Tonight, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen went toe-to-toe in an absolute humdinger of a match at the BayArena. The lead changed hands numerous times and the home side eventually coming out on top with a 4-3 win thanks to late goals from Leon Bailey and Lars Bender.
With seven goals in total and a LOT of scintillating football, there were plenty of things to take from the game. Here are my top five.
Erling Haaland failed to score for the first time
For the first time in a Dortmund shirt, Erling Braut Haaland did NOT score a goal today.
This was also the first time Haaland played a full 90 minutes for Dortmund and despite his side doing plenty of attacking, he wasn’t able to bag. In fact, he only really got one big chance in the game which came early doors at 0-0, he saw his left footed effort saved well by Lukas Hradecky at his near post.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t play well though – throughout the game, Haaland was pivotal to the way Dortmund attacked as he linked up with his fellow forwards, bringing them into the attacks. It was a very unselfish performance, but one he won’t get too much credit for – at least in the scoring charts.
Emre Can did well, but clearly isn’t fit enough
New boy Emre Can had a very good game – for 70 minutes anyway. Before today, he had played a little under 280 minutes of football all season long for Juventus, so it was clear he wasn’t fully match-fit.
Mid-way through the second half, he went down with cramp and signaled that he wanted to be replaced. As head coach Lucien Favre went to do so, he then gestured he didn’t want to be removed and stayed on – despite being visibly unfit.
Before that, Can had done very well throughout the game. He’d been passing quite well, commanding the midfield and even scored an absolute worldie of a goal to mark his debut!
Ultimately, it turned into a poor decision by Favre not to remove him as he was pretty ineffective in his role as defensive protection late in the game. Leverkusen would score twice in two minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
A few minutes later, Can was eventually replaced by Mario Gotze with his side chasing the game, but it was too little too late.
Leon Bailey is BACK for Leverkusen
Jamaican forward Leon Bailey hasn’t exactly had the best season of his career so far this term, but today will go a long way towards changing that as he scored twice off the bench- although only one counted.
Before today, Bailey had made just 11 appearances all season long, bagging four goals and one assist in that time. He’s missed five Bundesliga games to injury this year as he struggled with muscular injuries. To add to that, he’s had two red cards this term as well and as a result, has missed five league games through suspension.
Of the 11 games he has played a part in, he’s started just five and been subbed on in six. That’s largely due to his poor form, but also thanks to the form of summer acquisition and fan favourite Moussa Diaby.
But today, having come off the bench on 71 minutes, he had the ball in the net with his first touch, although it was disallowed due to an offside by Kevin Volland. Then, in the 81st minute, he scored the all-important equaliser as he was alive to a loose ball in the box.
Dortmund still cannot defend away from home
Once again, Dortmund’s frailties at the back came to the fore. As it has all season long, the way Dortmund have had to win matches has been on a “you score three, we’ll score four” basis – but today, Leverkusen managed to turn the tables on them in that regard.
In many ways, they remind me of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United ‘Entertainers’ team from the mid-90s. They were amazing to watch, scored ridiculous amounts of goals but ultimately didn’t win anything due to their poor defensive record.
This season, Dortmund have conceded 32 league goals – the joint most of any team in the top 11 places in Bundesliga. You have to go all the way down to Augsburg in 12th to find a team who have conceded more.
In the four league games since the Christmas break, Dortmund have conceded 8 times (Average 2p.g), as well as three against Werder Bremen in the cup defeat last week.
If they want to win trophies, especially the Bundesliga title, they need to rectify this. Whether that’s by dipping into the transfer market or by finding a more defensive minded manager I don’t know, but something needs to be done if Dortmund are to mount a proper title charge.
Kai Havertz went missing
Kai Havertz, as amazing a player as he is, has a tendency to go missing in the big games – today was no different. During the game, no Leverkusen player was dispossessed more times than Havertz (3), he completed 0 key passes and managed a match rating of just 6.73 on WhoScored.
The most comparable player on the Dortmund side would be Jadon Sancho. The Enlglishman also lost the ball three times, but managed SIX key passes, got an assist, achieved a match rating of 7.32 and scored a perfectly good goal – only to have it disallowed for an off the ball foul.
The only real moment Havertz had where he could have had an impact on the game was when he popped up in the box and slammed a shot off the base of the post while the score was at 2-2.
From the ensuing Dortmund counter, Raphael Guerreiro scored to put Dortmund into the lead – cue rage from the Leverkusen fans… Little did we know Dortmund would eventually capitulate.
Havertz, while a cracking player, often likes to play the game at his own pace so in the faster and more intense matches, tends to disappear a little bit. If he is to make to the very peak of his potential powers, which I”m sure he will, he needs to better adjust to those matches. It’s something that will come as he matures as a player.