There were no goals in BVB’s opening game of the New Year: three days after the start of the training camp in Marbella, Borussia Dortmund and the Belgian first division club Standard Liège played out a goalless draw, in a game bereft of highlights.
After arriving on Saturday and two intensive training days, the Black & Yellows faced Standard Liège, fifth in the Belgian Jupiler League, in their opening test of the new year. BVB had to make do without Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard, Paco Alcácer, Erling Haaland, Thomas Delaney and Marcel Schmelzer, who have all missed team training recently. After recovering from a cold, Jacob Bruun Larsen only arrived at training camp this morning. Achraf Hakimi was allowed to travel to Africa's Footballer of the Year award ceremony, where he was nominated for best newcomer. The Moroccan is expected to return to Marbella on Wednesday.
In the opening period, BVB started with the same formation that Lucien Favre had often successfully employed in the Bundesliga towards the end of the first half of the season. Axel Witsel returned to an offensive 3-4-3 system after recovering from a facial injury which he suffered shortly before the winter break. Nine regular BVB first teamers were named in the starting eleven, complimented by forwards Giovanni Reyna (U19s) and Chris Führich (U23s).
Following a quiet start to the game by both sides, the first dangerous moments in front of goal came after 21 minutes when Mario Götze kept his composure on the edge of the box and played in Führich. The 21-year-old did not hesitate and his shot from a central position was turned around the left post by Standard keeper Bodart. Three minutes later, Liège also showed promise in front of BVB goalkeeper Bürki, but Gojko Cimirot's shot flashed just over the crossbar. Both teams attempted to press strongly but with little reward time and time again.
The physically strong Belgians with a robust playing style often made it tough for BVB to play their passing football. Raphael Guerreiro did enjoy two good chances, a direct free kick after 30 minutes and after Brandt's pass (41 minutes) on the counterattack. But following a goalless opening 45 minutes, the Spanish referee blew for half time with the Black & Yellows slightly edging the possession stats.
Borussia made nine changes for the second half, with only Mateu Morey and Chris Führich remaining on the pitch. Just 43 seconds after the restart, the first moments of danger this time came from the Belgian side when Denis Dragus shot dangerously from the edge of the box. However, Marwin Hitz confidently passed his first early test.
The game soon fizzled out thereafter. BVB circulated the ball nicely through their ranks, but the newly formed frontline with Jadon Sancho, U19 player Immanuel Pherai and U23 forward Steffen Tigges lacked penetration. A Sancho free-kick sailed over the Liège bar, Mo Dahoud missed the target with a long-range shot in the 90th minute before the referee blew the final whistle.
BVB: Bürki (Hitz, 46) – Piszczek (Balerdi, 46), Zagadou (Akanji, 46), Hummels (Schulz, 46), Morey, Witsel (Raschl, 46), Brandt (Dahoud, 46), Guerreiro (Pherai, 46), Götze (Sancho, 46), Führich, Reyna (Tigges, 46)
BVB will play their next warm up game at midday this Saturday 11 January behind closed doors against Feyenoord Rotterdam at the training ground. Five hours later, BVB will face Mainz 05 at the Marbella Football Centre.