Borussia Dortmund were lucky to get away with all three points against an organised and disciplined Fortuna Dusseldorf side.
Borussia Dortmund successfully delayed Bayern Munich’s wait for the Bundesliga title after securing a narrow win over Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday.
It was, by no means, an easy game for the Black and Yellows, who needed a 95th-minute header from substitute Erling Haaland to seal a late win against a Fortuna side that showed incredible resilience throughout the ninety minutes.
In our new series of weekly Bundesliga match analysis, we will be taking a look at how Borussia Dortmund’s mighty attack was successfully beaten off by ex-Leeds United manager Uwe Rosler for long periods in the game.
The Dusseldorf coach started the game with a 3-4-3 formation, mirroring Dortmund’s similar shape. Instead of deploying the offensive duo of Kenan Karaman and Rouwen Hennings, the ex-Southampton star opted for the hard-working Valon Berisha and the exciting Erik Thommy in the wider attacking slots.
These three attackers formed Fortuna’s first line of press and their primary objective was to create equity against Dortmund’s three centre-halves. They offered tactical versatility and a lot of athleticism. But more importantly, they pressed well, attacking the centre-backs and offering them very little time to pass the ball out from the back.
It ultimately increased the pressure on the Dortmund stars and while the undoubtedly talented Mats Hummels, thanks to his unrivalled technical prowess, enjoyed a rather good game, Lukasz Piszczek and Manuel Akanji visibly struggled to cope with the high press. Akanji, in fact, produced his worst display since the Bundesliga’s restart.
In midfield, Fortuna cut off the passing lanes of the centre-backs to the duo of Axel Witsel and Emre Can through man-marking. Marcel Sobottka and Kevin Stoger were the ones keeping an eye on these two individuals, who did, however, impress the onlookers with their exquisite touches and skill on the ball.
In doing so, Rosler’s men did offer a pocket of horizontal space in the final third, where Jadon Sancho, in particular, played a prominent role. But, most of it was covered well by the Fortuna backline, consisting of Kaan Ayhan, Andre Hoffmann and Niko Giesselmann.
These three operated in a high line, which is certainly commendable when coming up against a team of Dortmund’s attacking might. But, the move paid off as Dortmund found it difficult to bring the ball out from the back, often resorting to hopeless direct balls from in between the channels.
Restricting the transition
The effectiveness of Fortuna’s pressing was evident in Achraf Hakimi’s dismal performance. The Moroccan international got frustrated due to tight marking of left wing-back Markus Suttner, one of the most experienced members of the current Fortuna side. He offered virtually no time for Hakimi to actually carry the ball across the final third. As a result, he was often forced to find Sancho with a one-touch pass or distribute the ball back to the defenders.
The main idea behind Fortuna Dusseldorf’s systemic high press was to minimise Dortmund’s attacking potential by denying them the freedom of making the transition into the final third. The lack of involvement from the likes of Witsel, Can and Hakimi meant Dortmund were forced to rely on turnovers created in the middle third of the pitch.
Hummels, in particular, did an excellent job, making a host of key interceptions. The above illustration from Whoscored suggests that even Witsel was pegged back into his own half, although his midfield partner Can enjoyed more freedom and played particularly well.
But in fairness, the rigid, narrow and aggressive pressing from the likes of Stoger, Sobottka, Berisha and Christoph Zimmermann saw Dortmund struggle to create any sort of chances. These four players combined to make a combined 11 interceptions – exactly twice as much as BVB managed as an entire unit.
Lack of creative activity from Dortmund
Dortmund’s inability to conjure up scoring chances was firmly reflected in the team’s poor xG tally of just 0.68. According to Understat, they had managed a worse score only on three occasions this season, with two of them coming against Bayern Munich while the other came in the Revierderby at the Veltins Arena.
But, it is also fair to point out that Hakimi’s missed opportunity in the first-half contributed to a whopping 0.35 of Dortmund’s 0.68 xG score. Moreover, Die Schwarzgelben managed only five deep passes, which is even lower than what they had managed in the defeat against Bayern Munich about three weeks ago.
So essentially, Fortuna Dusseldorf managed to restrict the Black and Yellows like no other club throughout the course of the ongoing campaign, which is quite an impressive feat. The home side, meanwhile, also attained an xG score 0.38 and were perhaps unlucky not to score, with the excellent Steven Skryzybski hitting the bar twice.
Dortmund, too, were extremely unlucky when Raphael Guerreiro’s sublime volleyed goal was disallowed by VAR due to handball even though there was no conclusive evidence that the ball had hit the player’s arms. The visitors were rewarded later, though, when substitute Haaland found the net out of nowhere with a cushioned header past Florian Kastenmeier.
It was a bitter ending for Fortuna Dusseldorf, who certainly had deserved to muster at least a point following an impeccable defensive display and an excellent show of courage. But one thing is for certain – Dortmund must find better ways to breach the opposition defences if they are to beat Bayern Munich and win the Bundesliga title next season.