Another Marco Reus injury scare as Dortmund progress in the cup
There were two hot topics being discussed after Borussia Dortmund comprehensively beat third-tier side Dynamo Dresden 2-0 to progress to the quarterfinal of DFB Pokal -- a very bad pitch and Marco Reus suffering a thigh knock.
Jurgen Klopp used the occasion to rotate four positions after the 3-0 derby win against Schalke on Saturday. Australian keeper Mitch Langerak played in the cup, as he usually does, instead of Roman Weidenfeller, Jakub Blaszczykowski started his first match in 2015, and star duo Nuri Sahin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn't make the trip to Dresden in order to nurse a few minor niggles.
Ciro Immobile got a rare run out from the start in the absence of the Gabonese international and Sebastian Kehl took Sahin's spot alongside Ilkay Gundogan. The four rotations didn't end up disrupting BVB too much in a match where they were comfortable favourites against a team known for playing rough.
In particular, the central defence of Dynamo Dresden has built quite the reputation in the 3. Liga by collecting yellow cards like others collect coffee stamps. It seemed almost inevitable that Borussia Dortmund wouldn't leave Dresden without knocks and bruises. After 25 minutes, Dortmund fans saw an image they would have preferred not to be seeing again this season -- Marco Reus hobbling off the pitch, being supported by the medical staff after lying on the ground for quite some time. What had happened?
Dresden's centre-back Dennis Erdmann tried to hinder Dortmund's star player, who was making a run off the ball. The defender stuck a leg out to stop Reus, who's thigh made contact with Erdmann's knee. This scene was the prevailing topic for the rest of the game and thereafter. Only the culprit couldn't be bothered much by all the fuss around the challenge: "He ran into my knee. When I played in the Kreisliga [Germany's eighth division], one shortly rubbed the pain out and continued."
In reality the challenge looked reckless and the worst had been feared for Reus, who has been at the wrong end of too many reckless challenges in recent months. Ever since he twisted his ankle in the final match ahead of the World Cup, the midfielder has been prone to injury.
Dortmund's crisis at the end of 2014 might not have been as severe with a fit Reus present, as a poor defence wasn't the sole reason for the bad results. After Robert Lewandowski left the club, losing Reus to injury for most of the first half of the season played a big role in the in goal-drought up front.
Since it has been a theme for the Dortmund born attacker to pick up injuries in low-profile games, perhaps it would have been a better choice to keep him on the bench? After all BVB managed to progress in the DFB Pokal thus far without his help. In the end, Reus was lucky to only pick up a bruise above the knee, but nevertheless he is doubtful for the game on Saturday against Hamburger SV.
It would be a tough loss for Klopp's side to miss out on their star player, who is finally on form again, having scored in five consecutive games before the match in Dresden. Borussia Dortmund are still in dire need of points in order to catch up in the Bundesliga and Reus often enough makes the difference. Maybe next time the Dortmund coach will think more carefully before risking an injury to his star player in a low-key game.
Of course Klopp cannot prevent every injury from happening, as the foul on Marco Reus wasn't the only poor challenge that raised the pulse of Dortmund fans. A few minutes before halftime, Michael Hefele -- Dresden's other central defender -- buried his elbow in Immobile's face. The Italian came off with a cut under his right eye. It was yet another challenge that went unpenalised by the referee, but in the second half, karma hit back when Hefele underhit a pass across his own his penalty area. Immobile chested down the ball and smashed it past the chanceless goalkeeper, to put Dortmund on track.
It was a very welcome gift, as BVB had a very hard time creating chances against the tightly woven defence. After going ahead, Klopp's men did just enough to see out the game, saving energy for the Bundesliga, instead of playing their usual "full throttle football".
It's one facet of Dortmund's regained confidence and stability, to simply see off a game without much trouble. When Dynamo threw bodies forward to get back into the game, the opportunities to counter eventually came and In the 89th minute Immobile sealed off the tie by netting in his second of the night. It was a nice little signal of life from the Italian, who was visibly relieved to be appearing on the scoresheet.
Borussia Dortmund simply did their duty to progress in the only remaining competition where they have a realistic chance of winning silverware. Barring the little knock on Reus's thigh it was pretty much the night Klopp had hoped for: an uneventful game, that ended in regular time. If Reus can recover in time for Hamburg on Saturday, nothing should stand in the way for BVB to continue their streak in the Bundesliga.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.