Borussia Dortmund returned to winning ways on Matchday 4 of the Bundesliga season, beating their Champions League rivals Bayer Leverkusen by a 4-0 (1-0) scoreline thanks to goals from Alcácer, Guerreiro and Reus, who netted a second-half brace.
Boris Rupert reporting
The 81,365 spectators in attendance at a sold-out Signal Iduna Park witnessed an exciting encounter that the away side bossed in the opening stages. But it was the Black & Yellows who got the first goal through Alcácer in the 28th minute, having earlier come close when efforts from Reus and Brandt were brilliantly kept out by visiting shot-stopper Hradecky. The first half ended with Leverkusen having dominated possession (65 percent) and Dortmund having had all the chances (3-0). Reus made it 2-0 five minutes after the restart, before Guerreiro found the net seven minutes from time and Reus added another in the 90th minute to round off a comfortable win.
BVB had taken 13 out of a possible 15 points from their previous five meetings. At home, they had won the last four clashes and scored at least three goals on each occasion. While the Black & Yellows lost 3-1 away to Union Berlin on Matchday 3 – their first defeat of the season – the Werkself continued their unbeaten start (W2 D1).
There were two changes to the starting XI that lined up in Berlin before the international break, with Guerreiro and Witsel stepping in to replace Weigl (bench) and Piszczek, who withdrew late on with muscular problems. Hazard was available again and started on the bench, but Schulz (foot) and Morey (shoulder) were still out. Akanji, who had sustained an ankle injury on international duty, was given the all-clear to play.
It was only when Hakimi started to push forward into midfield that BVB gained a measure of control in the game, which was dominated by the visitors in the opening 20 minutes. When their hosts won corners, a Bayer side operating in a highly flexible 4-3-3 system positioned their front three on the halfway line. Right-wing forward Havertz repeatedly dropped into a centre-right position, leaving space for the attack-minded right-back Lars Bender to overlap down the flank and support the offence. In the middle of the park, Baumgartlinger and Aranguiz frequently switched positions. BVB, meanwhile, lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. But their attempts to counter-attack at speed were initially hindered by a low pass completion rate.
The match & analysis:
While the visitors pressed high with up to four players surrounding the BVB box, the hosts lacked their usual confidence on the ball and allowed themselves to revert to long balls. Bayer dominated the match with long passages of possession but were rarely ever allowed into dangerous positions by Hummels and Akanji at the heart of defence.
Dortmund needed approximately 20 minutes to find their way into the game – but truly came alive once they had. In the 24th minute, Alcácer cut the ball back to Reus in the box but he was denied by the outstanding reactions of Hradecky, who made another excellent stop to keep out former Leverkusen man Brandt's follow-up.
The breakthrough eventually came four minutes later, however, when Hakimi won the ball on the right flank, got in behind the full-back and delivered a pinpoint cross towards Alcácer, who volleyed home with his left foot (28). The Spaniard has now found the net in every one of his eight appearances this season at club and international level. BVB could have doubled their advantage shortly after the half-hour mark, but Tah arguably handled the ball following Witsel's cutback in the box and Hradecky palmed Hakimi's follow-up onto the crossbar (33).
Leverkusen switched things up at the break, replacing Amiri with Bailey and changing to a clear 4-3-3 with Havertz in the number eight role. They were soon hit on the counter, however. If Akanji meant that first-time ball down the line, it was world class: Sancho was put through down the right and the Englishman immediately sought out Alcácer, who surprised the Leverkusen rearguard by letting the ball run through to Reus. The captain comfortably struck the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0 (50).
Bürki was only called into action for the first time in the 63rd minute, blocking a Havertz effort with an outstretched leg after a misplaced pass had allowed the Leverkusen youngster in. BVB were happy to let their opponents have the ball but remained solid at the back and eventually put the game to bed seven minutes from time. The move started with Hazard and Guerreiro, before Delaney switched the play with an intelligent pass out to the right flank. Sancho crossed into the centre but Hradecky could only clear to the feet of Guerreiro, who slotted home the third (83). As the 90th minute approached, a counter involving Hazard and Bruun Larsen was slotted home by Reus in the six-yard box.
The UEFA Champions League gets under way on Tuesday (21:00 CET), with Borussia Dortmund hosting Barcelona in their opening game. That will be followed by a Bundesliga trip to Eintracht Frankfurt a week on Sunday.