Borussia Dortmund 2-3 RB Leipzig: Tactical Analysis
Borussia Dortmund’s unbeaten streak came to an end this Saturday, courtesy of a 2-3 home loss by RB Leipzig. This result – combined with Bayern Munich’s 5-0 thrashing of Freiburg – closed the gap between table leaders Dortmund and Bayern, who are currently second, to two points.
The match was highlighted by good tempo, Leipzig’s high conversion rate (an impressive 42% compared to Dortmund’s 13%) and two red cards, one for each team, with the one of Sokratis in the 47th minute being crucial for the match, as it came with a penalty kick for Leipzig, which Augustin fired in, making it 1-3. Borussia Dortmund tried a full come – back to the match, Aubameyang scored his second of the night – also a penalty – in the 64th minute, but eventually the ‘’Yellows’’ fell short and lost for the first time this season in Bundesliga.
Borussia Dortmund: Burki / Sokratis – Toprak – Zagadou – Toljan / Nuri Sahin – Castro – Gotze / Yarmolenko – Philipp – Aubameyang.
RB Leipzig: Gulasci / Ilsanker – Upamecano – Bernardo – Halstenberg / Kampl – Keita – Sabitzer – Bruma / Poulsen – Augustin.
Jeremy Toljan started at the right-back instead of Piszczek (knee injury) and Nuri Sahin was again available after suffering a back injury. The question here was whether the two central midfielders (Sahin and Castro) would cope against Leipzig’s intense pressing, considering their slow feet and the fact that none of them is a typical defensive midfielder.
For Leipzig, Timo Werner was available, but never came in, contrary to Naby Keita, who returned from a three – match ban, ready to play a significant role in exploiting Dortmund’s central weakness mentioned before.
We see here – from the very early stages of the game – how Leipzig’s players are shaping a triangle on the left flank, which drags Sokratis out of position, leaving a wide uncovered area inside his penalty box. (Sokratis had one of his worst performances under a yellow shirt, but we will come to this later.)
We can see Sahin trying to cover the area Sokratis has left, which leads to a 2 vs 2 situation inside the penalty box. The defence has lost its numerical advantage, which can lead to dangerous results.
It’s crystal clear how Leipzig attempted to start their pressing from a very high position from the start of the match. From a statistical point of view this pressing had little result, as Dortmund had just one error in the whole match and a good enough 82% success in passes.
Here is the first case where Dortmund’s midfielders where dispossessed by their opponents, leaving their four defenders to confront also four Leipzig players, who placed themselves between Dortmund’s lines.
Borussia can press too though; in fact, they are extremely good at this. No surprise then that the opening goal of the match came from Aubameyang’s pressing, who stole the ball from Ilsanker just outside the penalty box area and had no problem to score his 9th goal of the season.
Ralph Hasenhuttl didn’t change his plans after falling behind, his players kept pressing high up the pitch, trying to win back the ball immediately after they lost it.
It didn’t take long for Leipzig to equalise. Kevin Kampl took a free kick, Halstenberg took the first header and Marcel Sabitzer beat both Gotze(!!) and Burki for the 1 – 1.
This was a clear sign of Dortmund’s bad night defensively, as Leipzig’s players won easily two aerial duels and none of their defenders was marking Sabitzer – who was right in front of the goal – Gotze found himself there instead.
Leipzig’s second goal confirms what has been said above. Bruma starts from a left position, passes Toljan with an excellent move and turns the ball in for Poulsen at the right time, who scores one of the easiest goals that he could score, since Sokratis didn’t manage to place himself in front of him to reach the ball first.
Throughout the first half Dortmund dominated an unpalatable possession (66.1% – 33.9% overall). Leipzig’s intense press led them to keep returning the ball to Burki, who was forced to a lot of long balls with little result of course. Gotze played in a deeper position than usual, in order to help his central midfielders with possession and distribution of the ball, but failed to deliver. He also came in a right position – he started at a left central position, but that didn’t make any difference either.
With the start of the second half Peter Bosz brought in Weigl and Pulisic for Toljan and Sahin in an attempt to provide his side with the essential width plus a firm defensive presence in midfield in Julian Weigl. These moves had a small impact however, due to the continuous errors from Dortmund’s defenders, that eventually handed Leipzig the win.
We already said that Sokratis had a bad night defensively but he wasn’t good at distributing the ball forward either which was confirmed with the opening of the second half. A bad challenge early on the second half against Augustin – stole the ball outside the penalty box area once again – led to a penalty and a second yellow card for the Greek defender. Augustin converted the penalty making it 1-3 for ‘’Die Roten Bullen’’, leaving Peter Bosz trying to find how his team will return to the match, now with ten men on the pitch.
Marc Bartra came in for Philipp not long after and Yarmolenko was told to move in a more central position to support Aubameyang, leaving Pulisic and Zagadou in right and left flank respectively.
This exact width that Dortmund had now gave them the chance to show signs of life by making the 2-3 after a strict penalty, won and scored by Aubameyang.
Zagadou found himself uncovered near the line, received the ball and dragged the defender that was marking Aubameyang out of position, which left the Gabonese free to run with the ball towards the penalty box area and win the penalty.
Unfortunately for Dortmund that was all. Leipzig managed to keep the lead, despite some late efforts from Peter Bosz’s players, who were caught offside most of the times, thus securing Leipzig a big away win against Bundesliga leaders.
Concerns about Dortmund’s line-up proved realistic, as their midfielders didn’t at any part of the game manage to find a solution against their opponents intense pressing.
Combined with a poor overall defensive display from Dortmund’s men it came as no surprise that they suffered their first defeat in 8 matches.
Leipzig had a good defensive organisation, didn’t panic after left behind early in the match and turned out to be more aggressive than their opponents, something that gave them the win eventually – they outperformed Bosz’s men in tackles (14 – 26), interceptions (12- 19) and aerial duels (16 – 22).
It will be interesting to see how Dortmund will react to their first defeat of the season – with Bayern now only two points behind them -, starting with a must win Champions League match against APOEL Nicosia on Tuesday.