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Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Dortmund: 6 Things We Learned

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2014

Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Dortmund: 6 Things We Learned

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    An injury-depleted Borussia Dortmund comfortably beat Hannover 3-1 at the HDI-Arena on Saturday, in the process maintaining their hold on second place in the Bundesliga.

    The hosts were the better team for most of the first half and were unlucky to be denied by the post as BVB's reserves struggled to put anything together in the attacking third. But Mats Hummels broke the deadlock from a set piece shortly before half-time, and Robert Lewandowski's fantastic solo effort seven minutes after the break put the match out of Hannover's reach and completely changed the face of the game. Marco Reus added a third in injury time to cap off an impressive result for the visitors.

    With tactical anomalies being shown by both teams, there are many talking points to investigate from Hannover vs Dortmund. Click "Begin Slideshow" for analysis of the take-home messages from Saturday's action.

Bittencourt Proves Dortmund Were Right to Let Him Go

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    Sascha Schuermann/Associated Press

    Signed from Cottbus at the age of 18, Leonardo Bittencourt looked ripe to be Dortmund's next big star. But he stagnated on the bench and left for Hannover after just one year. BVB did, however, manage to insert a buyback clause in the terms of his sale.

    Bittencourt looked to be Hannover's most dangerous and skilled player on Saturday, but he drifted in and out of the match and was not effective; he struggled to make good use of his assets. It's worth noting that Bittencourt is barely 20 years of age and that there are few in the Bundesliga who have performed much better at a similar age.

    The highly acclaimed Hakan Calhanoglu, for example, is just 51 days younger than Bittencourt and has only been directly involved in two more goals (10) than the Hannover man (8) this season. Just as Calhanoglu has enormous potential to be a big star, Bittencourt could yet become an excellent player. But he needs match time that he'd never have gotten at Dortmund. 

Dortmund's Reserves Are Barely 1. Bundesliga-Quality

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Looking at the Dortmund XI Jurgen Klopp selected on Saturday, one might believe the trainer had trawled through the club's reserve team for healthy players. The 11 he selected had almost nothing in common with the electric team he led to the Champions League final last year, with only four players from his 2012-13 first XI present in his team to face Hannover.

    There were some genuinely great players on the pitch in Saturday's match, but there were others whose CVs were not exactly standard for a top Bundesliga team. Erik Durm was signed from Mainz as a forward who had only ever played for the club's reserves. Oliver Kirch joined BVB on a free transfer after being relegated to the 2. Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern. Kevin Grosskreutz is a winger whose goals tally has only decreased as he's approached his athletic prime.

    All the aforementioned are useful players in their own right, but before the opener, Dortmund really missed the touch of class they needed to earn more than a point from free play. But they got their goal from a set piece and that moment turned everything around. Doable against Hannover, but impossible against a team like Real Madrid.

Hummels Makes His Case for Future Captaincy

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    Based on the run of play in the first half, it seemed the only way Dortmund could score was in the manner that Hummels did, sticking a leg out to tap home following a set piece.

    Prior to the goal, BVB had almost nothing in attack, save for a few underwhelming attempts by Kevin Grosskreutz. Hannover had all the momentum, having struck the post early and looked the more incisive team going forward. Dortmund needed a goal and Hummels came through when he was needed. The game completely changed after his goal.

    Saturday wasn't the first time in Hummels' career that he broke a stubborn 0-0 deadlock. In fact, it wasn't even the first time this month: The 25-year-old also scored the opener against Nurnberg in Matchday 23.

    Hummels has a knack for delivering big performances when his teammates have struggled, his leadership spurring them on. With Sebastian Kehl and Roman Weidenfeller nearing the ends of their respective careers, it would seem that Hummels is a natural long-term choice to take on a leadership role as one of Dortmund's captains.

Lewandowski Is in a League of His Own

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    It's long been well and commonly understood that Robert Lewandowski is a world-class striker. Fans were reminded again of his class on Saturday when he scored a simply brilliant individual goal.

    Hummels had made the breakthrough before half-time, but it was the Pole who finished off Hannover seven minutes after the break. He latched onto a hopeful pass to the left channel and, with no support coming from his attacking midfielders, proceeded to dribble through the entire Hannover defense before coolly finishing to double BVB's advantage.

Reus Ready for the Final Run of the Season

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    Marco Reus returned from injury in a substitute's appearance on Saturday, marking his first match in the Bundesliga in a month.

    At first, Reus looked to be off his game. His touch wasn't quite as immaculate as it usually is, and he knew it. The 24-year-old kicked the post after missing a sitter at the death. But seconds later he scored a classic goal, springing the offside trap, rounding the goalkeeper and finishing from the narrowest of angles.

    Dortmund will need great things from Reus over the final two months of the season. The good news is, he's taken a big step towards finding his best form again following a very well-taken goal in his first game back from injury.

Hannover's Strikerless Formation Should Be a One-off

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    Hannover coach Tayfun Korkut experimented with new tactics against Dortmund, using two midfielders in Szabolcs Huszti and Leonardo Bittencourt as his forwards. They were supported by wingers Edgar Prib and Lars Stindl.

    Hannover had absolutely nothing in the center of attack throughout the match and only Stindl was able to have any effect of note. He took five shots; Hannover's other four attempts on goal were evenly split by Bittencourt and defender Andre Hoffmann. Korkut's tactical setup was certainly a mistake that he will not make again.

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