Borussia Dortmund returned to the top of the table with a 4-2 (0-2) victory in Leverkusen on Matchday 6 of the Bundesliga season. Bayer could have gone 3-0 ahead at one point but failed to capitalise and BVB came back in style in what was a breathtaking battle.
Boris Rupert reporting from Leverkusen
The 30,210 fans at a sold-out BayArena saw Leverkusen take the chances that came their way in the first half, surging into a two-goal lead through Weiser (9) and Tah (39), but BVB did not let their heads drop and restored parity through Bruun Larsen (65) and Reus (69) before an Alcácer brace completed the comeback in the closing stages (85, 90+4).
Leverkusen had turned around their poor early-season form by claiming three successive wins in all competitions, while Dortmund were the only club in the division yet to lose this term and boasted an extremely positive record at the BayArena, where they had only been beaten on one of their previous 11 visits.
Coach Lucien Favre only made one change to his side, who were playing the fifth of seven fixtures in the space of 23 days, with Diallo replacing Schmelzer (rested) in the starting XI. Among the other absentees for the Swiss tactician were Piszczek (minor muscular problems), Toprak, Toljan, Rode (all injured) and Götze, who is ill. Wolf and Guerreiro returned to the squad.
Diallo returned to the team after serving a one-match suspension, starting on the left of defence in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the first time. For long spells, BVB struggled to deal with the intense pressing from the home side, who also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation when in possession. Upon losing the ball, the hosts would have three or four players pressure the Black & Yellows and then revert to a 4-4-2 once the first line of pressing had been overcome.
The match & analysis:
Bayer Leverkusen's tactic of crowding out the Borussia Dortmund player in possession presented the visitors with opportunities to switch the play with diagonal balls and thus create superiority in numbers. The first such moment came in the 11th minute, when Pulisic burst into the penalty area from the right and shot from a centre-right position 13 metres out, but goalkeeper Hradecky made the save with an outstretched arm.
It was an excellent opportunity to cancel out the early opener from Leverkusen, who had broken the deadlock when Lars Bender won the ball back and launched an attack down the left that culminated in Alario picking out Weiser. The full-back's drilled effort from a centre-right position 20 metres out fizzed into the far corner (9).
During a spell in which it looked likelier that Dortmund would level rather than Leverkusen extend their lead – Hradecky made a top stop to deny a Reus free-kick from 25 metres (36) – BVB failed to properly clear a corner and the loose ball fell to the unmarked Tah, who drilled home from seven metres (39). It was the first time this season BVB had found themselves two goals behind, though the first-half statistics – Leverkusen boasted more shots (6-5) but Dortmund won more challenges (51 percent) and saw more of the ball (56 percent) – did not necessarily reflect the scoreline.
Two-goal deficit at the interval
After the break – during which Delaney was replaced by Dahoud – it proved surprising to see that Leverkusen were willing to play an open game, with four-on-four attacks taking place at both ends of the pitch. Only two minutes had elapsed after the restart when Reus almost halved the deficit after receiving the ball from Bruun Larsen and curling it narrowly over the crossbar from 12 metres. At the other end, Bürki deflected a Brandt effort behind for a corner (50), before Volland struck the upright with a 55th-minute shot, and Bürki was then called into action again when Havertz struck goalbound from a centre-right position (57).
Bruun Larsen and Reus restore parity
Borussia had no intention of settling for a defeat and Bruun Larsen came close with an effort from 15 metres that was saved by Hradecky (62), though the breakthrough finally came a short while later. Hakimi crossed from the right-back position, with Reus drilling the ball across the face of goal from the corner of the six-yard box and, when Hradecky spilt it, Bruun Larsen beat team-mate Alcácer to the loose ball to slot home from two metres (65).
The equaliser came four minutes later when Reus drove through the middle before playing a quick one-two with substitute Sancho and drilling the return ball from the young Englishman into the corner with power and venom (69).
Deft touch from Alcácer makes it 3-2
Leverkusen looked shaky by this point. Alcácer shot following a Reus cross but a Bayer player put it behind for a corner, although Borussia eventually completed the comeback in the 85th minute when Alcácer picked out Hakimi on the right. The Morocco international fizzed the ball back in and an outstretched leg from the former Barcelona man guided the ball inside the far post to make the score 3-2! Unbelievable!
Bayer threw everything forward in stoppage time, Tah heading narrowly wide from five metres (90+1) before Alcácer slotted into an empty net three minutes later after Hradecky had come up for a corner...
Borussia Dortmund now have two consecutive home games, the first a UEFA Champions League encounter with AS Monaco on Wednesday evening (kick-off 21:00 CET) and the second a meeting with FC Augsburg (Saturday, 15:30 CET).