Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan lead Borussia Dortmund over Stuttgart
Borussia Dortmund battled through a feisty cup-tie away to VfB Stuttgart on Tuesday night to come out ahead with a tense 3-1 victory. The Black and Yellows reach the DFB Pokal semifinal for third time in a row, which sets a new club record.
It certainly wasn't easy for either side on a soggy pitch after it had rained all day in Stuttgart. Yet BVB showed the composure that they were lacking in Saturday's 0-0 stalemate against Hertha Berlin, which was also down to manager Thomas Tuchel's setup.
A 4-3-3 system with Matthias Ginter in midfield and Erik Durm on the wing and many positional changes during the match kept Jurgen Kramny's VfB on their toes and gave BVB the edge to come out on top. However, it must be said that die Schwarzgelben did leave the match in doubt longer than necessary as they let some excellent chances go to waste until the final minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 8 -- Because BVB are finding a hard time winning headers when defending set pieces, it was crucial that Burki had a safe pair of hands to either catch them or at least palm them to safety. It might have looked like routine saves, but in slippery conditions one tiny error could have affected the outcome of the match. Had no chance of saving the deflected equalizer.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 6 -- With Durm playing on the left wing in front of Schmelzer, the left-back had fewer overlapping runs than usual. Overall he had a less spectacular match, but stuck to his defensive duties.
DF Mats Hummels, 8 -- The world champion is on top of his game and a true leader on the field. He played a lot of pinpoint vertical passes across the bumpy pitch when it was imperative to find a teammate. Otherwise, BVB might have been exposed. When playing with confidence, Hummels does not put a foot wrong. Defensively a stronghold yet again.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 8 -- A rainy cup tie in hostile atmosphere against a gritty opponent you say? A match painted for Sokratis, who impressed with his most spectacular trait: ruthless tackles. Sometimes those tackles are done for looks rather than efficiency, but in this match they were necessary to keep Stuttgart's attackers out of harm's way.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 7 -- Obviously, it was in Tuchel's game plan to position his full-backs a little deeper. Considering how well Stuttgart's Filip Kostic played in the recent matches, Piszczek did a great job to keep him quiet on the right side.
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MF Ilkay Gundogan, 9 -- It was yet another great performance by the midfield maestro. While he ran out of steam at the end of some counterattacks, he can be forgiven for everything else he did in this match. Gundogan dominated the midfield on his own, especially in the first half. It was nearly impossible to steal the ball off him; even up against two or three Stuttgart players Gundogan found a way to flee the scene untouched.
MF Matthias Ginter, 8 -- Julian Weigl finally received a well-deserved break and Ginter did well to roam the midfield in his place. A lot of interceptions and headers in midfield made it far easier for his team to see out the match. Ginter is also the reason why Daniel Didavi won't remember this match fondly.
MF Erik Durm, 8 -- Since his return from injury, Durm has been used by Tuchel at various positions and Durm played extremely well on the wing on Tuesday, switching from left to right a couple of times during the match to give the Swabians a real headache. Tuchel likes his utility players and it's safe to say that Durm will see more action on the field after this.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 8 -- The Armenian played as a No. 10 for most part of the match and beautifully set up the play for the first goal. He might rue a couple of missed chances, but in the end it was his tap-in that secured the win.
MF Marco Reus, 9 -- If the scoreboard says 0-0, that is when Reus is at his most dangerous. "Mr. 1-0", as he is called, left Stuttgart goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak with no chance in the fifth minute to open the scoring. Reus was also responsible for setting up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for BVB's second goal with a perfectly weighted ball at full speed. He had another couple of Hollywood-passes up his sleeve to leave his mark on the match.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 -- The striker set up the first goal for Reus and clinically scored the second in the 31st minute to give BVB a 2-1 lead. Only flaw in this match were a couple of bad first touches, but since Aubameyang had a major part in all three goals that Dortmund scored, his significance is well-noted.
MF Moritz Leitner, NR -- Reus ran off to hug Leitner after scoring the opener. Everyone seems to be happy for Leitner's resurgence after a two-year loan spell at VfB -- except for the Stuttgart fans, who booed him at his substitution in the 77th minute. Important sign for the depth that Tuchel has trust in Leitner.
MF Shinji Kagawa, NR -- In the 89th minute the Japanese replaced Gundogan, who was running on an empty tank.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.