Borussia Dortmund remain a force to be reckoned with at home! BVB emerged victorious against VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 25 of the Bundesliga season, with Reus, Alcácer and Pulisic getting the goals in a 3-1 (0-0) win. The top spot in the table was however claimed by Bayern Munich, who go ahead on goal difference after a thorough demolition of Wolfsburg.
Boris Rupert reporting
Going into the game, BVB had only lost one of their last 15 Bundesliga meetings with VfB, with eight wins in the last ten encounters between the two sides. The visitors from Swabia came into the match having picked up four points in their previous two Bundesliga matches, against Bremen and Hannover.
With Weigl forced to sit out the match due to illness, Hakimi came back into the starting line-up as his replacement. He slotted in at left-back, with Diallo moving inside to play alongside Akanji at the heart of defense. This was the only change to the starting line-up that faced Tottenham on Tuesday. Piszczek and Philipp remained unavailable due to injury (heel and knee ligament respectively), with Toprak and Dahoud both absent due to illness.
The Black and Yellows' attacking endeavours were channeled through a 4-1-4-1 formation. Götze and Reus both played between the lines, with the former generally dropping deep to help out with build-up play and the latter moving up to assist Alcácer up top, meaning the formation often switched to a variation of the classic 4-4-2. The five Dortmund attacking players were faced with a three-man Stuttgart midfield and a five-man defensive line. When the Swabians were in possession of the ball, their defensive 5-3-2 set-up transformed into a 3-4-3, with Beck and Insua leaving the defensive line to join the midfield and Zuber moving up from the middle of the park to accompany Esswein and Gonzalez in attack. This offensive trio formed the first line of the Stuttgart press. Whenever the ball was turned over, VfB reverted back to their 5-3-2 formation.
The match and analysis:
VfB certainly didn't look to barricade themselves in front of their own box; instead they sought to bring the game to Dortmund whenever they had the opportunity to do so. It was in fact the visitors who had the most clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity of the first half: Dortmund gave the ball away in midfield, it arrived at the feet of Zuber, who teed up Gonzalez. His shot evaded the onrushing Bürki, but also crept narrowly wide of the right-hand post (31).
Götze managed to fashion an opportunity for Alcácer in the 3rd minute (with Pavard able divert his goal-bound effort into the side-netting), but this early chance aside, the Black and Yellows were unable to apply the same level of pressure as they had in the match against Tottenham on Tuesday. The visitors from Swabia were doing a good job of shutting down passing lanes, but the home side were nonetheless able to create a few more opportunities: in the 14th minute, Alcácer failed to connect with the ball in the 6-yard-box after some excellent work by Götze, while five minutes later, Reus and Witsel both saw shots on goal blocked in quick succession. After a spell of heavy rainfall, BVB were able to cause problems for VfB goalkeeper Zieler with shots from distance: Sancho tried his luck (37) and then Guerreiro came close not long afterwards (42). BVB had clearly been the better team in the first half (76% possession), but they were unable to make this superiority truly count.
With an hour on the clock, Sancho was brought down right on the edge of the box by Castro and Zuber. The decision was entrusted to VAR, and it was deemed that the foul in fact occurred inside the box. Reus stepped up to take the resultant penalty, and he breathed a sigh of relief as his spot-kick went in off the left-hand post to make the score 1-0 (62). Shortly afterwards, Alcácer was played in on goal by Guerreiro, but his looped effort was unable to get the better of Zieler (69). Down the other end, Kempf met a free-kick delivery from Castro to head the ball into the back of the net and bring the score to 1-1 (71).
Dortmund pressed hard to regain the lead, and Alcácer almost found it from a free-kick in the 77th minute, but his effort flew just wide of the mark. However, six minutes from full-time, the Spaniard got his goal. A long, searching ball from Akanji found Hakimi in space on the left-hand side. He played it to Sancho, who found Reus, whose effort on goal was blocked. The rebound fell to Pulisic, and before the American could get the ball out his feet, the Spaniard had already decided the best way to deal with the situation, smashing the ball into the top corner to make it 2-1 (84). Deep into injury time, Pulisic was on hand to fire the ball home after some nice build-up play by Witsel and Götze to bring the scoreline to 3-1 (90 +2).
BVB are in action next Saturday when they travel to the Olympiastadion in Berlin to face Hertha BSC. Kick-off is at 18:30 CET.