Despite scoring only ten times in the previous eleven match days, it was home side Stuttgart that had the better chances in their 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund. The loss sees the Black and Yellow fall to fifth at the end of the weekend and level on points with Hoffenheim, nine points adrift of first place Bayern.
The story of this match was the shameful defensive display by Dortmund and the shaky play by goalkeeper Roman Burki. German media had written stories last week questioning the security of his place in the starting XI and this match will do nothing to quiet those rumours. The other major storyline was the anticipated absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and unexpected absence of Christian Pulisic. The American sat with a hamstring injury. Coming into the lineup in his stead was Andre Schurrle with Kagawa and Gotze filling out the attacking options with Yarmolenko and Philipp. Sokratis started in his usual spot and was paired with Schmelzer, Bartra, and Toljan in the back.
The match started positively for the visitors. In the third minute, Yarmolenko made the first of his many runs down the right and his ball in found Schurrle, who was pressured just enough by the Stuttgart defence to pull his shot wide. However, just two minutes later Dortmund found themselves trailing. Bartra received the ball in the box and played a hard backpass to Burki, who was caught either unaware or unprepared. His poor touch fed the ball to Akolo who easily strolled around the keeper and dribbled the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead. One minute later, Dortmund had a deja vu moment when Burki tried to pass to an unaware defender. The pass bounced off the Dortmund man to Akolo again, but this time Burki did just enough to snuff out the shot and prevent further damage.
At this point, Dortmund slowly began to build pressure and assert control of the match. However, the Stuttgart defence would stand strong. In the 21st minute, there were some weak shouts for a penalty when Schmelzer went down on a Yarmolenko cross but the referee kept his whistle away and the ball was cleared. Seven minutes later, Mario Gotze had a golden chance to equalize, when he received a bouncing ball 18 yards out and unleashed a strike that the keeper Zieler was able to save. The same occurred eight minutes later as Gotze’s laser strike again was punched away by Zieler to maintain the lead.
One minute into first-half stoppage time, Dortmund finally caught a break. A Gotze pass in the box went off Pavard’s elbow and the referee pointed to the spot. Schurrle took the penalty but the German’s chance was well saved by Zieler. The rebound, however, fell to Max Philipp who had beaten Beck to the ball and Philipp buried into the top of the net, equalizing the score at halftime.
The second half began with Zagadou coming on for a hobbled Sokratis, who seemed to have suffered an abdominal injury. The change did not solve Dortmund’ defensive issues, however. In the 51st minute, Brekalo – who was also a substitute – made a run down the right nearly unmolested. Rather than find a teammate making a run to the middle, he pulled the ball back to create additional space and shot the ball under Burki’s legs. The attempt came on the break as Stuttgart put a ball over the top of the Dortmund Defensive line playing at midfield when they had possession and failed to drop back quickly when they lost the ball.
From this point forward both sides had excellent chances to add goals to the match. For Dortmund, the best chance was in the 70th minute when Yarmolenko broke the defence on the break and chipped the keeper to seemingly tie the score. However, the referee correctly spotted the ball come off the Ukrainian’s arm on a bounce and waived off the goal.
Dortmund now pause in the league for a critical midweek match against Tottenham, who themselves lost a critical league match this weekend. The home side go into the match needing three points but with injury worries to their best defender and outstanding young winger, as well as a disgruntled leading scorer and a keeper whose confidence is questionable at the moment.