Borussia Dortmund hold off Hoffenheim, climb back into third
DORTMUND, Germany -- Borussia Dortmund grabbed a massive 2-1 home win, as they leapfrogged Hoffenheim into third place in a head to head clash. The Black and Yellows now hold thier direct Champions League qualification fate in their own hands.
Dortmund players told Journalists in unison in the mixed zone after the match that it had been a tough and gritty battle out there. "Hoffenheim play very similarly to our style," Gonzalo Castro said, being very pleased with his team's performance.
The guests coached by 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann enjoyed the lion share of possession over 90 minutes (BVB's 42.3 percent to TSG's 57.7%). However, despite seeing much of the ball, the guests never could seize real control of the game and did not produce a major scoring opportunity, disregarding the questionable penalty that was scored by Andrej Kramaric in the 86th minute.
Shutting Hoffenheim down for most of the game, especially after the guests pulled one back in the game has to be the biggest takeaway for this Dortmund side, who have struggled quite severely in the defensive department. Grabbing an early goal certainly played into their hands.
"Football fans are in for a real treat," this writer promised in the preview to Saturday's match. Although being an entertaining one, the game did not fully deliver due to both teams feeling the importance of the match. There were many unforced errors on both sides, garnished by a lot of physical fouls. The performance of referee Dr. Felix Brych equalled the poor quality of the football players, as he contributed to the hecticness on the field. Hoffenheim players were still upset with the officials as they entered the stadium catacombs, as they felt hard done by the referee.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Defence wins championships... although Dortmund are not playing for the championship this season, a solid defensive approach to the game from Thomas Tuchel helped the hosts claim a very important third place.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- "It takes balls," Burki said after the game as he commented on Kramaric's chipped penalty down the middle. Otherwise, the keeper was hardly called to action.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 5 -- Fielded as a right wing-back, Piszczek was closed down time and time again by the guests, making it a tough afternoon for him. Plagued by too many careless giveaways, particularly in the first half.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- When things become gritty, Sokratis is right in the pudding. The centre-back enjoyed himself out there in a physical battle with Hoffenheim's striking duo. His shirt pull in the box on Sandro Wagner was a fair penalty claim for the guests.
DF Matthias Ginter, 7 -- The penalty Wagner won on Ginter was a very soft one -- up until that point, the 23-year-old played a very good part in Dortmund's defensive performance.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 8 -- Fielded as a left centre-half, Schmelzer once again showed his superb form. He chipped in with five interceptions that otherwise would have turned into promising counter-attacks or chances for TSG.
DF Raphael Guerreiro, 6 -- In the end, it was Guerreiro who setup BVB's winning goal. He started out poorly, passing the ball directly to his opponents from the back on several occasions. In the second half, however, the Portuguese international turned up and dominated his left side in style.
MF Julian Weigl, 6 -- Missed some opportunities to play vertical passes as Dortmund's forwards were running into space. In the second half, the midfield hub claimed control of the match as the Black and Yellows were more assured in their possession stints.
MF Ousmane Dembele, 5 -- The 19-year-old did not have a good game by any means. His first half was littered with sloppy ball control and poor decisions. The week off did not help him to raise his game.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 7 -- Won Dortmund the midfield battle and closed a lot of gaps.
MF Marco Reus, 7 -- Had luck on his side early on as the linesman overlooked his clear offside position when he scored in the fourth minute. Fooled the referee in the 14th minute, as he handled the ball himself before winning the penalty, as he struck Pavel Kaderabek's extended arm. Was on the end of BVB's most promising chances in the second half.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 6 -- Broadcaster Sky informed at the half hour mark, that Aubameyang had four touches until that point -- including the kickoff and a missed penalty. The striker admitted after the match that he was feeling tired after a busy schedule. He did not have his best game by any means but put his name on the scoresheet as he poked home the 2-0 lead with his head in the 82nd minute after Guerreiro's attempt deflected off
Shinji Kagawa, NR -- Replaced a weak Dembele in the 80th minute. Used the 10 minutes to run down the clock whenever he got the chance.
Sebastian Rode, NR -- Came on for Reus with 10 minutes to go to close out the game. Rode did exactly that, winning and holding the ball in Hoffenheim's half in what otherwise could have been very nervy minutes for the hosts. Rode's efforts probably made the difference in the end, as Dortmund still managed to take the game to the guests.
Sven Bender, NR -- Was utilised as a time-wasting measure in stoppage time, replacing Guerreiro, who was the furthest away from the dugout.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.