Borussia Dortmund kicked off 2015 with an away draw at Leverkusen on Saturday, dropping themselves to the bottom of the table in the process, in a rather frustrating match for both teams. After opening the scoring within 10 seconds the last time the sides met, Leverkusen looked to do so again, after Roberto Hilbert’s long range drive forced Roman Weidenfeller into a save. New boy Kevin Kampl, and Ciro Immobile’s running never seemed to trouble the Leverkusen backline, but a couple of Nuri Sahin curlers almost gave the away side the advantage before half time. The biggest chance of the evening fell to Gonzalo Castro, whose shot was headed of the line by Mats Hummels, following great play by Karim Berllarabi. Immobile forced keeper Bernd Leno into a reflex save just after the break, but scrappy play thereafter ensured that both sides had to share the spoils at the end of the day.
Here are some of the major talking points from the game:
1) Dortmund were awful in possession:
For a team boasting of Nuri Sahin and Marco Reus, one would have expected more than a 45% passing accuracy by Dortmund during the game. Normally criticized for lacking the finishing instinct to kill games, Dortmund didn’t even get to that stage as their build-up play was pathetic and often lost possession cheaply. Jurgen Klopp started with Kevin Grosskreutz and Matthias Ginter alongside Sahin, both of whom are not natural playmakers. To compensate, they employed an ‘80s British style’ kick and rush long ball strategy. The hope of Reus, Kampl and Immobile running and trapping the ball seemed to be the only plan for the team. While this might have worked during Robert Lewandowksi’s time, his replacement Immobile found it tough to contribute with the ball, after chasing it all over the field. As a result, the game was broken up frequently by Lars Bender and co. to ensure that the away side enjoyed their worst passing record in a long time.
2) Karim Bellarabi deserves to retain his spot in the German national team
One of the standout players of the season so far, Karim Bellarabi has made massive strides in his development since 2013. Establishing himself as a first team regular at Leverkusen, scoring crucial goals and being called up to the German national team were all part of his success story last year. A player of great pace, trickery and hard work, Bellarabi played a crucial role in his teams’ success in the Champions League and Bundesliga so far this season.
On Saturday, it was no different, The most threatening attacking player on the pitch, his presence on the right flank caused all sorts of problems to Marcel Schmelzer and was consistently the only attacking player offering some tangible contribution. The absence of Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and Julian Draxler, may have been the reason for his call-up to the national team, but promising performances in club and country colours could see him retain his spot during the next round of international matches.
3) Dortmund were defensively stable, thanks to Mats Hummels
The Black and Yellows fielded their first choice back-four on Saturday, and even though it had been ripped apart previously, the defence led by Mats Hummels kept the formidable Leverkusen attack at bay. The World cup winner was a composed figure throughout the 90 minutes, and marshalled his team well, with his smart goal line clearance one of the highlights of the match. Leverkusen fielded two natural center forwards in the form of Stefan Kiessling and Josip Drmic, both of whom had quite evenings, thanks to the perfect evening from the Dortmund center backs. Although Schmelzer, on the other hand, had a torrid time in dealing with Bellarabi, the aerial presence of Hummels didn’t allow any long balls or crosses to reach the normally lethal head of Kiessling. The clean sheet was just Dortmund’s third of the season, but judging by the performance against Leverkusen, it is surely a sign of more to come.
4) Down, but not out
Considering their performances this season, It would be tough for any Dortmund supporter to feel anything remotely optimistic, and being left rock bottom of the table certainly does not bode well, but all is not lost. BVB are just 6 points behind 10th placed Koln, and with a manageable fixture list which sees them face Augsburg, Freiburg, Mainz and Stuttgart next, Jurgen Klopp’s men can pull themselves away from their fellow strugglers. Additionally, the return of Aubameyang, Durm, Bender and Gundogan provide Klopp with a full strength squad, the next time around. Now the time has come to showcase their mentality and prove that they can pick themselves up, to end the season in the top half of the table.