Last season’s champions and runners up played the season’s first goalless match and first game in 33 league matches in which neither side managed to score, not the biggest shock considering both had two of the best defenses in the league last year. Perhaps the biggest talking points of the match, and ones that may have glossed over both sides performances were the two red cards handed out by referee Wolfgang Stark. Both came at a crucial time in the game and may just have affected, or interrupted, the potential outcome.
The biggest story midweek were the Champions League draws, both Leverkusen and Dortmund being drawn in two of the stronger groups in the competition. Both Jürgen Klopp and Robin Dutt came into the match focused on the task at hand though and kept the same line-ups from the previous week.
First Half – Leverkusen on top
The first half belonged to the hosts as they outplayed Dortmund in almost every single way. Leverkusen already totaled 9 shots on goal after just 25 minutes and continued to pile on for the remainder of the half. It only took Dutt’s men six minutes to create their first clear cut chance after Rolfes slipped a pass to Schürrle whose shot forced a great reflex save from Weidenfeller. It was a sign of things to come as Leverkusen continued to get the better of the defending champions, Dortmund never able to muster up the guile and rhythm they displayed in the opening week of the season. Sam, Schürrle, Reinartz, and Kiessling all had good chances to put Leverkusen ahead before the half but went either wide or were denied again by Weienfeller. Schürrle and Sam did well to exploit Dortmund’s high line, getting behind the defenders quite a bit while Augusto had time and space to perform his playmaking duties. They rarely misplaced a pass in the first half and Kiessling’s defensive work was a big reason for Leverkusen’s dominance in the center of the pitch. The striker won more tackles than any other player on the field bar Sven Bender. (18)
Dortmund’s performance on the other hand left much to be desired and once again struggled to get their attack involved frequently. Kagawa was again uninvolved; completing just 5 passes in the first half while Lewandowski and Grosskreutz remained largely isolated. It looked like the Nürnberg match all over again but more worryingly, it was the first time Dortmund were visibly missing the presence of Nuri Sahin. No player dictated the flow of a game better than Sahin last season and against Leverkusen they were lacking that kind of presence in midfield. They were outplayed by an in form Hoffenheim in their loss two weeks ago and their slow start against Nürnberg last week came off the back of an international break but this time around, there was little to excuse their display.
That is not to say Gündogan cannot grow into that role or that he is the single reason for their disappointing performance, just indicative of Sahin’s influence on Dortmund. Bender and Gündogan did their job to the best of their abilities in the first half but lacked the clinical presence and mobility of the front four. Dortmund’s midfield was a collective disappointment in the first half, misplacing a total 16 passes before the break. Götze, Grosskreutz and Kagawa were also subdued; completing only 18 passes between the three of them, a low considering their usual standards. What they missed was Sahin’s calming presence and incisive passing. Only three of Gündogan’s 20 passes in the first half were long, most were short passes to players in front of him.
Second Half – Heated affair
Leverkusen started the second half with the same verve as the first, spreading the ball wide and putting Dortmund in the unusual situation of doing the chasing rather than initiate it. (Dortmund ran 6 more kilometers than Leverkusen by the end of the match) Sam and Schürrle continued to be threats from out wide, changing positions and bypassing Dortmund’s fullbacks a bit too easily. Dortmund managed to turn the Nürnberg game in their favor in the second half but did so because Nürnberg exerted little pressure, sitting back from the start. Leverkusen kept their foot pressed on the pedal and that made it difficult for Dortmund to ever get a grip. Despite that, Klopp ordered his man to push forward and play more directly, replacing the ineffective Grosskreutz with Perisic and eventually coming close from a Kagawa long range shot.
The tempo increased and tempers became heated. Both sides were committing more fouls and it eventually spilled over in the 64th minute when Kadlec was sent off for a reckless challenge from behind on Götze. That came just minutes after Hummels escaped what appeared an obvious second yellow. Kadlec had so far done a good job on Götze, keeping the playmaker in check and preventing his usual link up with Kagawa and Lewandowski. The hole left by his dismissal immediately opened up space for Götze who crossed the ball to Perisic in the 67th minute, forcing a brilliant point blank save from the 19-year old Leno. Dutt had to act and plug the hole, bringing on Bal9itsch for Augusto, removing his biggest creative outlet to try and stop Götze from becoming a bigger threat.
Dortmund continued to improve and resembled their best on 75 minutes after brilliant combination play outside the box set up Kagawa in front of goal, the Japanese player denied by some desperate defending. Fate would intervene however and in their ascendancy, Dortmund were deprived of their best player, Götze, in the 77th minute after referee Stark dubiously dismissed him for what appeared to be a kick on Balitsch. The remainder of the game was a bit frantic with both sides carving out chances but neither clinical enough to put them away.
The game ended 0-0 and one cannot help but wonder whether the refereeing decisions effectively decided the game. Kadlec had a good grip on Götze until his sending off. The red card shifted the momentum in Dortmund’s favor and just as the defending champions seemed most likely to snatch a winner, referee Wolfgang Stark sent Götze off as well.
Controversial calls aside, Leverkusen did well to dominate the first half but failed to capitalize on all the chances they created. It has been a low scoring season for Leverkusen so far and Dutt will no doubt emphasize finishing in training, especially with the Champions League kicking off next month. Dortmund once again started slowly and were vulnerable on the flanks. Schmelzer and Piszczek had 19 misplaced passes while Kagawa and Grosskreutz were insufficiently involved. That said, it is still early in the season and both teams have done relatively well all things considered.
Match Graphics courtesy of Bundesliga.de
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