Borussia Dortmund came from two goals down to beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-2. Here are three things we learned from the match.
Expectations were high for Borussia Dortmund coming into Saturday’s game against Bayer Leverkusen, because while Leverkusen can be a formidable threat due to the quality of players in their side, Dortmund were riding a huge wave of momentum. Earlier in the week, Dortmund defeated FC Nürnberg 7-0, with Marco Reus grabbing a brace in the outburst of offense.
It was a remarkable turn-around from Dortmund’s cagey affairs against Club Brugge and TSG Hoffenheim, as Dortmund failed to score more than one last-gasp goal in either of those games.
Against Leverkusen, Dortmund appeared to be in trouble early, falling behind 2-0 and failing to show any signs of life on the offensive end. That all changed in the second half, as Dortmund scored quick goals in the 65th and 69th minute to tie the game before Paco Alcacer bagged two late goals to put the game away for Dortmund.
With this 4-2 classic against Leverkusen, Dortmund are now first place in the Bundesliga with 14 points. Since Bayern München lost 2-0 to Hertha Berlin earlier on Saturday, Lucien Favre’s team remain the only undefeated side in Germany.
Here are three things we learned from yet another resilient display from the men in black and yellow.
Alcacer is the answer at striker
Borussia Dortmund first received key contributions from striker Paco Alcacer on Sept. 14, when the 25-year-old scored an excellent debut goal in a 3-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. The attack looked far more lively with Alcacer in the lineup, but, unfortunately, the boost he provided was short-lived due to an injury.
Alcacer was clearly missed in Dortmund’s following performances, and the team barely escaped with a victory over Hoffenheim. They struggled without a true No. 9 in the lineup, as Marco Reus was far more comfortable on the wing. Both Maximillian Phillip and Marius Wolf were wholly ineffective up top.
Against Leverkusen, Alcacer was the difference-maker for Dortmund offensively. As usual, the former Valencia man’s link-up play was a real highlight, and he grabbed an instinctive go-ahead goal in the 85th minute. Alcacer made a brilliant run to latch onto Achraf Hakimi’s low cross, and Alcacer’s timely finishing has proven to be an invaluable asset for Dortmund.
He even grabbed a second goal in the 94th to ice the game, taking advantage of Leverkusen’s pulled goalkeeper on a last-ditch corner. Alcacer cooly dispatched the ball into the back of the net after making a smart run to give Jadon Sancho an easy passing option for BVB’s fourth.
Going forward, Alcacer is clearly the answer at striker for Dortmund, and his comfort level with the likes of Reus and Hakimi will only increase as he gets more playing time. Though his stay with Dortmund may only be temporary, he should become a fan favorite in short order due to clutch performances like this one.
Reus truly is that special and means everything to this team
It’s no surprise whenever Marco Reus has a breathtaking performance, and it just seems like no matter what is going wrong for Dortmund in a given game, he can be the one to provide moments of magic to pull his side back into it.
Against Hoffenheim last week, it was Reus who provided the critical run and cross for Christian Pulisic in the final ten minutes of the match to rescue a point. In this battle against Leverkusen, it was Reus who set up Jacob Bruun Larsen’s tap-in with a well-struck volley at the far post, which forced Lukas Hradecky into an awkward save that couldn’t be handled.
Following that 65th minute goal which gave Dortmund much-needed life, Reus scored a goal of his own in the 69th to tie the game at 2-2. He and Sancho hooked up brilliantly, as they absolutely bamboozled the Leverkusen defense with a series of top-notch passes. After breaking through Leverkusen’s uneven back four, Reus finished emphatically for his fourth goal of the season in six games.
Throughout the match, it was Reus who marshaled the attack effectively, making all-important runs and directing passes to all areas of the pitch. He moved inside and outside, constantly keeping Leverkusen’s defense off-guard, and he looked beyond brilliant as an attacking midfielder in Dortmund’s attack.
When Reus is in the lineup, Dortmund can never be counted out of games, and this was another example of this. It is truly amazing how he is able to unlock defenses with his passes and his vision. This match was further confirmation of his status as arguably the Bundesliga’s most important player, and his creativity and technical ability can often seem boundless.
Sancho, Hakimi have earned as much playing time as possible
Lukasz Piszczek was a fixture at right back for years, but that is no longer the case in 2018 with the emergence of Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi. Following a scintillating display against Nürnberg, Hakimi started at right back against Leverkusen due to Piszczek dealing with “muscular issues.”
Hakimi delivered the goods for a second straight game at right back, and he’s earned a place in Dortmund’s starting lineup as a regular starter. He has emerged as one of the best fullbacks in the Bundesliga, and Madrid have to be happy with the way he’s played so far in his loan spell with BVB.
Based on what we saw against Leverkusen, Hakimi adds far more to Dortmund’s attack than Piszczek, as he set up several good chances, including Alcacer’s first goal. He was a constant thorn in Wendell’s side and made several key moves to win space and spray the box with accurate crosses. Regardless of how they do it, Dortmund need to feature him regularly.
The same goes for Jadon Sancho, who replaced Christian Pulisic as a substitute and immediately gave his team a huge boost. Hakimi looked even more effective when Sancho was on the pitch, and Sancho’s decision-making looked much better than what we saw last week against Hoffenheim.
This season, Sancho has become something of a “super sub” for Dortmund, but it’s about time BVB made him a more regular part of their lineup. Only Reus offers more in the form of creativity, and Sancho has been even more effective than Pulisic at creating chances for others. His pace and dribbling cause so many problems, and he made several key passes in this game, including the assists for Reus’s goal and Alcacer’s second.
While Pulisic has come up big in key moments for Dortmund this season, he didn’t have the space to test Wendell on the left side of Leverkusen’s defense, frequently stalling BVB’s counter-attack attempts that Hakimi started on that side. On the other hand, Sancho advanced those attacks, hooking up with Reus to devastating effect.
Just 18 years of age, Sancho is one of world football’s rising stars, and he has a chance to be a gem of player for Dortmund, if he isn’t already. It is astounding that within seconds of being brought on as a substitute, he set up the tying goal. What’s even more astounding is that Sancho leads the Bundesliga in assists despite having never started a game yet. That should change soon.