11th placed Hertha provided the latest challenge for a Dortmund side that were expected to get their season back on track and take all three points. With only one win in their previous five away games, Dortmund were under pressure to turn their fortunes around or suffer a further slide down the table. What followed was a disappointing game in which the team struggled to convert their chances, just like in the previous game against Wolfsburg. The end result was also down to Hertha’s defensive structure, which kept Dortmund at bay for long periods of the game.
Dortmund settled into possession using their regular 4-3-3 shape. Pulisic came in for Yarmolenko and Schuurle was given an opportunity to start in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Jadon Sancho retained his place for the second game in a row. Pal Dardai’s men looked to sit deep and counter-attack when they regained possession. They set up in a 4-4-1-1 block out of possession that had good coverage across the pitch, which meant that they minimised the time and space Dortmund had, in order to play their usual game. Hertha controlled the central areas perfectly and almost always forced Dortmund wide, where they would work to close down the away side. It was from these areas that they would begin their counter-attacks, which they did to good effect. Their only problem was that they lacked quality when they entered Dortmund’s final 3rd. Several chances were wasted as they failed to get a man on the end of each cross. The first half ended scoreless.
Hertha takes the lead:
The second half began perfectly for the Berliners as they finally got a man on the end of a cross, which put them 1-0 up. After they managed to break through a group of Dortmund players out wide, the ball was crossed into the box from the right, and Selke tapped it in to give Hertha the lead. This shifted the balance of the game as the home side began to play on the front foot, by attacking in a pro-active manner. Pal Dardai then made an adjustment to the team’s formation with 30 minutes left to play. They reverted to their original plan of sitting deep and attacking Dortmund on the break using a 5-3-2 block. Again, Dortmund were completely unable to penetrate through the central areas and this forced them to switch the ball from flank to flank in a U-shape. This means that once the ball went out wide, it was played backwards and then switched to the opposite touchline(as a result of being unable to progress further down the line). They managed to put in several crosses but they were either over hit or blocked by Hertha’s defenders.
In the 70th minute, against the run of play, Dortmund got the equaliser through Kagawa. Jadon Sancho managed to regain possession after a mistake by the Hertha defender and put in a cross for Kagawa to head in, from close range. Unfortunately, this goal did little to change the events of the game and Hertha continued to force Dortmund into wide areas. Stoeger’s side became predictable and were unable to create clear-cut chances despite the large amount of possession they had. Dortmund’s substitutions also had little impact on the game and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Dortmund have now gone two games without a win, resulting in a drop to 6th place. They also face the possibility of having to play without Aubameyang for the rest of the season, should he be sold to another club. They were easy to defend against and might not have gotten an equaliser if it wasn’t for a costly mistake by Hertha that gifted Sancho possession before he assisted Kagawa’s goal. Hertha put in a solid defensive performance and they were unlucky to concede in such a manner. Peter Stoeger will have to make sure that he can get Dortmund firing upfront before the next home game against Freiburg. The Aubameyang saga will also have to be handled quickly in order to avoid distractions that could affect the team’s performance.