Borussia Dortmund suffered their first Bundesliga defeat since the turn of the year on Saturday, losing 1-0 to relegation battlers Eintracht Frankfurt away from home. The Black and Yellows looked surprisingly flat in their penultimate league match of the campaign—in comparison to the last few games.
In what was a largely irrelevant game for them—they knew Bayern Munich wouldn't lose against both Ingolstadt and Hannover on the final two matchdays—Dortmund were left to chase the Hessians after the first quarter of an hour.
Frankfurt surprised the visitors with an attacking spirit, forcing goalkeeper Roman Burki into two impressive saves within the first 10 minutes.
Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel conceded after the game, per the club's official website: "We did not play [well] in the beginning phase of the match, we found it difficult to find spaces. We actually wanted to keep the opponent far away from our goal, however instead we let them win set pieces in those areas and then we were careless in the way we defended them."
It was fitting that the only goal of the match came from a Frankfurt set piece, as Makoto Hasebe swung in an accurate cross and Stefan Aigner slotted away with an impressive header in the 14th minute after right-back Erik Durm had failed to stay with the 28-year-old. Durm was "a constant source of errors in the first half," according to ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko, who rated his performance at two out of 10.
After going behind, Dortmund had lots of possession, but they didn't create many scoring chances. Frankfurt 'keeper Lukas Hradecky actually had a fairly comfortable day at the office. His Eagles lined up with a massive five-man block in defence that smothered most attacks from Dortmund before they developed into a real threat.
It helped, of course, that Mats Hummels' equaliser seconds before the half-time break was wrongfully disallowed, as he was clearly level with Frankfurt defender David Abraham:
But, ultimately, Frankfurt deserved their clean sheet. After Bayern and Hertha, they were only the third team to hold Dortmund's potent attack without a goal in the league this season.
The defeat means the Black and Yellows won't set a new club record; they can't exceed their 81 points from the magical 2011/12 campaign.
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan picking up a fifth booking and consequently missing the last match against Cologne with a suspension and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now four goals behind Bayern's Robert Lewandowski in the goalscoring charts, Dortmund don't have individual accolades to play for on the final matchday. Mkhitaryan was chasing Kevin De Bruyne's assist record but will finish the season trailing the Belgian by one.
It would still serve Dortmund well to show an improved performance against Cologne. They can't allow themselves to stumble into the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern on May 21. Two flat performances would take away all the momentum the Black and Yellows had gathered since the heartbreaking defeat in the UEFA Europa League against Liverpool.
There's precedent of Dortmund going into an important final on the back of a few rather disappointing games: the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.
The Ruhr side entered the all-German final against Bayern at Wembley on a run of four matches without a win. That's not to say their 2-1 loss to the Bavarian giants was down to their lack of form—remember that Dortmund were arguably the better side in the first half—but it surely didn't help, either.
One defeat, especially against an emotionally charged team fighting against relegation, shouldn't cause too much concern among Dortmund fans, but history mustn't repeat itself.
To go into the cup final in the right state of mind, the Black and Yellows need to be better in their final home game of the season against Cologne.