The Bundesliga title race has heated up further as Axel Witsel’s late goal helped Borussia Dortmund clinch a crucial win over 1.FSV Mainz 05.
Borussia Dortmund grabbed a vital 1-0 victory over 1.FSV Mainz 05 on Tuesday, effectively keeping the Bundesliga title race alive. Their narrow win means the Black and Yellows are only four points adrift of Bayern Munich at the top of the table, with eight games still left to play, including the highly awaited Der Klassiker.
Coming on the back of a narrow win over Arminia Bielefeld, it was yet another hard-fought victory for Marco Rose’s men. Devoid of their key defensive players and forced to start with a makeshift backline, the visitors took up a safety-first approach with a greater influence on retaining the clean sheet.
To their credit, Dortmund produced a defensive masterclass, keeping the Mainz attack at bay throughout the ninety minutes. At the same time, though, Die Schwarzgelben lacked thrust and creativity going forward, which was hardly a surprise as Marco Reus was missing, while Julian Brandt, Giovanni Reyna and Erling Haaland all started on the bench.
Unsurprisingly, the game was heading to a goalless draw as neither team was able to conjure up chances. Dortmund broke the deadlock in a rather unlikely fashion as Axel Witsel got on the end of a cross from Reyna, sealing an 87th-minute winner that could put real pressure on Bayern Munich. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the Borussia Dortmund players in their narrow victory over Mainz.
Gregor Kobel: 7/10
Gregor Kobel was not asked to do too much as Mainz offered very little threat in the final third, apart from the occasional counter-attacks and set-pieces. Even so, the Dortmund goalkeeper never looked nervy and had complete control of his box, thus easing the pressure off his defensive teammates.
Felix Passlack: 6/10
After a relatively decent output against Arminia Bielefeld, Felix Passlack struggled in his second successive start in the Bundesliga. The right-back had issues dealing with the presence of Marcus Ingvartsen and Anderson Lucoqui. His lack of physical prowess and stature often puts him at a disadvantage.
Emre Can: 9/10
Emre Can was by far the best performer for Borussia Dortmund in this commendable victory. The German was rock solid at the back and barely put a foot wrong, making a series of important tackles and interceptions to thwart the Mainz attackers. It was one of the best performances from Can in a Dortmund kit.
emre can should be allowed to only play in bundesliga. His worst performances comes in the knockout & Cup games.
— Mr_Facts11 (@MrFacts011) March 16, 2022
Marin Pongracic: 7.5/10
Marin Pongracic was not as impressive as Can, particularly in the build-up phase, as he misplaced many passes. Defensively, he looked competent enough to deal with the threat of Karim Onisiwo. He was not faultless, but his genuine defensive effort helped Dortmund keep a clean sheet.
Nico Schulz: 5/10
Nico Schulz was one of the least impressive performers for Dortmund in this victory. The left-back offers no quality at all, in both offence and defence, with pace being his sole strength. His lack of quality in possession saw him concede turnovers in dangerous positions while the defender also wasted many opportunities to drive crosses into the box.
Axel Witsel: 8/10
Axel Witsel had a good game in the middle of the park. Against a spirited opposition, the midfielder used his experience and composure to keep things ticking. He even showcased a bit of ambition going forward, which is what led to his late winner. Even aside from the goal, the Belgian made tactical fouls that thwarted Mainz’s progress.
that was a farewell gift from witsel i think <3
— in pain & denial (@dortmundsreus) March 16, 2022
Mahmoud Dahoud: 6/10
Mahmoud Dahoud endured a difficult night dealing with the Mainz press. He was not afforded much space in midfield, which led to a lack of penetration with his forward passes. He also picked up a silly yellow card that leaves him suspended for the upcoming tie against 1.FC Koln.
Jude Bellingham: 7.5/10
Jude Bellingham produced quite a shift higher up the pitch. He was always willing to work hard for his team, often closing down opposition players while offering support to his teammates in the final third. His commitment, passion and flamboyance made him quite an asset for the Dortmund midfield.
Give Jude Bellingham the wages you were going to give to Haaland
— Derek (@relandrek) March 16, 2022
Marius Wolf: 6/10
Marius Wolf was another player that struggled on the night. He was not able to offer any inspiration on the right flank, lacking in quality and ideas. He was subbed off around the hour mark, with Erling Haaland coming on.
Thorgan Hazard: 7/10
Thorgan Hazard could not impact the game in the final third, but he was always willing to work hard for his team. He did not shy away from committing himself into tackles and tried to win the ball back on multiple occasion. A useful player to have for Marco Rose.
Donyell Malen: 6/10
Donyell Malen had a rather unimpressive outing against Mainz. The Dutchman could not offer the creativity in the final third. His decision making was questionable as well, while Mainz defenders also offered him minimal space. He was subbed off midway through the second half.
Erling Haaland: 7/10
Erling Haaland came on for Wolf around the hour mark, changing the game’s dynamic with his physical and aerial presence. Although the Norwegian was not able to involve himself in action, he certainly did influence the game.
Giovanni Reyna: 7.5/10
Giovanni Reyna was phenomenal after coming on as a substitute for Dahoud. He offered the creative spark Dortmund were missing, notably grabbing an assist for Witsel’s goal by delivering an inch-perfect ball over the top.
CLUTCH GOAL FROM AXEL WITSEL!
He puts away Gio Reyna's set piece to give Dortmund a massive late goal 👏 pic.twitter.com/CXG3UUhVAh
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 16, 2022
Julian Brandt: 6.5/10
Julian Brandt was not as impressive as Reyna or Haaland, but he tried to offer his best going forward. The German appears to be far more effective in a super-sub role than a starting role as he gets fatigued quite easily.