Borussia Dortmund beat Hertha BSC 1-0 (0-0) in the Matchday 30 game of the round on Saturday evening. Emre Can scored the only goal of the match in the 57th minute to secure a deserved and hard-fought victory.
The Black & Yellows netted their 55th second-half goal of the season to claim three important points in the race for a UEFA Champions League berth – on a day when their direct rivals Rasenballsport Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach all dropped points.
Second-placed Borussia had won seven of their previous eight matches, while Hertha had taken 10 out of a possible 12 points from their four Bundesliga games under new coach Bruno Labbadia – scoring 11 goals and conceding two. BVB went into this one unbeaten in five Bundesliga meetings with the capital club (W3 D2).
Haaland might have been back in training but the striker, who had not played since suffering a minor knee injury in the match against Bayern Munich, was deemed not ready for a starting berth or even a place on the bench. Also absent were Hummels (suspended for accumulating five bookings), Dahoud (knee injury), Reus (fitness training), Götze (attending birth of child), Schulz (muscular problems) and Zagadou (torn lateral collateral ligament). There was only one change to the team that had beaten SC Paderborn 6-1 the week beforehand: Hummels made way, Witsel came in...
Dortmund opted for a 3-4-3 system in which the Belgian partnered Delaney in central defensive midfield, while Can dropped back and lined up at the heart of the back three between Piszczek and Akanji. Hertha took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 system and relied on quick switch-play after winning the ball. But they refrained from the offensive pressure they had deployed in previous games.
The match & analysis:
It was very much a case of one-way traffic in the opening 30 minutes. BVB dominated, disrupted their visitors early with high pressing and often forced them into long balls that were swiftly turned over and diverted into the next attack. By the 25th minute, the hosts had recorded 80 percent possession, won 80 percent of the challenges and completed 92 percent of their passes. There had, however, only been two or three dangerous moments in front of the Hertha goal. In the eighth minute, Hakimi struck the side-netting following a decisive intervention by Mittelstädt. Hazard appeared surprised after the visiting defence allowed a Guerreiro cross to run through to him (21) – that was maybe the best chance in the first period – while Brandt missed from 16 metres after receiving a brilliant ball from Akanji.
The visitors kept space at a premium and strove to neutralise the threat of Brandt, who was attacked by two opponents at almost every turn. Only when BVB attacked quickly and directly did they find any space against an opponent that grew into the game around the half-hour mark, ensuring that the final 15 minutes of the first period were evenly contested.
Five minutes after the restart, Witsel initiated the most promising move of the match so far with a weighted pass out to the right flank. Hakimi drilled it low and fast across the face of goal but it ran all the way through to Hazard on the left. The Belgian cut the ball back towards Sancho, whose first-time effort from five metres was unfortunately wide of the mark. BVB upped the tempo and were pushing for the opener. But at the other end, Hertha registered their first clear-cut opportunity following a 56th-minute counter, with Esswein shooting wide of the mark from 15 metres.
It was BVB who eventually broke the deadlock a minute later, however. A corner was intercepted but the Black & Yellows won the ball back and Sancho chipped towards Brandt. He headed the ball into the path of Can – who had remained high up the pitch following the corner – and he picked his spot from 15 metres to make it 1-0. Hertha reacted with a personnel and tactical change, defensive midfielder Skjelbred making way for forward Piatek on the 62-minute mark. The capital club subsequently grew stronger, winning several challenges in a more physical spell of the game. With 10 minutes to go, Morey and Balerdi replaced Hazard and Witsel. Reyna had already come on for Brandt on the 68-minute mark.
Sancho had a chance to wrap up the points in the 90th minute when he played a lovely one-two with Guerreiro down the left flank. But the Englishman's shot was blocked by goalkeeper Jarstein from close range.
Borussia Dortmund are not in action until next Saturday (13 June), when they travel away to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Kick-off is at 15:30 CET.