Depleted Dortmund Begin Season-Defining Run on a Low Note with Gladbach Draw
An understaffed Dortmund saw an early lead erased on Sunday as Gladbach came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Borussia-Park.
After drawing a penalty on the half-hour mark, Mario Goetze fired home a spot-kick to put BVB ahead. The hosts struggled to create chances, but capitalized in the 67th minute as 19-year-old attacking midfielder Amin Younes scored his first-ever Bundesliga goal.
Dortmund entered the game with somewhat of a makeshift squad. Jakub Blaszczykowski was ruled out due to an injury, and Robert Lewandowski and Julian Schieber were suspended. With his first two strikers unavailable, Juergen Klopp played Goetze as a false nine. The strategy worked to an extent, but BVB were sorely lacking the hold-up play and aerial presence in the box that Lewandowski so readily provides. Things got worse for the visitors when Mats Hummels was forced off at halftime due to a bruised thigh.
Gladbach, too, were without several first-choice players including Juan Arango, Patrick Herrmann and Tolgga Cigerci. But their efficiency and BVB's inability to get a second goal led to their equalizer.
Dortmund are now in the midst of a very difficult spell that could define their 2012-13 season. They play four games in 10 days, and a fifth—the Ruhr derby against bitter rivals Schalke—four days later. After Gladbach comes the DFB-Pokal against Bayern on Wednesday, a Bundesliga meeting with Hannover on Saturday, and the Champions League round of 16 second leg against Shakhtar Donetsk the following Tuesday.
Each of these matches will be difficult, but having to play so many in such little time is a tremendous burden. That it coincides with Lewandowski's three-match suspension makes it even more difficult for a BVB side that can hardly cope with poor luck.
If Dortmund can overcome Bayern on Wednesday, they'll have decidedly lesser opposition in the semifinals and final should they advance. Essentially, the Pokal is theirs if they can advance; their toughest possible opponents in the last two rounds would be Freiburg. Wednesday's match will be played in Munich, however, and extra time would leave the Ruhr side exhausted as they prepare for Hannover, Shakhtar and Schalke.
To his credit, Klopp did well to manage his team's exertion against Gladbach. Only Sebastian Kehl exceeded the 12 km mark in terms of distance covered, and the likes of Marco Reus, Mario Goetze and Ilkay Gundogan all ran between 11.2 and 11.4 km on the day. BVB will need to be at 100 percent on Wednesday, and may well be following a somewhat subdued display in Gladbach.
BVB will still be disappointed by the result of a game they should have won. Especially given Gladbach's relatively small number of chances and that Kehl missed an open goal from inside the six-yard box at the death, the result was avoidable. It's only one Bundesliga match, but more of the same will be punished in one-offs like the Pokal and Champions League. And now they continue on their season-defining run with less momentum and confidence.
The odds are against BVB now as a perfect storm of scheduling problems have made things extra difficult. They were unlucky to be scheduled on this Sunday and not Friday or Saturday. They were unlucky to be drawn away to Bayern in the Pokal. And they were unlucky to have the second leg against Shakhtar be played on a Tuesday (rather than a Wednesday), marking their fourth game in 10 matches.
There can be no excuses, though, going forward. Some players and teams have to work harder for success, but that's simply the nature of the game. Dortmund may have dropped points on Sunday, but if they can advance in the Pokal, they'll be well on their way to a third consecutive season with silverware.
If Dortmund avoid defeat at home to Shakhtar and avoid a 2-2 or higher-scoring draw, they'll win their first Champions League knockout tie in 15 years. And if they can win their next two Bundesliga fixtures, they will in all likelihood draw further clear of Frankfurt in fourth place and towards an automatic qualification for the 2013-14 Champions League. Plus, they will win back a bit of the pride lost in their 2-1 home derby defeat to Schalke last October.
On the other hand, it could all go horribly wrong for Klopp and his men in the next few days. BVB have worked very hard to get to where they are now, but in little over a week they might be out of contention for any trophy and doomed to a season that will be remembered as mediocre. We'll soon see what Klopp and his lads are made of.
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