Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverksen: 5 Things We Learned
Bayer Leverkusen dealt Borussia Dortmund their third defeat in their last four Bundesliga matches on Saturday as the Werkself earned a 1-0 win at the Signal-Iduna Park.
Sami Hyypia's side remain four points behind leaders Bayern, but the result saw them draw six points clear of BVB, who are now level with Borussia Moenchengladbach in the race for third place in the league table.
A resolute and stubborn Leverkusen took an early lead through Heung-Min Son and never relinquished their advantage, frustrating the fatigued and rather jaded hosts to the end.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for analysis of the major talking points from the match.
Manuel Friedrich Still Isn't Ready to Play at a High Level
If not for the shirt adorned with his name, Manuel Friedrich could have been mistaken for a homeless man when he took to the pitch on Saturday. The 34-year-old had a scruffy look that matched his rough-around-the-edges game.
Things were going very well for Dortmund until the 18th minute, when Friedrich played a woeful pass to Emre Can. Moments later, Heung-Min Son opened the scoring for Leverkusen.
Brought out of retirement as an emergency signing to compensate for a plague of injuries in the Dortmund defense, Friedrich has thus far struggled. He was poor in his debut against Bayern and did not exactly convince in Mainz. And facing another strong team in Leverkusen, he again struggled.
Friedrich had a good career, but his performance on Saturday is only more evidence that he is not yet ready to resume play at a high level. He could use a shave, a haircut and at least another month of training.
Heung-Min Son Remains Dortmund's Bogeyman
Few players have an impressive scoring record against Dortmund, but Heung-Min Son is one of them. And it therefore was no surprise when the South Korean scored the opener for Leverkusen on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Son had scored five times in his last three appearances for Hamburg against BVB, and on Saturday added to his record for the first time in a Leverkusen shirt. His opener set B04 on course for three points, and only a brilliant save by Roman Weidenfeller denied the Korean a second before halftime.
Leverkusen Are Ready for Sociedad
Heading into Saturday's match, Leverkusen were inconsistent away from home. In spite of some impressive performances, results such as their 1-0 loss to Braunschweig and 2-0 defeat by Schalke marred their record.
Although they took the lead in Dortmund with much thanks to Friedrich's gift, Leverkusen must be complimented for keeping their nerve and containing the hosts, who typically are very difficult to stop.
In their next match, Leverkusen will need a better result against Real Sociedad than Shakhtar Donetsk earn away to Manchester United. Success would result in qualification for the Champions League Round of 16, but it will be difficult to attain in Spain. B04 will be greatly encouraged by their performance on Saturday.
Emre Can Is on His Way
A week and a half ago, Emre Can had a nightmare game as he was turned inside-out by Antonio Valencia in Manchester United's 5-0 drubbing of Leverkusen at the BayArena. It was a humiliating experience for the 19-year-old, who was the hosts' worst player, albeit while used out of his natural midfield position.
Hyypia has nonetheless since preferred the Germany U21 international ahead of Sebastian Boenisch at left-back, and Emre repaid his coach's faith with an excellent performance in Dortmund. Although he often tucked inside and pushed forward, the ex-Bayern man fulfilled his defensive duties more than adequately.
Although used in defense for now, Emre has all the qualities to be a top holding midfielder in the years to come—not only in terms of technique and physicality, but in mentality exemplified by his ability to bounce back from the humiliation of the Manchester United match. With Simon Rolfes turning 32 in January, there is a clear path for the ex-Frankfurt youth, who is sure to have his chance to shine sooner than later.
Winter Can't Come Soon Enough for Dortmund
For over a month, Dortmund have looked to be at their breaking point. They exceeded their physical limit on Saturday.
Gone was the team with limitless energy and scintillating pace, whose collective fitness was the envy of Europe. Dortmund looked weak; physically and mentally drained. Such situations often make injuries more common, and surely enough Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin were forced off in the second half, each having suffered a blow to the ankle. From the looks of it, both will be sidelined until the winter break.
Bender and Sahin join Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, and Marcel Schmelzer on the injury list, but that only tells half the story. Those few players who are officially "fit" to play are in many cases not even close to full fitness. Marco Reus was supposed to miss Saturday's match with a calf injury, but was forced to come on following Bender's injury. He, like Sahin, has played a tremendous number of minutes this season and has looked increasingly fatigued. The likes of Manuel Friedrich and Lukasz Piszczek have barely played since May and are similarly unfit.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of Dortmund's defeat is how the entire team looked frustrated and disillusioned as full-time approached. Gone was the belief and determination that saw them score two late goals in Malaga earlier this year. They fell theatrically, looking for fouls, and frustration boiled over more than once. In the case of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, it was enough to earn him a red card and a suspension the team certainly does not need at this point.
It will all be over soon enough; winter is only three games away. BVB will finish in the top four, and most likely the top three in the Bundesliga regardless of the results of their final two fixtures of the fall campaign. But their midweek Champions League clash with Marseille will be something of a final.
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