The Signal Iduna Park was bubbling with optimism following Dortmund’s passage into the Europa League Round of 16. They sat level on points with Schalke in 2nd place, with Dortmund just ahead due to a superior goal difference. The Augsburg game presented a tricky challenge that promised to test Peter Stoeger’s tactical acumen and test him it did. Augsburg had a decent performance but ultimately the home side were unable to impose themselves on the game and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Dortmund take an early lead:
Prior to kick-off, Peter Stoeger made two changes to the lineup, bringing in Omer Toprak and Marcel Schmelzer for Manuel Akanji and Jeremy Toljan respectively. It was the first time in months that Dortmund had played with what many would view as their first choice starting line up. The front four of Batshuayi, Reus, Gotze, and Schurrle, hinted towards an attacking spectacle given their incredible potential. Both Schurrle and Reus had been at their best in the previous games and they were both involved in the goal that helped Dortmund take the lead.
Mid-table dwellers Augsburg used a 5-4-1/5-2-3 shape that was set up to deny Dortmund as much space as possible in dangerous areas. Their formation was flexible in and out of possession(as will be explained later) and they did a great job of matching Dortmund’s tempo. That was until they let themselves down 15 minutes into the game following some very poor defending. Marco Reus did well to beat Danso and Koo with a pass in between the pair, that allowed Gotze to continue the attack. The German maestro then played a ball to Schurrle who was ahead of him and the winger put in a cross that Hinteregger struggled to deal with. Reus who had continued his run from deep, followed up on the rebound to put the hosts ahead. The goal came against the run of play and it changed the dynamic of the game in favour of the visitors.
Augsburg take control in all phases of the game:
Dortmund started confidently and controlled the majority of possession throughout the opening half. Their counter-pressing and pressing moments were well executed, allowing them to regain possession as soon as they lost it and continue with their attack. However, things changed after Reus’ opener.
The visitors utilized a space-oriented man marking system and set up their 5-4-1/5-2-3 formation in midfield. Caiuby and Schmid marked the halfspaces, while Koo and Moravek guarded the central axis. The front three were key in preventing Dortmund’s centre-backs, from playing the ball straight into the midfielders and their compact shape allowed them to do that.
Dortmund tried to play around the visitors’ block on several occasions but they were constantly outnumbered, especially when they tried cutting in from the flanks. This resulted in constant turnovers, which Augsburg used to their advantage.
As mentioned, they lost the ball in wide areas on several occasions because they were outnumbered. This made their counter-pressing ineffective as Augsburg used their numerical advantage to play their way out of pressure. Whenever they regained possession, Augsburg would take every opportunity they got to exploit Dortmund on the break. Dortmund were particularly vulnerable in midfield where most of Augsburg’s counter-attacks started from. They looked to switch play to the opposite flank whenever they dispossessed Dortmund of the ball in order to take advantage of their poor preparation in transition. This approach was effective and a big reason for its effectiveness were the wingbacks, Max and Framberger. They provided much-needed width allowing Caiuby and Schmid to take up more central positions, giving them a good balance to their structure. Luckily for the hosts, they didn’t create any quality goal-scoring opportunities, which, allowed them to reset their attack and restart their build-up play. And for 55 minutes the game followed this pattern until a costly error let Augsburg back in the game.
Dahoud’s introduction and Danso’s equalizer:
Dortmund’s inability to create chances was not only because Augsburg dominated the central axis but they lacked a player who could play key passes in advanced areas. Castro’s lack of creativity was a major burden for Dortmund as it forced Weigl to move into higher areas in the hope of affecting the game. This was another reason why Dortmund were so easily counter-attacked because they lacked solid counter-cover. Dahoud’s introduction allowed Weigl to remain in his deep-lying position while the former Moenchengladbach prodigy did what he did best in advanced areas…but not before Augsburg got back into the game.
In the 70th minute, Augsburg managed to play out of a Dortmund press out on their left-hand side once again. They switched play to the right and Danso carried the ball from inside of his own half into Dortmund’s final 3rd before they won a throw-in and eventually a corner. This just goes to show how easily Augburg could get forward once they played their way out of Dortmund’s counter-press. Danso was on hand to tap in from 3-yards out following Roman Burki’s depressing blunder. It was at this point that Dahoud began to push the team forward and helped quicken the passing tempo. He found his teammates in tight spaces but crucial in advanced areas in behind Augsburg’s defensive lines. The final 15 minutes, saw Dortmund increase the pace of their combinations out wide and they placed more emphasis on moving the ball down one side and switching play. Just like the visitors did. However Dortmund, given their outstanding quality created more chances than their counterparts. In the end, though, they wasted all of their opportunities, which meant that the score remained at 1-1 at the final whistle.
In the end, it was a game of two halves in which Dortmund’s dominance was split into the opening 15 minute and the final 30, while Augsburg controlled proceedings in between. Dortmund lacked a creative, intelligent midfielder that would’ve created more chances throughout the match against a dense Augsburg defence, and they paid for it. Credit must be given to Augsburg however, for the way they set out to defend. They did so effectively and attacked effectively too. And at the end of it all, both.