Goals from Perisic and Kagawa rounded off a commanding performance from Dortmund’s and in doing so sealed their second consecutive Bundesliga title. Following Bayern’s win over Bremen earlier in the day, Klopp’s side needed a win to officially seal the championship. Despite possibly being handed the title by a Bremen win, Klopp still wanted his side to go out and win all three remaining games and took matters into their own hands. Dortmund were focused, determined and as almost always, overpowered their opponent. Gladbach were always chasing the game, struggled on their right flank and could not cope with Dortmund’s intense pressing and quick distribution game.
Lineups and Formations
Consistency has been the key to Klopp’s success this year. The ability to bring on players without a drop in performance ensured that Dortmund maintained a steady flow of results to keep their momentum going. After their big derby win against Schalke last week, Klopp welcomed back Subotic in defense while Kehl and Perisic came in for Bender and Grosskreutz who both had slight knocks. Otherwise, it was the same formula that had served them so well in the last three years, a strong dynamic unit emphasizing pressing and direct forward play.
If Gladbach’s were to delay Dortmund’s title celebrations their away record against them was certainly not a promising indicator. Gladbach had not won in Dortmund in their last ten matches. Favre was also without Neustädter who suffered from an ankle ligament injury. In his place started their usual right back Tony Jantschke. Ahead of the game, Favre spoke of Dortmund’s quick transitions and pressing and called on his side to keep possession intelligently to have any shot of getting a result.
In typical fashion, Dortmund kicked off and looked in only one direction, towards Gladbach’s goal. Almost immediately Dortmund were creating chances. Kagawa picked up the ball around the tenth minute and set up Lewandowski to shoot from 18 meters, forcing a fingertip save from Ter Stegen. Four minutes later it was Kagawa’s turn to test Gladbach’s goalkeeper but came up short. Things became even more turbulent in the twentieth minute after a ball from Schmelzer fell to the feet of Kagawa, the Japanese midfielder mishit the ball and sent crashing into the left post, the rebound of which set up Lewandowski for a shot that was eventually blocked. Gladbach escaped by the skin of their teeth but wouldn’t be so lucky again.
Three minutes later Schmelzer’s free kick from the right found Perisic’s head to give the defending champions the all important lead. Their sustained pressure had finally paid off and more chances followed. Hummels nearly doubled their lead after a Schmelzer corner and a failed Gladbach offside trap put the defender one on one with Ter Stegen but the goalkeeper again came to his side’s rescue. Gladbach were outshot, outpassed and outclassed and only had a meager shot by Hanke to speak of in the first half. A pattern was beginning to emerge that would define the rest of the match.
Gladbach’s weakness on the right exposed
Dortmund continued the second much like the first. They did not allow Gladbach to find their rhythm and continually forced turnovers. Arango and Hanke in particular had a difficult time maintaining possession and gave the ball away more than any other players on the pitch, a combined 35 times. Arango, usually so composed on the ball, was often double teamed by Kehl and Piszczek and had no Dames to overlap, who himself was marked tightly by Kuba whenever going forward. Arango did not have Reus and Herrmann either, themselves trying to escape the clutches of Hummels, Subotic and Schmelzer. It was another case of Dortmund outrunning and pressing their opponents. An astonishing 117.5 kilometers was covered by Klopp’s men by the end of the match.
Gladbach were in dire need of Reus’ ingenuity to create something and the forward was again their most dangerous player. He mustered up as good a chance in the fifty-fourth minute but his individual class wasn’t enough to finish the chances he created for himself. Again, Dortmund had the bulk of the chances and were more dangerous going forward. In the end they outshot Gladbach 18-4 and outpassed them by more than a 100 passes. Dortmund’s most dangerous attack often came down Gladbach’s right side and not unexpectedly so. Stranzl, who has been so strong in central defense this season, was perhaps not the best choice to fill in at right back. His lack of pace in particular was a problem and was exposed on Dortmund’s second goal before the hour mark after Schmelzer’s pass out of the back easily beat him and left Lewandowski with all the time and space in the world to set up Kagawa who rounded Ter Stegen to double the lead. It was the first goal Gladbach had conceded all season on the counter.
Favre warned his players of Dortmund’s quick transitions and disruptive pressing but there was little his side could do to respond with. It didn’t help that Gladbach were so poor on the right either. Herrman had a forgettable afternoon. He was Gladbach’s least involved player and failed to win a single duel in the opening stages of the match. Favre rightfully pulled him around the hour mark but his replacement, Alexander Ring, lacked the attacking punch Herrmann usually provides, thereby deflating Gladbach further offensively. Schmelzer and Perisic had two more chances in the remainder of the half, again pointing to Gladbach’s weakness on the right.
It was not only a case of Gladbach being poor but Dortmund showing the kind of hunger and drive that has made them so formidable this season. How dominant was Dortmund’s performance? Few sides have outplayed Gladbach the way Dortmund have. Gladbach’s first corner came only after 70 minutes and managed only a single cross all game.
The test of a true champion is the ability to consistently play at a high level and Dortmund have done so better than anyone else this season. It could be argued that this year has been much better than last for several reasons. They had increased competition from strong Bayern, Mönchengladbach and Schalke sides, partook in the Champions League and lost a key player in Sahin over the summer. Klopp kept them competitive and motivated throughout and and are now 26 matches unbeaten. Two more wins for Dortmund and they will also have set a new Bundesliga record for most points gained in a single season. It was a truly fitting performance following a very impressive season.
Favre will have to hope Augsburg take points off Schalke otherwise he could be four points behind them with two games remaining. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring performance against Dortmund but few sides if any have outplayed Dortmund at home this season and the combination of a makeshift right back, an absent and influential player in midfield and an out of form attacker just diminished already slim chances. Gladbach’s final two matches are against Augsburg and Mainz.
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