Peter Stoger’s Borussia Dortmund breezed past a 13th-placed Hannover 96 side who looked out of form and out of ideas after a 1-0 defeat away at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park.
Nobody needed a win more than Dortmund or Hannover on Sunday. Both teams have endured a torturous week, with the home side dropping out of the Europa League at the Round of 16 stage after a 0-0 draw to RB Salzburg on Thursday.
This meant they fall out of the competition after losing 2-1 at home for the first time since December 9 against Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
Meanwhile, Hannover continued to struggle in the league having suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat at home against mid-table FC Augsburg having initially equalised through defender Salif Sane.
Both having mediocre seasons for their standards, both managers needed a convincing performance. On Sunday, only Stoger got it with a 1-0 victory over Hannover.
Here are five things we learned from the game at the Signal Iduna Park.
BATSHUAYI CAN REPLACE AUBAMEYANG’S GOALS UPFRONT
After their main source of goals in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left for €65million to Arsenal, many fans wondered who the club would bring in to replace him. Much like his nickname suggests, the ‘Batsman’ has swooped in and saved the day with the goals he has scored for his new side.
I am of course talking about on-loan Chelsea and Belgium forward Michy Batshuayi who has already scored 6 goals in 7 games, proving despite what some critics may say, he is able to play at the highest level and be the focal point for a big side such as Borussia Dortmund.
Yesterday’s performance from the 24-year-old showed he is composed, slick and deadly in front of goal with his first goal of the game the real highlight pulling off an audacious flick at the front post to finish at the far and put his side ahead.
If the Belgian continues to perform like this, many Dortmund fans will soon forget about Aubameyang and hope the club signs him permanently after having a real influence since joining in January.
AKANJI CAN BE A KEY PLAYER FOR DORTMUND
Another January addition for Borussia Dortmund was 22-year-old Swiss international Manuel Akanji who signed from Swiss Super League side Basel for a reported €18million and although he’s been in and out of the first-team, he really impressed against Hannover.
Centre-halves who are able to pass out from the back and are comfortable in possession are becoming more and more of a necessity in the modern, improving the price-tag of those who can and Akanji certainly is one of them.
Numerous times throughout the game against Hannover did the youngster look to pick out teammates further forward with not just a ‘hit-and-hope’ but a well-controlled long pass that allowed the forwards to venture towards the opposition’s goal.
This skill that Akanji clearly possesses is one that can be very beneficial to his new side for years to come and his impressive performance shows what a difference he can make to Dortmund for a little while.
However, given his young age it’s expected he will still make a few mistakes with the odd rash tackle or misplaced pass appearing, but with the experienced internationals he has around him in Omer Toprak and Sokratis, they’ll no doubt teach him how to play in this league. Dortmund have a real prospect on their hands.
DORTMUND DOMINATE POSSESSION
Given the technically-gifted players Dortmund have in their side, in particular, midfielders Gonzalo Castro, Mahmoud Dahoud and Mario Gotze it’s no surprise they bossed a 60% of possession in their game against Hannover.
Throughout the game, there were little passages of play that left the away side watching and admiring and is clearly the way that manager Peter Stoger has asked his side to play and it’s clearly working with Dortmund unbeaten at home since early December.
For fans as well, it’s also a massive improvement with the style of play looking much easier to look and this performance today showed (admittedly against a weaker opposition) that they are capable of playing nice football and grinding out results which they were unable to do at the start of the season.
HANNOVER HAVE TO FEED FULLKRUG
For the away side, however, they didn’t play terribly this game and had the odd chance here and there but they looked at their most dangerous when their top scorer Niclas Füllkrug was involved. But surprisingly, manager André Breitenreiter took him off with just over 15 minutes to go when his side needed a goal most.
The former Germany u20 international has 12 goals in 31 games so far this season and especially in the early exchanges, the forward used his physicality and desire to get in behind to get the better of Dortmund defenders Akanji and Toprak but fans would argue that there were occasions when the striker was left up there on his and the service to support him was too slow in getting there. If Hannover were able to make more use of the threat they had, then they possibly could’ve nicked something from the game but today just wasn’t their day.
HANNOVER HEADS HELD HIGH
Up until the 24th-minute, Hannover looked dangerous and were putting up a fight against a side that were way above them league however after they conceded through a Michy Batshuayi wonder-goal, that desire and motivation just seemed to die down.
Straight after conceding, they didn’t look the same threat they had looked before but instead almost tortoise-like, they curled back towards their own-goal and opted to prevent the home side getting any more goals rather than pushing for an equaliser as they had at the start of the game.
Whilst they were also playing some attractive football to begin, they became a bit more physical after conceding and seemed to try to kick out at the home side to try and get in their heads which as a football fan, you’d rather not see but see the slick football being played by both sides.
If they are to keep away from the relegation places that they continue to slip towards having only picked up 1 point in their last 5 Bundesliga games, then manager Breitenreiter needs to remind his players the level of football they can play if they are to remain in the league for the second successive since being relegated to the second division for the first time in the club’s history.