Christian Pulisic upstages Ousmane Dembele saga as BVB rout Wolfsburg
WOLFSBURG, Germany -- Borussia Dortmund swept toothless VfL Wolfsburg aside at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday afternoon, producing a dominant 3-0 win to start their Bundesliga campaign.
Like a good piece of meat, Dortmund were on point in their preparation for their first league match. Against dire Wolves, the Black and Yellows found a good mix of pressing and possession play to control the match over the full 90 minutes. Even with several key players missing, it was a very encouraging performance with Christian Pulisic sticking out, keeping worries about the consequences of an Ousmane Dembele exit to a minimum.
The big grain of salt was the passiveness of the hosts. VfL Wolfsburg looked the relegation-threatened side of last season, letting the guests operate at will. The quite terrible performance by Andries Jonker's team makes it harder to judge how good BVB really were on opening day.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Perfect start for the 53-year-old Peter Bosz in his first Bundesliga match. His team was tactically far ahead of a hapless Wolfsburg.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Apart from rushing out of his goal a couple of times to intercept the ball, he was not tested in the first half.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 7 -- Due to Wolfsburg's passiveness there was not much to defend for the right-back, but he dealt comfortably with whatever came toward him.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- Introduced himself by toppling over an opponent. It may have been a bit overzealous but he made clear that he will be the feisty stalwart as always.
DF Marc Bartra, 8 -- Stunned the stadium with an absolute dream goal in the 27th minute, as he received the ball at the edge of the 5-yard box and took his time to half curl, half smash it into the top left corner.
DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, 7 -- Due to his towering 6'5" physique, he may not be quick enough to play as a left-back other than as a stop-gap for Marcel Schmelzer, but in his Bundesliga debut, the 18-year-old showed that he is a quick thinker. Zagadou does hardly need more than a split second to forward the ball after getting it under pressure. The former PSG youth player showed with a precise 60-yard long ball to Aubameyang, which instigated BVB's first, that he can be an asset in build-up play from a central position.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 6 -- Too many attacks ended with a heavy touch or an overhit pass by Castro throughout the first 30 minutes of the match. The 30-year-old did improve eventually but didn't deliver the kind of performance that saves his position with the likes of Mahmoud Dahoud lurking to break into the first XI. He assisted Dortmund's second after 27 minutes.
MF Nuri Sahin, 7 -- It's worth noting that BVB more often than not find a way to quickly move the ball forward after Sahin wins. In other words, the defensive midfielder's tackling is intelligent. He could impress with good positioning and some good long-range passing. A full summer preparation can do wonders, mind.
MF Mario Gotze, 7 -- Mario Gotze just looked happy when he came off after the hour mark with one assist to his name. And that is good to see after the 25-year-old missed several months due to a metabolic disorder. Playing in central midfield, he looked dynamic and very much in the game. If he can show Saturday's performance on a consistent basis, he will quickly become a pillar in BVB's system again.
FW Christian Pulisic, 9 -- If Dortmund supporters needed any help to forget about the Dembele-situation for 90 minutes or longer, Pulisic provided it with an amazing performance. With a quick body-feint, he got a brief opening at the edge of the box in the 22nd minute and took it, hammering home into the long corner. The 18-year-old added an assist for Aubameyang in the 60th minute, showing that he is not jready to get to the next level this season as he is already there.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- Still looks a little awkward at times as the new coach expects him to drop deep on a more regular basis. In the 60th minute, he was there to push Pulisic's pinpoint pass over the line to open his scoring account.
FW Maximilian Philipp, 6 -- The ex-Freiburg man did not need much time to find his way into the match. Although not on the scoresheet, he played his part in BVB's 3-0 win. Like Reus, often helps his teammates with clever off-the-ball runs.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 6 -- Replaced Gotze at the hour mark. While his talent was obvious, it also showed that he needs a bit more time to fully integrate into the Dortmund system.
DF Felix Passlack, NR -- Came on for a cramping Zagadou with 12 minutes to go.
MF Shinji Kagawa, NR -- Got to play the final five minutes to work on his recovery to full fitness after entering team training just two weeks ago. Nearly on the scoresheet in the 90th minute, but missed the ball.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.