toprak was healthy, but has limited appearances this year. Favre gave Julian Weigl the unusual start at centerback, and for the most part the central midfielder performed far better than could have been expected .
While Dortmund dominated possession from the start and Reus had an excellent opening chance early that required a great stop from BMG goaltender Jan Sommer, the early part of the first half had the appearance of a game in which it was only a matter of time before Dortmund would get at least one past Sommer. BMG was also missing some pieces in defense, including former Dortmund man Ginter, who is still recuperating from a nasty collision a few games back. While Alcacer is currently tied for most goals scored in the first half of the season with Luca Jovic with 12 goals, he was forced to leave the game early due to a suspected muscle tear.
On steps Mario Goetze, who proceeds to turn in easily his best performance for any team since the World Cup Final in 2014. Goetze put everything he had in this performance and his passing was just too precise and too clever for the BMG defense.
On the first goal, Goetze just quickly received, turned and pushed a Reus pass over to Sancho, who looked covered by two BMG defenders (Kramer and Wendt), but he quickly lost Kramer. Sancho raced past Swedish International Oscar Wendt, and, then, when it appeared he may have actually run too deep, cut a phenomenal angle on a shot that Sommer had no shot to stop. Sancho has simply emerged as the best young talent in the league this Fall and one of the best teens in the World.
The Foals responded quickly, as Zakaria pushed the ball up and sent a cross in that a couple of BMG players jumped for. Christop Kramer managed to get the header on the ball, but his awkward hit on the ball merely sprung down and hit his own hand. The ball fell perfectly for him though, as it bounced off at least one Dortmund player and just fell in front of him inviting him to simply tap it past Roman Burki. Shockingly, there was no VAR review nor a call from Koln, indicating that anyone had taken a look. Dortmund fans will wonder why there was no VAR review, but the incident would be quickly forgotten less than 10 minutes into the second half.
The wait for the second was well worth it, as Goetze wandered over to the right edge of the box, received a pass and then sent a long diagnol pass beyond the BMG defenders and into the path of the on-rushing Marco Reus. A perfectly timed, inch perfect diagnol pass from Goetze, and a text book finish from Reus. Reus nearly added the third, as his second half free kick slammed hard off the near post. While Dortmund never did get a third, BMG did not even come close to finding their second.
Sancho and Goetze were simply outstanding, Reus was the MVP of the entire league in the first half of the season, Witsel and Delaney owned midfield as they have all Fall, Weigl more than justified the decision this week not to sell him at the Winter break as he will be needed, and the veteran Piszczek had his best half of a season in a few years as well. Burki has finally emerged as the force he was expected to be when brought in the squad a few years ago, and the defense couldn’t be more dependable this season with Akjani, Diallo and Hakimi all emerging as young stars for many years to come. Lucien Favre has exceeded anyone’s expectations, and Dortmund fans are enjoying a run they haven’t seen in years. Cheers to the Autumn Champs, they more than earned the Christmas break this season!