Dortmund defeat to Augsburg ends hope of immediate turnaround
Borussia Dortmund suffered their 11th defeat of the season against FC Augsburg on Wednesday night in a 1-0 final. It's the low point of the season so far. It has been bad before, but now even the fans are turning against their side. The match ended with whistles and upset fans because after this loss and this performance even the last and strongest believer will be disillusioned.
When Roman Weidenfeller and Mats Hummels walked to the fences of the Sudtribune, all they saw was anger and disappointment in the fans' faces. It has been a long and hard fall to this point. The rest of the team stood and listened to the tantalizing whistles, while being speechless about yet another horrendous performance of their own.
In their first home match of 2015 BVB showed that they had learned almost nothing in the four weeks they had to solve their problems during the winter break. They are still clueless up front, while frail at the back. The combination play is miles away from the fast and enticing flow that once was. All that's left is consternation.
"The problem is that we aren't taking the lead anymore. We never can just sit back and counter for once," said Hummels post-match. The defender can be happy that ex-Dortmund player Dong-won Ji didn't take his chance after 13 minutes, as it took FC Augsburg little time to get a free look on goal. Weidenfeller rushed out, only to be caught in no man's land, but the lob from Dong-won was aimed to high and misplaced. This all came before BVB could even create a chance.
After that wake-up call, things improved for Dortmund. They obtained more control over the game and created chances, but nothing that would have forced Augsburg goalkeeper Alexander Manninger to break a sweat. Dortmund's offensive play is rudimentary; however promising the situation looks, in the end it's the same unforgiving tameness that nullifies all the effort.
The worst part is that Dortmund just cannot take advantage of situations anymore. They couldn't take advantage of the fact that Augsburg had never beaten them. They could not take advantage of Augsburg's shaky back line. Instead of Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, it was Christoph Janker, who hasn't played in a Bundesliga match since March 2014, and nor could Dortmund take advantage when Janker was sent off for holding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as last man in the 64th minute.
Borussia Dortmund failed to create a chance against 10 tired Augsburg players until stoppage time, when Ciro Immobile returned the ball polished on a pillow case with a golden ribbon to Manninger, as he pointed his header three yards in front of goal directly into the arms of Augsburg's keeper.
Instead it was Augsburg's Halil Altintop who did the damage in the match, jogging past three yellow defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer with one simple feint, before waltzing into Dortmund's penalty box in the 50th minute. The ball deflected off Schmelzer's legs into the path of Raul Bobadilla, who had no trouble smashing it past Weidenfeller.
It was the moment that mustn't happen. Conceding goals by the sheer brilliance of the opposition is one thing, but this was far from it. Not taking away anything from Augsburg's thoroughly deserved win, but the goal was easily preventable. Time seemed to bend around Altintop. Dortmund players were trying to reach the ball, as well as they could, but just like in a nightmare, they seemed unable to escape their fate -- and there is no reason to believe that these situations won't happen again in the coming games. This Dortmund side is now completely drained off its confidence and abandoned by any sort of clarity once they go behind.
The Bundesliga is tight at the bottom and a win on Saturday against SC Freiburg will probably be enough to leave the relegation zone, but one cannot shake the feeling that Borussia Dortmund will remain in contention for a relegation spot for a little bit longer. There won't be the big turnaround that every Dortmund fan was hoping for. It will be a slow and painful fight until the either bitter -- or still utterly unsatisfying -- end. This game has killed all the hope for now and it will take a few convincing performances to change this. Until that happens, the team's fall from grace will remain a tragedy.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.