Borussia Dortmund vs. Napoli: 6 Things We Learned
Just three days after losing 3-0 at home to Bayern Munich, the Germans found their form and took the spoils thanks to goals from Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Lorenzo Insigne scored for the visitors.
The result sets the stage for a nailbiter of a final matchday in Group F, with BVB and Napoli level on nine points behind Arsenal's 12.
Read on for an in-depth review of the major talking points from Tuesday's action.
Sven Bender Is the Closest Thing Football Has to the Terminator
Anyone who has seen Dortmund play in the last few years is fully familiar with the physicality that Sven Bender brings to the club's midfield. The 24-year-old has incredible lungs, his stamina matched only by that of his twin brother Lars.
Bender's aggressive style of play and willingness to dive into challenges have made him very injury-prone. And surely enough, he broke his nose early in the first half of Tuesday's match. He needed treatment and twice had to change his shirt before receiving proper care at the interval.
Instead of coming off, though, he remained on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.
Pepe Reina Can Be the Foundation of an Improved Napoli Defense
Dortmund could have been ahead by three goals at half-time, but Napoli had Pepe Reina to thank for the match still being well within reach at the interval.
Although the Spaniard was unable to keep out Marco Reus' penalty, he'd done brilliantly well to deny the hosts even one more goal despite their many chances.
Napoli's defense has long been regarded as a weak area that must be canceled out by a brilliant and prolific attack. This season, however, with Reina between the posts, the Italians have a great foundation to their defense.
Even Reina's heroics—his one-on-one saves on Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were particularly outstanding—were not enough to keep Dortmund's attack at bay. But with some shrewd business in the transfer market, there is reason to believe that Napoli will soon have a strong defense to complement their outstanding attack.
At 31, Reina has experience but still a few more good years left. That's exactly the foundation Napoli need for their defense.
Mkhitaryan Picks a Good Time to Hit His Form; Lewandowski a Bad Time to Lose His
Saturday was a low point in Dortmund's season, and for Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it was a night to forget. The Pole had his chances against Bayern, but lost his composure at the critical moments. The Armenian was also poor, lacking any creative spark in midfield.
On Tuesday, Mkhitaryan turned over a new leaf. He was suddenly much more dangerous, dribbling and threading passes through tight areas. When he took the ball, his momentum always brought him towards a more dangerous location.
He was much, much sharper.
Lewandowski, by contrast, remained wasteful. Although he "won" the penalty that led to the opener—many would legitimately argue that it was more given to him than a penalty he forced—he missed two sitters in the first half alone.
Especially with there being so many injuries in the Dortmund defense, now is the worst possible time for the 25-year-old to misplace his shooting boots.
Marco Reus Should Be Dortmund's Permanent Penalty-Taker
Dortmund rarely get early penalties, but when they do, such situations are anything but certain to produce goals. Lucas Barrios, Nuri Sahin, Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Goetze, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus are just some of the many BVB players to take spot-kicks in recent years.
Most of the aforementioned have missed at least once or twice.
When Dortmund were desperate for an opener, Reus had the nerve to step up to the spot and convert. He has the best shooting technique of all players in Dortmund's squad, he has proven himself on a big stage and thus it is only natural that he ought to be BVB's permanent penalty-taker.
It's only surprising it took so long for him to take on that responsibility.
Lorenzo Insigne Can Be a Star...if He Plays
One of the heroes for Napoli in Champions League Matchday 1 was Lorenzo Insigne, who scored a brilliant free-kick that put Napoli 2-0 ahead of Dortmund.
On Tuesday, the 22-year-old was benched. But when he came on, he scored within five minutes—a cool finish with his first opportunity that suggests he is already very mature. In injury time, he nearly scored a critical away goal for Napoli that would have given them an aggregate advantage over BVB in a possible head-to-head tiebreaker.
In spite of his poor scoring record in Serie A, Insigne's performance in his two matches against Dortmund are evidence that he has the composure and maturity to be relied upon as more than just a substitute in big games.
Still 22, he has plenty of room to develop and could become a big star.
Luck Goes Both Ways
Napoli fully deserved their 2-1 victory over Dortmund in the first matchday of the group stage, but even the most ardent of supporters would have to admit that luck played a role.
They faced an understaffed BVB side and took the lead under somewhat questionable circumstances, as the ball was put in play while Neven Subotic was still running back onto the pitch. Not long thereafter, the BVB team that had received the fewest bookings in the Champions League last season went down to 10 men as veteran goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller collected just the third red card of his career.
The stars aligned on that night and everything that could have gone wrong for Dortmund did. Napoli, to their credit, took full advantage.
Heading into Tuesday's match, Dortmund were desperate for a goal. They started their weekend match with Bayern in outstanding form, but failed to capitalize on a host of opportunities and were handed a demoralizing 3-0 defeat.
They so sorely needed to go ahead against Napoli to take the pressure off and the visitors effectively handed them the lead by conceding a senseless penalty.
It required the referee's whistle, but Federico Fernandez gave Carlos Velasco Carballo every reason to call a penalty in the opening minutes. The Napoli man's bear hug was not exactly clever.
Dortmund perhaps should have scored several more goals over the course of the game, but were wasteful. They benefited from Jose Callejon missing the target by a centimeter, as well as Weidenfeller making some clutch saves.
This time, luck favored the Germans.