Dortmund’s 3-1 loss at Berlin two weeks ago was a harsh reality check for the Black and Yellow. Much like last season, Dortmund failed to secure three points against one of the Bundesliga’s bottom-feeders. With two weeks to prepare for the match with Leverkusen, Dortmund had their first opportunity to showcase their mental growth since last season.
Unlike last season, Dortmund looked focused and confident for the entire 90 minutes. Both Dortmund and Leverkusen exchanged exciting attacks in the opening minutes. While the chances were adding up for both teams, the quality of chances decisively favored the home squad.
Dortmund’s first 5 shots were on target as pace and incisive passive picked apart Leverkusen’s back line. Conversely, Leverkusen’s first 5 shots failed to test Dortmund’s Roman Burki as Dortmund’s back line, led by Mats Hummels, failed to leave any space in the box.
Last season, Dortmund was defined by their inability to breakthrough at times when they looked the better side. However, Dortmund seemed to grow stronger with each missed opportunity, and Achraf Hamkimi lofted a beautiful ball into the box that Paco Alcacer buried to give Dortmund the lead in the 27′.
Dortmund looked calm and confident heading into halftime with a 1-0 lead. The second half brought the same exciting action that opened the first half. Again, Dortmund stayed compact and disciplined defensively as Leverkusen grew more frustrated with each miss. Leverkusen dominated possession, but failed to create any meaningful chances despite their time on the ball.
On the other hand, Dortmund’s beautiful passing and composure in the final third provided a textbook display of Lucien Favre’s brand of football. Even at home, Dortmund sacrificed dominant possession for disciplined defense. Dortmund exploited Leverkusen’s high press with pace and one-touch passing to launch eye-catching counters.
Just 4 minutes into the second half, Jadon Sancho had all the time and space he needed on the right wing to play a pass into the box. Alcacer let the ball slip between his legs for Marco Reus who graciously accepted the invitation to score. The moment was incredibly reminiscent of a similar moment last season where Reus passed up a penalty kick to let Alcacer get his first goal after returning from injury. Alcacer returned the favor today, and even managed to let Sancho keep the assist.
While Leverkusen insisted on playing possession football, Dortmund looked more than comfortable keeping their shape and dropping back defensively to set up the counter attack. In the 82′, Sancho again had time and space on the left wing, and his deflected cross fell perfectly at the feet of Raphael Guerreiro. Guerreiro scored a well-deserved goal to round out his impressive defensive performance.
Late substitutions gave Julian Weigl, Thorgan Hazard and Jacob Brun Larsen the opportunity to leave their mark on Dortmund’s display of dominance, while Axel Witsel, Julian Brandt and Paco Alcacer earned themselves the opportunity to rest up and tend to sore muscles following their solid performances.
Hazard looked energized and healthy as he created space for himself and his teammates in the closing minutes, suggesting that he can contribute to Dortmund’s already-overwhelming attacks. Brun Larsen added his name to the score sheet by setting up Marco Reus for his second goal of the match during the closing moments of stoppage time.
Dortmund finished the match with only 39% possession, but manged to tally 10 shots and 8 on target despite their limited time on the ball. Between Lucien Favre’s tactical prowess and Dortmund’s flawless execution both offensively and defensively, the Black and Yellow left little to be desired in their convincing 4-0 domination of Leverkusen.
If Dortmund’s defeat at Berlin left any questions about the team’s chemistry and maturity, today’s victory suggests that the squad’s maturity and chemistry are fully in tact, as is the squad’s confidence. Dortmund’s dedication to possession football and a high press left them vulnerable in the past. But their flexibility and determination to take advantage of their opportunities suggest the team has grown since last season.
Dortmund are looking to build on this momentum with success in the Group of Death in the Champions League. The Black and Yellow host Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona on Tuesday, September 17 in their Champions League opener.
A 2019 graduate from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Ryan is an aspiring sports writer with a profound passion for the Black and Yellow. On match day, Ryan can likely be seen draped in Dortmund’s colors, perennially pacing the living room of his Ann Arbor apartment. He dreams of one day watching a match from world football’s largest and most impressive standing terrace, The Yellow Wall.