Dortmund Unenergized in Europa League Defeat versus RB Salzburg

Talking Points Borussia Dortmund

Over the weekend, Dortmund showed how to counteract a well-organised, dangerous club owned by an energy drink company. BVB did not show the same type of discipline Thursday and fell 2-1 at home to RB Salzburg in the first leg of their Europa League draw. Dortmund now have to travel to Wals-Siezenheim in a week’s time and score some goals, something that in recent matches has become an issue.

As Dean stated in the preview of this match:

You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a favourable tie for Peter Stoeger and his men. After all, they are hardly a powerhouse of European football and the Austrian Bundesliga is hardly up to the standard of its German namesake. You would be forgiven for thinking that, but you also be mistaken. Salzburg are an extremely well drilled and quality side. They are remarkably unbeaten in their previous seventeen games in continental competition and only conceded one goal during the group stages.

Again he proved prescient. Here are some talking points from yesterday’s shocking result.

Is Dortmund’s Bench More Shallow Than We Thought?

The starting XI looked nearly identical to the players we saw over the weekend versus the other energy drink-owned club. The main changes were in the defence: Sokratis replacing Akanji and Gonzalo Castro (BVB’s utility man) came in for an injured Piszczek. Otherwise, the same players asked to create scoring chances and give BVB the advantage going to Austria came up with only one goal.

In the past five matches, Dortmund have scored five goals. That’s the same amount as they have allowed, but the attack that throughout this campaign has exploded at times and has the players to score at will is currently fizzling. Batshuayi looks a step slower and out of ideas, likely because the sharp increase in playing time has finally caught up to him. With this obvious, in this match Stoeger turned to Max Philipp who is not replicating his early season form. Christian Pulisic showed signs of breaking out of his doldrums with a nice assist, but looking down the bench there was an obvious lack of impact players available to score the needed second goal. Part of that is due to injuries – Jadon Sancho is close to a return while Andriy Yarmolenko can make a difference when healthy – but part of this is a current reliance on a handful of players to do great things to win. Salzburg meanwhile showed that a well-organized, smart side can handle this team of names.

Defence Still Baffles With Dumb Mistakes

The problems with the backline extend beyond just the two goals, but let us look at those as examples of the continuing issues with Dortmund and defence. The first goal came via a penalty, won by utter stupidity on the part of Omar Toprak. The Turkey national grabbed Hee-Chan Hwang as he ran into the box, and when your best defence on why it was not a penalty is he began grabbing him just outside of it, that says much about your play at that moment. The second goal from Valon Berisha – converter of the penalty – was equally embarrassing. The Salzburg man had some space, cut back to create more, smoked a cigarette, ordered a pie, renewed his lease on his sports car, and scored the goal. Now I exaggerate of course – he probably outright purchases his vehicles – but the point remains that he had more space and time than Doctor Who.

Change managers because of confusion in the back, and hire a more pragmatic manager. Confusion remains in critical matches. At some point this is an area of the pitch where the club needs to try to acquire more than just Akanji.

The ugly loss overshadows a wonderful ceremony on another ugly loss

Prior to kickoff of the match, the club held a thank you ceremony for Marc Bartra. The Spanish fullback/winger suffered the most physically from the team bus attack last year and mentally was having trouble moving past the experience, understandably so. Although he has since been transferred back to Spain, it was apparent he holds Dortmund and the fans in the highest regard.

The team bus incident and Bartra’s departure is a sad reminder that life sometimes interferes with sport. We can all be glad he is spending time back home and playing well, and that the club is giving him the sendoff he deserves.

Stat of the match

Dortmund have won only one of their last eleven European matches and have lost four of their last six European matches at home. Of the last eleven overall matches, they’ve drawn three and lost seven.