Borussia Dortmund vs. Hoffenheim: 6 Things We Learned
Markus Gisdol's side may have scored the first and last goals of the fixture, but Hoffenheim were unable to seal victory in their trip to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
The Black and Yellows claimed a 3-2 victory which, while having little effect on the German top flight and its standings, was a useful boost of morale for the home outfit as they look toward their DFB-Pokal final date opposite Bayern Munich.
However, for now, attention will be centralised around this most recent result, which yielded a number of talking points, both Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim accounted for.
1. Dortmund—You Won't Like Them When They're Angry
Scoring his 15th goal of the Bundesliga season, Roberto Firmino managed to fire Hoffenheim into the lead after just five minutes at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
The young Brazilian took advantage of some fantastic pressing from his midfield—helped more than a little by some Dortmund complacency—scorching the ball past Roman Weidenfeller's left side.
It did not go well for the visitors in the 40 minutes that followed.
Hoffenheim had awoken the beast in a major way, and, just as Bruce Banner of comic book fame would react, the Black and Yellows responded with a wrath that didn't suffer fools gladly.
It's a response that one would expect to see from a side who are once again looking to reclaim their title credentials, and though it simmered in the second period, Saturday's hosts were ruthless in establishing a 3-1 comeback by halftime.
2. Key Dortmund Absences Still Exposing Flaws
The fashion in which Juergen Klopp's men conceded Firmino's opener was a poor display of their structure, with Hoffenheim's high line taking full advantage of their overlap in numbers and scoring all too easily.
However, the most culpable part of Dortmund's line-up for these mistakes sat in the engine room, where Milos Jojic and Nuri Sahin were doing their best at holding a strong, anchoring presence.
For the first half of the season, defence was by far Klopp's biggest concern when it came to player absences, but with Sven Bender, Sebastian Kehl and of course Ilkay Gundogan still on the injury table, things are most dim at the team's core.
The duo could muster a passing percent average of just 78 percent between them, according to Squawka (Sahin at 76 percent and Jojic at 80 percent), and the hosts' grip on possession may have been all the stronger were more capable assets in place.
Though tipped for bigger things in their respective futures, Sahin and Jojic simply weren't up to scratch on this occasion, bringing to light a substantial weak point that the club will look to solve prior to the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich in a fortnight's time.
3. Hoffenheim Once Again Prove Troublesome for the Black and Yellows
Down the years, Hoffenheim are one of those teams that Borussia Dortmund have found slightly more difficult to overcome, and they were unable to beat their foes in league competition during 2013.
And although the visitors were slightly fortunate in how they claimed their second goal, Hoffenheim remain something of a bogey team for the Black and Yellows, who have still beaten this particular enemy just three times in their 11 Bundesliga meetings.
On Saturday, Dortmund squeezed past their opponents by virtue of a brilliant first-half response to conceding the game's opening goal, but a more lackadaisical second period made for more difficult viewing as a home supporter.
4. Juergen Klopp Has Reason to Be Upbeat About Life After Lewandowski
With Kevin Grosskreutz, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lukasz Piszczek providing the goals for Dortmund on Saturday, Klopp will be pleased to see so many scoring threats arise from his squad.
And it's just as well, too, with Robert Lewandowski playing just one more league game for the club before departing for the Allianz Arena.
Of course it's no secret that Dortmund's creative assets, when fully fit, are some of the most endowed and talented in all of Europe, but to see those stars stepping up to the scoring plate with such ease is a truly encouraging sign for the club.
Dortmund will now strive to appoint a Lewandowski successor of equal or better quality, but there's some comfort to be held from knowing those floating behind the striker have a certain knack for making the difference in front of goal, too.
5. Roman Weidenfeller in Need of a Goalkeeping Refresher Course
At 3-1 up, Dortmund looked comfortable, and a decisive grip on the fixture's possession meant that Hoffenheim's chances of clawing back the two-goal deficit were slim.
That was until the 66th minute, when Niklas Sule was gifted an incredibly soft goal by Roman Weidenfeller, who so generously made sure his legs were stretched far enough apart for the centre-back's speculative shot to breeze through.
In advance of a 2014 World Cup that he'll be hoping to feature in, Weidenfeller should be disappointed at making such an avoidable lapse in judgement.
Back to the basics for this one.
6. Henrikh Mkhitaryan Challenging Rolls Reus as Dortmund's Golden Child
Marco Reus may have taken in the greatest plaudits at Signal Iduna Park this season—WhoScored.com ranking the former Borussia Monchengladbach star the highest of any BVB player—but there is another hero in Klopp's midst.
Mkhitaryan has taken little time in settling among his new Bundesliga surroundings, and a fine maiden campaign in Germany was further improved against Hoffenheim this Saturday.
As well as heading home his team's second, crucial goal thanks to a beautifully weighted cross from Reus, Mkhitaryan was a key member of the creative trio that headed up their side's attack behind Lewandowski.
And although Squawka shows that the Armenian completed just 20 of his 30 attempted passes, it was a story of quality and not quantity in this case.
Mkhitaryan's ability to find comfort in the smallest of spaces was evident in the opposition's box, and a great deal of the defensive strain that Hoffenheim found themselves under for a majority of the first half was caused by the attacking midfielder's hand.