Teenage sensation Sancho teams with Kagawa to salvage draw for Dortmund
BERLIN -- Borussia Dortmund were dealt a second Bundesliga draw under Peter Stoger, this time in a 1-1 against Hertha Berlin at the Olympiastadion on Friday night.
After 45 minutes of thorough boredom, it was the hosts who broke the deadlock in the first minute of the second half. Davie Selke connected to Valentino Lazaro's cross for a surprising lead.
The visitors responded well to the wake-up call but needed until the 71st minute to pull level. It was 17-year-old Englishman Jadon Sancho who picked out a wide-open Shinji Kagawa in the box. The Japanese had no trouble pushing the ball over the line with his head.
Stoger's side would have deserved a winner after increasing the pressure on Berlin in the final 15 minutes and should have been awarded a penalty late in the game. Andriy Yarmolenko was blatantly held in the box by Fabian Lustenberger, who had both arms around the Ukrainian. The VAR, however, was not on BVB's side to Stoger's disbelief.
Thus far, the Ruhr side have dropped four points in 2018 against two teams they should be beating. Stoger seems to be in control of things at the Westfalenstadion but he will have to produce a win against Freiburg before awkwardness and insecurity creep back into the team.
For Dortmund, only the final 20 minutes of the match were really a positive -- and once again, the reaffirming moments came from the youngsters. Sancho looked to be the biggest threat on the field in his second consecutive start, which is mighty impressive for a boy his age. Alexander Isak also eased the worries about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's potential move away, showing off his delicate technique in the box. Once again, he was not far off scoring.
When thinking back, it's also good news for the Black and Yellows that they are able to turn the screw late in the game. Under Peter Bosz, they often looked spent after 60 minutes, but now under Stoger Dortmund are winning the wars of attrition. Now they only have to make it count.
In an earlier piece, this writer claimed that all the noise surrounding Aubameyang's potential departure would be a needless distraction. After Friday's underwhelming display, distractions do not sound all that bad anymore. In fairness, Hertha's home games are never hot contenders for prime-time entertainment but Dortmund did only make matters worse in the first hour. For good reasons, Stoger has converted the Black and Yellows into a more defensive-minded unit. However, on the ball, the visitors looked short on ideas against Hertha's man-marking, turning the night into a very dull ordeal.
So it's hard to blame Aubameyang for opting to play five-a-side in a local soccer hall instead, as Bild reported.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Stoger's late changes in the match tipped the game in Dortmund's favour but it was not enough to secure all three points.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 5 -- The goalkeeper only faced two shots directed towards his goal and could not do much about Selke's right after the break.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 7 -- Dortmund's right side truly is reinvigorated with Piszczek having returned from injury. The Pole even looks in better shape than he did before his injury, which leads one to believe that he may have carried a knock around.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- A few clumsy fouls here and there made it all in all a very standard performance by the Greek centre-back.
DF Omer Toprak, 7 -- It could be down to the arrival of Manuel Akanji adding more competition at the centre-back spot or the fact that Dortmund are no longer open as a barn door at the back. Either way, Toprak has rediscovered his form in 2018 thus far.
DF Jeremy Toljan, 6 -- With Marcel Schmelzer, Raphael Guerreiro and Erik Durm all injured, Stoger will be pleased that he is able to rely on the right-back filling in on the left side.
MF Julian Weigl, 6 -- Often very heavily man-marked by Hertha, who made sure that Weigl would have as little threat as possible. However, good players can never be taken out of the game completely.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 7 -- In the first half, it was Kagawa who opened up space for Dortmund, finding Toljan with diagonal balls. When Dortmund shifted into another gear late in the game, Kagawa was very much involved -- as his name on the score sheet suggests.
MF Mario Gotze, 5 -- Could not quite recreate the brilliance he displayed in Wolfsburg and was taken off after 66 minutes.
FW Christian Pulisic, 5 -- Cheekily dribbled past Lustenberger to create an opening and tested Thomas Kraft. His individual effort proved to be BVB's best chance after 50 minutes. Though, it was a tough night for the U.S. international against Berlin's astute full-backs.
FW Andre Schurrle, 6 -- Stoger revealed to his news conference that it was his plan to afford Schurrle more space in central attacking midfield late in the match by making sure his teammates would stay wide. It worked out and Schurrle managed to contribute to Dortmund's attacks.
FW Jadon Sancho, 7 -- It's not easy to contain the excitement about the youngster, as he is looking mature beyond his years on the pitch. His assist for Kagawa was delivered so coolly that everything froze around him. Dortmund have another gem in the making.
FW Alexander Isak, 7 -- The 18-year-old Swede is making the most of Aubameyang's absence. In the 27 minutes on the field, he revealed a breathtaking control in the box to set himself up for shots. Just like against Wolfsburg, he was not too far off scoring. Dortmund have found another jewel.
FW Andriy Yarmolenko, NR -- Can be rightfully aggrieved that the whistle stayed silent after he was wrestled down to the ground in the penalty area in the final moments of the match. It is hard to explain why the officials overturned the referee's no-call after reviewing the replay. VAR has still a long way to go in the Bundesliga.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.