While the fans outside were still celebrating and giving loud voice to their title aspirations, a dour Peter Bosz sat in front of the assembled pressmen and women. "That was our worst game during my time here at BVB", asserted the manager of the team currently atop the Bundesliga summit, after a hard fought 2-1 win against FC Augsburg.
It was the proverbial game of two halves – two radically contrasting halves. The first 45 minutes of the match saw BVB play good, flowing football going forwards, and alongside the two goals wrought by Andrey Yarmolenko (scored through the mêlée by way of a back-heel) and Shinji Kagawa (perfectly executed dink), they had six further good opportunities on goal (one of which was a one-on-one involving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after a fine pass from Marc Bartra). The statisticians counted a shots on goal ratio of 10-3 and possession of 73% – for the visitors.
Bürki prevents them from equalising 2-2
It certainly was not the Borussia men's finest first half performance of the season thus far, but the second darkened the manager's mood so much so that he was moved to speak of "the worst game we have played during my time here at BVB". His team were certainly erratic during the second passage of play, and only managed to work two further chances on goal for themselves (one of which Aubameyang's missed penalty). Ultimately they were grateful to the attentive Roman Bürki, who remained unflappable in the face of chaotic scenes both in and in front of his area, and who managed to frustrate Caiuby with a fantastic reflex save. In doing so, he denied Augsburg what would have been a not entirely undeserved equaliser given the run of play in the second half (a 7-4 shots on goal ratio and 51% possession for the Augsburg men).
"We had plenty of space in the first half, but we did not play good football. In the second half, we did not play anything remotely approximating football", opined Bosz, who was only "really happy" with the result.
Notwithstanding Piszczeck (608 from a possible 630 possible minutes of playing time), Aubameyang (624) and Sokratis (622), the workload had been shouldered fairly evenly by ten different players across the congested fixture schedule of the last two weeks, and so Bosz was adamant that the poor 45 minutes in Augsburg could not be attributed to physical fatigue. He remained unquestioned on the issue of mental load and the consequences of eight days' worth of travel during this hectic period of matches.
Pass completion not as good as normal
Similar to the Hamburg game (there, 77%), the Borussia boys' pass completion rate in Augsburg was conspicuously poor, and at 75%, was their worst yet in this still young season. In their other encounters, they have enjoyed an average of 88%, a high of 92% constituting their best effort hitherto. Just in the first 15 minutes of the second half, BVB misplaced 20 passes after only 27 such errors altogether during the first passage of play. Again similar to HSV, FCA had coerced BVB into playing long balls.
"Games like today's, in which you have to battle and force yourself to work hard, those are the important ones", noted Roman Bürki after the sixth victory in seven league games so far. With 19 points – never before in the history of the club have the team amassed so many by this stage of the season – Borussia are at the head of the table, and have a five-point lead after Sunday's matches.
The senior team players who have remained in Dortmund can now take a brief breather. But the "perpetual players" must continue to work, having been called up to represent their national associations. That means more minutes played – and plenty of flight time. Boris Rupert