Following a low-scoring Bundesliga MatchDay 18 Saturday in which six goalkeepers posted clean sheets, Borussia Dortmund came out flashing brightly Sunday and dispatched Hamburger SV with ease, 5-1 at the Imtech Arena. Dortmund’s rampant win saw them rise to tie Bayern Munich and Schalke on points, 37 each, at the top of the table and indicates that Bundesliga fans along with Borussia Monchengladbach, will witness an exciting title race between the three and the impressive Borussia Monchengladbach side, only a point behind.
Both HSV and BvB were less than full-strength coming out of winter break. Hamburg’s Thorsten Fink was without youngster Gohkan Tore, who sparkled in the Hinrunde with six assists, and Mladen Petric, held out of the starting lineup for fear of worsening his injury. Fink’s counterpart, Jurgen Klopp, was without wunderkind Mario Gotze as well as regular goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Klopp, however, was blessed with the return of midfielder Sven Bender and defender Neven Subotic.
HSV: Drobny – Diekmeier, Bruma, Westermann, Aogo – Rincon, Kacar (Petric 46′) – Lam, Tesche, Jansen (Sala 65′) – Guerrero
BVB: Langerak – Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer – S. Bender (Gündogan 82′), Kehl (Leitner 73′) – Blaszczykowski, Kagawa (Barrios 82′), Großkreutz – Lewandowski
Although HSV came into the match not having lost in league play since October 2, the red-shorts were outclassed by Klopp’s men from the get go. Within the first four minutes, Bender, Robert Lewandowski and defender Subotic all threatened HSV’s goal, and the champagne football provided by Dortmund was flowing. The first cork was popped in the 16th minute, as Shinji Kagawa found Kevin Grosskreutz, whose right foot was true. HSV wasn’t without spirit, and as they did often throughout the match, stormed back immediately, but Paolo Guererro was off-target with his header from a Dennis Aago cross. Former Arminia Bielefeld man Robert Tesche found space to get off a good shot, but his 19th minute attempt was wide, and the tone of the game was set — Dortmund shredding Hamburg’s defense, Hamburg responding, particularly down the left side with quality crosses rarely found, and when found, efforted off-target.
One of the many endearing qualities of Klopp’s side is that they rarely settle for being good when greatness is within their grasp, and BvB Sunday were sublime yet ruthless in attack. Jakub Blaszczykowski, getting only his seventh start of the year, was excellent on delivering set-pieces and early runs down the right, and the quality of his work found reward in the 37th minute as fellow Polish international Robert Lewandowski doubled Dortmund’s lead, nutmegging Heiko Westermann and passing Aago to beat a defenseless Jaroslav Drobny in Hamburg’s goal. Intermission arrived with Hamburg lucky to be only two goals down.
Fink, trying to find an answer to Dortmund’s tireless threats, brought Petric into the match following halftime, negating his initial decision to “save” the wounded Croatian for another day. It did little good. Grosskreutz had an attempt blocked early on, while headers from Shinji Kagawa and Subotic were saved by Drobny. The Dortmund’s Polish connection worked again, however, as thirteen minutes into the second half Lewandowski provided Blaszczykowski, with ‘Kuba’ nailing the door shut a minute after Dortmund left back Marcel Schmelzer had snuffed out an attempt by Dennis Diekmeier, putting Hamburg’s task clearly out of the day’s reach. Kuba added his second goal of the season from the spot in the 78th minute, while Lewandowski earned his brace in the 83rd, assisted by Grosskreutz. As in the season’s opener, Hamburg did get a consolation goal, spoiling Langernak’s clean sheet, as Paolo Guererro found his fifth of the season with four minutes remaining.
Dortmund’s win extended their unbeaten steak in the Bundesliga to twelve matches and provided Fink with his first coaching loss in Bundesliga play. Dortmund also not only pulled level on points with Bayern Munich and Schalke, but narrowed the Bavarians lead in goal differential to only four, 31-27.
It’s difficult to pick out an outstanding performance among so much superb work by the entire Dortmund squad, but the impact on the squad of Sven Bender’s return to health of cannot be overstated. Shinji Kagawa also had one of his better matches since his Asian Cup foot injury a year ago, while Kuba completed 16 of his 17 pass attempts in addition to his brace, Lewandowski unleashing six shots to go with a brace and an assist and Grosskreutz covered the most ground of any player in the match. But despite the outpouring of goals, today’s performance was again a reminder of Klopp’s swarming defensive tactics that blunt so many promising attacks and the superior play of Dortmund’s backline. Team play is truly an ethos realized by the squad under Klopp’s tutelage. As we await the beginnings of the Reus era in Dortmund next season, the type of demonstration by Dortmund on Sunday will serve as a another future memory that Dortmund, even prior to Reus, play splendid, effervescent football. Dortmund open champagne not by the bottle, but by the case.
For Hamburg supporters, cold comfort can be taken with the fact that they had superiority in possession (55%) and corner kicks (8-4) over their yellow-black competition while creating scoring opportunities. Perhaps more comfort can be taken from the fact that they are finished with the BvB juggernaut for the season. While Fink’s work is far from finished, this is a much better Hamburg side than began the season, and though Dortmund rained on their parade Sunday, HSV have progressed with better days to come.
Header photo courtesy of spox.