Borussia Dortmund's unbeaten run finally ended on Matchday 16 of the Bundesliga season as they suffered a 2-1 (1-0) defeat at the hands of Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Boris Rupert reporting from Düsseldorf
The 52,000 spectators − among them around 8,000 BVB fans − at a sold-out Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf saw Fortuna take a 22nd-minute lead when Lukébakio converted following a counter, and the hosts would have added another before the break had Usami not missed an open goal. Reus had a goal disallowed at the other end. A Zimmer piledriver 10 minutes into the second half made it 2-0, before Alcácer halved the deficit with a header nine minutes from time.
Since 1986, BVB have only lost one of their 14 Bundesliga clashes with Fortuna and have won on three of their last four visits (Bundesliga and DFB Cup) to Düsseldorf. This match was a meeting between the second-best away team in the division (two draws followed by five wins) and a club whose home form has been unpredictable at best, with three wins and five defeats.
Marcel Schmelzer, who made his comeback in the UEFA Champions League a week ago after three months out, made his return to domestic action at left-back in place of Hakimi. There were three other changes to the Dortmund starting XI that beat Werder Bremen 2-1 three days ago, with Pulisic, Bruun Larsen and Götze beginning in place of Sancho, Guerreiro and Alcácer (all bench). The only offensive player to keep his place was Reus.
Dortmund lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system in which Bruun Larsen frequently cut inside from the left flank to make space for the overlapping Schmelzer, meaning the formation resembled more of a 3-2-4-1 whenever the visitors had the ball. Meanwhile, right-winger Pulisic tried to make the most of the width of the pitch against a deep-lying home side that took to the field in a defensive-minded 4-5-1 formation, pressing whichever BVB player had possession very aggressively and launching lightning-fast counters once they had the ball back.
The match & analysis:
BVB had 75 percent possession in the first half, but it was Düsseldorf who had the first shot on goal through Lukébakio in the third minute. That was followed by the first moment of real danger six minutes later when Usami burst into the box from the left but opted not to square the ball to the unmarked Zimmer and instead fired wide. BVB, meanwhile, first posed a threat in the penalty area in the 16th minute, with Pulisic and Götze linking up nicely before Reus drilled the ball into the bottom corner. But the goal was disallowed, as Pulisic was deemed to be offside and in Rensing's line of sight.
While BVB were camped around the Düsseldorf box, they were ruthlessly hit on the counter. The move started when Reus was dispossessed in his own half and Stöger threaded the ball through to Lukébakio, who sprinted clear of Akanji and Diallo before burying the ball past Bürki from 16 metres (22).
The visitors' shortcoming was that they only managed to combine with speed on rare occasions. But when they did manage to inject more pace into their play − as was the case after 32 minutes when Pulisic and Bruun Larsen combined to set up Götze, whose shot was comfortably saved by Rensing − Fortuna's defences were quickly breached. At the other end, the hosts squandered a golden chance to double their lead on the 38-minute mark when Usami attempted to connect with a cross from the right flank inside the six-yard box but sent his effort wide with the goal gaping.
Akanji had picked up a knock and was replaced by Toprak at the interval. But there was little the centre-back could do to prevent the second goal 10 minutes later. Fortuna attacked down the left and Usami played a cross-field pass towards Zimmer, whose piledriver from the corner of the box flew into the top corner and put the hosts 2-0 in front.
Favre reacted by making a double substitution, bringing on Sancho and Alcácer in place of Bruun Larsen and Delaney. Götze dropped deeper but was still expected to offer creativity and impetus from defensive midfield (60). The Black & Yellows had Fortuna camped inside their own box and were piling on the pressure, with a Götze effort blocked at the last second on 71 minutes before Piszczek was denied by Rensing from a narrow angle a minute later. But more often than not, Düsseldorf managed to get bodies in the way and thwart the danger.
The only breakthrough came on 81 minutes when Sancho danced past several opponents before picking out Piszczek, whose cutback from the byline was headed into the net by Alcácer. But as a hectic match entered its final stages, BVB could not carve out the chance they needed to draw level.
The pre-Christmas fixture pile-up draws to a close on Friday (kick-off 20:30 CET) when Borussia Dortmund welcome VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach to Signal Iduna Park for the final match before the winter break.