The perfect start for Borussia Dortmund! BVB have come through the English week at the start of the year with nine out of a possible nine points and returned to the Champions League places following their 2-0 (1-0) away win in Leverkusen!
Boris Rupert reporting from Leverkusen
Over 6,000 BVB fans among the 30,200 spectators at a sold-out BayArena saw Adeyemi open the scoring for BVB, who had fought their way into the game after some initial difficulties, shortly after the half-hour mark. They then doubled their lead at an important time, with Bayer applying pressure after the break: Tapsoba turned the ball into his own net (53).
After the Saturday games, the teams occupied ninth and sixth place respectively. The Black & Yellows had won three of their previous four meetings with the Werkself, who had only suffered more defeats (52) and conceded more goals (170) to FC Bayern than they had against BVB (35 and 143).
Aside from Morey and Meunier, a full complement of players was available. There were three changes to the starting XI that won 2-1 in Mainz four days ago: Wolf, Bellingham and Haller replaced Guerreiro, Malen and Moukoko, who started on the bench alongside captain Reus (back from illness).
The two teams switched up the systems with which they had both won their two opening matches of 2023; both lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, though with significant differences in their approach. For Dortmund, Can occupied the central defensive position in front of the defence and dropped between the two centre-backs during the build-up play. Bellingham and Özcan occupied the midfield positions on either side. Brandt, who frequently cut inside into the No. 10 position and left space for Wolf on the wing, and Adeyemi (left) started on the flanks with Haller spearheading the frontline. For Leverkusen, Wirtz lined up in the central attacking role but positioned himself significantly behind the two wing-forwards Diaby and Adli. Amiri frequently advanced high up the pitch from his role on the left of midfield.
The match & analysis:
Leverkusen started tenaciously, whereas BVB looked hectic and allowed the hosts to counter early on. Amiri's strike, which hit the side-netting, was their second attempt inside the opening five minutes. Ten minutes had been played by the time Borussia, who were decked out in all-yellow kits, first posed a threat in the Leverkusen penalty area, but Adeyemi did not take the opportunity and Frimpong cleared behind for a corner. In the opening stages of the game in particular, Leverkusen had a lot of space in the middle of the park. Wirtz threaded a well-timed ball from this position through to Diaby, whose strike from a centre-right position drew a lovely save from Kobel (16).
Dortmund started to have a lot more structure to this play midway through the first half. It became more difficult for Leverkusen to break through, while BVB fared better going forward. Wolf won the ball in the 33rd minute – and then things happened quickly! Brandt played a one-two with Bellingham over on the right flank. Haller brilliantly let the cross from the right go through his legs to the unmarked Adeyemi, who drilled home left-footed from near the spot to make it 1-0.
Leverkusen restarted brightly and almost levelled in the 48th minute. But Kobel made an outstanding save against Diaby and Schlotterbeck cleared Adli's follow-up. That made the second goal, which Borussia forced in the 53rd minute, all the more important. Bellingham switched over to Wolf on the right and he fizzed the ball into the middle. The delivery was intended for Bellingham but Leverkusen's Tapsoba turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Haller.
But Bayer kept at it. And Kobel continued to excel between the sticks. He blocked Adli's close-range header with his body (57), then produced an equally strong save with his left foot to deny Diaby (76). But Borussia did not sit back; they continued to compete, repeatedly got into dangerous areas and almost forced Tapsoba into a second own goal with 20 minutes remaining. Brandt fizzed a low ball across the face of goal but Frimpong managed to scrape it off the line.
The introduction of experienced heads Reus and Hummels with five minutes of normal time to go went hand-in-hand with a switch to a back five. BVB subsequently did not allow their opponents any further chances and comfortably saw out the win.
BVB now have a fixture-free week before taking on Sportclub Freiburg on Saturday. That will then be followed by two more away games: against VfL Bochum in the DFB-Pokal (Wednesday 8 February) and against Werder Bremen in the league (Saturday 11 February).
Teams & goals
Bundesliga Matchday 18
BAYER LEVERKUSEN 0-2 (0-1) BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky – Frimpong, Tapsoba, Tah (Bakker, 63), Hincapie – Andrich – Palacios (Hlozek, 70), Amiri (Demirbay, 80) – Wirtz (Bellarabi, 70) – Diaby, Adli (Azmoun, 80)
Bor. Dortmund: Kobel – Wolf (Hummels, 85), Süle, Schlotterbeck, Ryerson – Can – Bellingham, Özcan – Brandt (Reus, 85), Haller (Modeste, 60), Adeyemi (Bynoe-Gittens, 72)
Substitutes: Lomb, Kossounou, Sinkgraven, Fosu-Mensah – Meyer, Reyna, Guerreiro, Moukoko, Malen
Goals: 0-1 Adeyemi (Brandt, 33), 0-2 Tapsoba (Wolf own goal, 53)
Corners: 7-4 (2-4 at half-time), chance ratio: 8-4 (2-1)
Referee: Welz (Wiesbaden), yellow cards: Tapsoba, Wirtz – Adeyemi, Özcan (5th), Modeste, Ryerson
Attendance: 30,201 (sold-out), weather: overcast, 3 degrees