The latest match between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund offered lively, end-to-end football on display.
RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund treated football purists to an entertaining draw last weekend at the Red Bull Arena. It was the first ever draw between the two sides who pulsated with verve and energy from start to finish. The hosts grabbed the lead following a lapse of concentration from the visitors, who equalised shortly after via exploiting the weakness of Leipzig’s formation against their own. Die Borussen dominated in the early proceedings of the second period until Die Roten Bullen took over in the final stretch.
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Dortmund proceed through the wings
Dortmund utilised the flanks to create numerical overloads. From his No10 role, Mario Gotze regularly popped up into pockets of space across the hole to aid in the build-up. This created angles for Dortmund’s preferred pass and move football. Moreover, the far side winger (Marco Reus or Andre Schurrle) collapsed towards the area of play to serve as an extra passing option. One of Dortmund’s early opportunities came as a result of this. Gotze, Reus and Michy Batshuayi combined down the left, and following a scramble, Reus finished neatly although the referee ruled it out due to offside.
Another thing that the visitors did well especially in the early stages was to hit on the break. Dortmund are very good in quickly transitioning from defence to attack and their first genuine chance resulted from this. As Leipzig attacked, it stretched the run of play and created the situation for Dortmund to counter. It ended with Batshuayi walking in a Schurrle cutback, but the goal didn’t stand due to another offside call.
Werner drifts wide as Forsberg tucks in
RB Leipzig’s attack featured Emil Forsberg almost always tucking in from the left wing to serve as the creative option. Meanwhile, Timo Werner popped along the flanks (mostly on the left-hand side) regularly and used his dynamic advantage against the fullbacks of Dortmund, particularly Lukasz Piszczek. Also, Werner’s strike partner Jean-Kevin Augustin provided the threat through the middle. After Dortmund’s sustained period of dominance early on, Leipzig dampened the tempo of the match through passing the ball around at the back. It allowed them to get their bearings back.
Die Roten Bullen prevailed in executing their initial build-up phase smoothly due to Dortmund’s disjointed press. The visitors’ midfield line did not follow the forwards upfront, leaving major gaps in the central axis. Leipzig’s opener came shortly as Dortmund allowed their concentration to drift for a moment. Naby Keita dispossessed Schurrle before threading the ball through for Augustin who finished past Roman Burki.
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The goal instilled confidence in Leipzig. This time, it was Die Borussen that needed to compose themselves. Dortmund pinged the ball around the back to take the sting out of the goal before again venturing forward in attack. Initially, Dortmund’s play looked patchy due to Leipzig’s organised defence. But Dortmund have players of the necessary quality to execute intelligent movement that took Leipzig personnel out of their usually compact lines. In addition to that, the shape of Dortmund caused the problem for Leipzig from which the equaliser came from.
Dortmund utilise ‘formation advantage’ to equalise
Dortmund lined up in a 4-2-3-1 against the 4-4-2 of Leipzig. Dortmund’s double pivot of Julian Weigl and Mahmoud Dahoud, and Gotze playing as a No10, presented a natural problem against Leipzig’s central midfield partnership of Kevin Kampl and Keita.
As Dortmund initiated play at the back, Gotze drifted left, while Dahoud circled along the central axis. This created a situational dilemma for Kampl on whether to follow Gotze or stay in position to cover the threat of Dahoud. Kampl chose to sit in between the two Dortmund midfielders, creating a large gap between him and Keita. As Omer Toprak shifted the ball to Dahoud, it ultimately was too late for Kampl to challenge. Dahoud exploited the gap between Kampl and Keita to turn towards goal. Immediately, the Leipzig centrebacks stepped forward to leave Batshuayi in an offside position, eliminating him as a passing option for Dahoud.
At the same time though, Reus started his diagonal run towards the middle. Dahoud then picked out Reus’ run with a throughball in between the two Leipzig centrebacks who were caught offguard due to Batshuayi’s offside position. Reus then finished the move with his left foot to restore parity at the Red Bull Arena.
38' GOAL! 1-1 @BVB
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Dortmund swing the ball side to side before Leipzig took over in the middle
After the restart, Dortmund executed an option-oriented press to stifle the build-up of Leipzig. While Die Borussen forced a couple of low-percentage long balls from Die Roten Bullen, the home side won the battle for second balls in the middle. This allowed them to continue their build-up and move into promising positions. Interestingly, Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhuttl withdrew their chief creator Forsberg right around the hour mark for Bruma, a more direct player with pace on the wings. This altered Leipzig’s 4-4-2 into more of a 4-3-3 with Bruma comfortable taking on defenders at the flanks.
At the same time, Dortmund started to claw their way back into the game – through the flanks yet again. This time, however, Dortmund made many switches from one flank to another first. This is to stretch the Leipzig defence horizontally and create advantageous overloads. One resulted in Batshuayi chance that went begging. The Belgian should have put them ahead after Dahoud made a splendid run from the flanks but the on-loan Chelsea striker failed to make meaningful contact with Dahoud’s cross right in front of Peter Gulacsi’s goal.
With both sides eager to take the lead, the match continued into an end-to-end affair. It was towards full time that the momentum swung Leipzig’s way. The hosts flexed their muscle in midfield and regularly won the ball in the central axis. One of these ball recoveries resulted in Bruma almost winning the game for Leipzig had the Portuguese attacker curled a delicate effort more accurately. Die Roten Bullen continued to threaten right until stoppage time with Yussuf Poulsen trying his luck from distance but, overall, Leipzig lacked the cutting edge to take maximum points.