Die Borussen find a way against the grueling physical nature of Die Roten before turning on the style after halftime in a 3-0 victory at the Signal Iduna Park.
Borussia Dortmund entertain VfB Stuttgart at the Signal Iduna Park in one of the Bundesliga fixtures last weekend. For different reasons, this particular match proved vital for the two clubs. A win for Dortmund would see them strengthen their claim for a Champions League place next season. However, coming into the match, Die Borussen suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat away at newly crowned champions Bayern Munich.
Yes, the appointment of Peter Stoger brought stability to the club. Under the Austrian, Dortmund have tasted only three defeats (two against Bayern) in twenty matches. However, that run also includes seven draws. There certainly is room for improvement and the latest loss against Bayern posed serious questions about how the club can rediscover its footballing DNA.
Meanwhile, Stuttgart arrived at Dortmund in confident mood. After a dismal first half of the season, Die Roten are enjoying a mini-renaissance under new boss Tayfun Korkut. Since the Turk’s appointment in late January, Stuttgart had gone eight games without defeat, including an impressive three away wins.
Stuttgart are no strangers to the German top-flight but as a newly-promoted side, they have done well to climb into the top half of the table. Like Borussia Dortmund, the squad features a mixture of young talent and established stars. It is interesting to watch how Die Roten finish the season and perform in the next. But first, we’ll look at the match between them.
Stuttgart discombobulate Borussia Dortmund with physicality
The first half hour featured a very energetic Stuttgart side that simply discombobulated Dortmund. Die Roten played a very physical game right from the get-go. They pressed high up the pitch which prompted many long balls from Dortmund keeper Roman Burki. Not only did this prevent Dortmund from building from the back, it also stopped them from establishing a passing rhythm.
Their physicality also extended when they had possession of the ball. Even when Borussia Dortmund press and force long balls, Stuttgart mostly won the challenges for high and second balls. Moreover, the strikers Mario Gomez and Daniel Ginczek heaped early pressure on the Dortmund centrebacks. The Stuttgart duo played directly against Omer Toprak and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, playing shoulder to shoulder and mostly winning the aerial challenges.
At times, Christian Gentner pushed up the forward line to form a front three and further increase pressure on the Dortmund backline. When attacking in open play, their midfielders flooded the Dortmund box, leading to an anxious start for Der BVB. Stuttgart also capitalised every time they can put bodies forward in corners and freekicks. One of these set pieces led to their first chance through Gomez who should have put his header on target.
Die Borussen beat Die Roten press through wide spacing
After almost a quarter of an hour gone, Dortmund responded to get some foothold in the game. They attempted to beat the Stuttgart press via wide spacing, which prevented Stuttgart from creating pressing zones. On the defensive end, fullbacks Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek now helped their centrebacks against Gomez and Ginczek. Instead of staying high and wide, the fullbacks tucked in and crowded out the Stuttgart attacking duo during aerial challenges.
After half an hour, Stuttgart’s pressing turned down a notch after their exertions took their toll. Dortmund started winning loose balls in the middle of the park. Accordingly, Christian Pulisic’s opener in open play came as a result of a freekick they earned after a late challenge from Stuttgart’s midfield.
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Apart from their physically demanding first half-hour, the goal deflated Stuttgart. They came with less intensity on the tackle, allowing Dortmund to gain more confidence going forward. The goalscorer Pulisic looked especially dangerous wide right with his piercing runs and crosses.
Borussia Dortmund show glimpses of footballing DNA in second half
Dortmund continued their momentum after the restart in which they showed glimpses of their club’s footballing identity. First, they embarked on their ruthless gegenpressing, a necessary practice since the Jurgen Klopp era. This enabled them to frequently recover possession, in which Mahmoud Dahoud pulled the strings in midfield.
The German U21 international positioned himself in between the lines in an attempt to manipulate the pressing movement of opponents. Along with more crispness in Dortmund’s passing, Stuttgart got bamboozled and not long after, Die Borussen doubled their advantage.
48' GOAL! 2-0 @BVB
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The second goal restored Dortmund’s flair, which they displayed through diagonal passes. They took advantage of Stuttgart not getting back into shape quickly through quick over the top passes as soon as they won the ball back. Again, this quick-transition football is typical of Klopp’s Dortmund. Nuri Sahin sprayed passes into Michy Batshuayi, Marco Reus or Pulisic, who played off the Stuttgart backfour’s shoulders to get into spaces in behind.
The action turned fast-paced on both ends of the pitch. However, Stuttgart failed to establish any tempo as Dortmund executed excellent counterpressing. This allowed Dortmund the immediacy to run into open spaces left behind by Stuttgart’s own counterpressing. One of such quick switches eventually led to Dortmund’s third goal through Maximilian Philipp.
59' GOAL! 3-0 @BVB
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With the match virtually decided, the game featured fragmented stretches from then on. Long balls abounded, which led to 50-50 challenges and fouls that disrupted the flow of the match. Neither team was able to establish rhythm although Borussia Dortmund continued to present more danger in the final third while Stuttgart failed to produce anything of note in the Die Borussen box.