Borussia Dortmund kicked off Bundesliga Matchday 25 with a hard-fought 1-0 (1-0) victory over Ingolstadt on Friday. The result moves the Black and Yellows to within three points of second place – for one night at least – and opens up a four-point gap over fourth place.
Dennis-Julian Gottschlich reporting
The 81,360 fans at a sold-out SIGNAL IDUNA PARK saw a relatively dogged affair in which BVB only managed to gain the upper hand in spells. In the end Aubameyang's goal in the 14th minute was enough to seal victory for the hosts, who put in a strong defensive display and limited Ingolstadt to a small number of chances that they were not able to convert.
The scenario: BVB, who went into this game in third place, had triumphed 3-0 over Sportfreunde Lotte in midweek to secure a place in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup. This Matchday 25 clash was therefore the third game in the space of seven days for Thomas Tuchel's charges. Ingolstadt travelled to Westphalia second from bottom in the table and had only picked up nine points on the road all season.
Personnel matters: Thomas Tuchel was without Bender (fitness), Dembélé (suspended), Götze (metabolic disorder), Reus (fibre tear) and Rode (groin operation), but Aubameyang, Sokratis (both in starting XI) and Weigl (bench) had recovered in time to play a part. Thomas Tuchel made three changes to the XI that faced Lotte, with Durm joining Aubameyang and Sokratis in the starting line-up in place of Bartra, Schürrle and Dembélé. The only absentee for Ingolstadt was Hartmann, who was suffering from internal bleeding in his thigh.
Tactics: Both teams opted for a similar strategy, employing a 5-3-2 formation when without possession (Kagawa moved level with Aubameyang for BVB, while Kittel played alongside Lezcano for Ingolstadt). The visitors pressed high and looked to win second balls. The hosts, in a 3-2-4-1 when in possession, lined up with a back three protected by Castro and Guerreiro, who played a slightly more offensive role than his defensive midfield partner. In front of them was the quartet of Durm, Pulisic, Kagawa and Schmelzer in offensive midfield, while Aubameyang operated as the lone frontman.
The match & analysis: While the Black and Yellows showed their attacking intent through Aubameyang and Sokratis in the second and tenth minutes respectively, albeit without ever really threatening to score, Ingolstadt barely had a sniff in the opening quarter of an hour. So on the balance of play it was no surprise when Aubameyang put the hosts ahead in the 14th minute following build-up play from Kagawa, who turned Matip in midfield with a drop of his shoulder before playing in Schmelzer down the left flank. The BVB captain latched onto the pass and perfectly timed his cross into the box to the Gabon international, who steered the ball inside the left post with his instep from ten metres out.
It seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the visitors, whose effort through Lezcano was deflected behind off Sokratis (18) before Leckie headed goalbound from three metres out from the ensuing corner. But Bürki made a sensational save with his foot on the line and then punched the ball clear of the danger zone (19). It subsequently developed into a rather even clash, with Ingolstadt continuing to make life difficult for their hosts. Morales headed narrowly wide for FCI from six metres out (27), then Bürki made an outstanding double-save, denying Cohen before charging out to block Kittel's follow-up effort in the 39th minute. Pulisic and Durm had both missed chances in the same move for BVB (29), while Schmelzer shot wide of the mark from a narrow angle (41), as did Guerreiro from a similar position on the stroke of half-time (45).
BVB struggle after the break
The next heart-in-mouth moment for Borussia came directly after the restart when a Ginter clearance rebounded off the chest of Sokratis and into the path of Ingolstadt forward Leckie, who was clean through on Bürki's goal but fortunately fired high over the crossbar (46). The BVB shot-stopper was back in the thick of the action six minutes later when he gathered the ball from the feet of Lezcano in the box but brought the Paraguayan down in the process, however referee Daniel Siebert waved away appeals for a penalty. At the other end Sokratis poked the ball goalbound from a corner but his effort on the volley crept centimetres wide (54).
BVB continued to struggle to carve open clear opportunities against a physically strong Ingolstadt side for what remained of the game. Instead it was the visitors who were making the play, though they ultimately created just as little as their North Rhine-Westphalian hosts. Durm attempted a long-range effort that FCI custodian Hansen saved comfortably (74). BVB continued to let FCI make the play but defended strongly and did not give away any more gilt-edged chances. Only Matip managed to get a shot away from 13 metres out with two minutes remaining, but it sailed over Bürki's goal, as did a Suttner free-kick from 25 metres out (90+1) and a Leckie effort deep into stoppage time (90+4).
Prospects: With the Bundesliga now pausing for the international break, it's time to take a breather for BVB. But the domestic campaign is set to resume with a bang on Saturday 1 April (15:30 CET), when Borussia Dortmund travel to Gelsenkirchen for the 150th Ruhr Derby with Schalke.