After the crushing loss to Augsberg, Dortmund just simply could not afford to lose any points to a bad Stuttgart team. Stuttgart has either the second to worst defense in the league, so any Dortmund turnaround had to manifest itself this weekend and Dortmund has to stay even with Bayern with the showdown approaching on April 6. Forget about the Cup, Dortmund was knocked out by Bremen. Forget about the Champion’s League, Dortmund was knocked out by Hotspurs. The only shot Dortmund has at any title this season is to somehow win the league. Obviously, it won’t be easy. Bayern’s 6-0 win over Wolfsburg was more than a major statement that Kovac has turned around whatever issues prevented them from playing great soccer in the first half of the season, and they are going to be a juggernaut to contend with for the Bundesliga crown. Having James Rodriguez and Thiago in great form, along with the increasingly excellent play of Gnabry has a lot to do with that. Lewandowski is Lewandowski, he is going to make a run at scoring 30 in the league and he can be unstoppable.
For nearly an hour, it was frustrating for Dortmund fans to say the least. There were a couple of good shots requiring great saves from Stuttgart’s excellent keeper and former German international Zieler. For the most part, though, Dortmund dominated possession but just couldn’t finish off opportunities. Finally, Stuttgart made a mistake in taking down Sancho in the box. It wasn’t a goalscoring opportunity at the time, but he was in the box and it was definitely a foul. It may have taken an hour to get there, but Reus finished off the penalty opportunity with class.
Stuttgart didn’t make it easy. They had only one shot on goal in this game and limited shots of any kind, but their one shot that was actually on goal-scored. Marc Oliver-Kempf the young centerback they brought in from Freiburg scored for Stuttgart in the 71st minute off a corner kick. Diallo lost his man, though there were probably 3 or 4 Dortmund players that appeared lost on that corner kick. Not sure what the mix up was.
Dortmund responded with a lot of pressure. Eventually, the yellow and black got the go ahead goal off a scrappy play with some great poaching by Paco Alcacer. Just a week after I had written off any hope of Paco Alcacer being a scrappy, goal poaching, starting forward-he proves me wrong. It started with a Reus blast that hit off a player and was loose in the box. Credit to Christian Pulisic, who came in as a sub, and it was his digging that eventually won possession in the box in time for him to somehow work the ball over to Alcacer. Alcacer with a classic poacher’s finish smashing the ball into the top of the box to earn the lead back for Dortmund. Finally, Pulisic ended his excellent performance as a sub with a goal of his own. It started with Hakimi getting deep on the left side agiain and sliding a pass into Goetze, who immediately passed it in to Pulisic for a great finish. 3-1 and it was game over.
The Pulisic goal with an assist to Goetze highlighted another top notice performance from Goetze. Not quite the best Goetze that Dortmund fans have ever seen, but since the Winter break Goetze has been outstanding for Dortmund. His passing is precise, and he is putting in the most mileage of any player for Dortmund on the field. Akjani was solid at the back, and Wolf was surprisingly passable at rightback, though limited going forward. Hakimi was back to the more comfortable leftback position, where he was extremely effective going forward. Reus got on the scoreboard, and is working his way back to the great form he was in before injury. Sancho was menacing.
While most expect Bayern to win the league, especially when the April 6, 2019 showdown is at Allianz, Dortmund is hanging in there with a glimmer of hope as at least they put one in the win column this week. Next week Dortmund has a fairly tough matchup against a Berlin team coming off an embarrassing loss to Freiburg, while Bayern should have an easily winnable matchup against Dusseldorf.