A permanent high
This weekend can be summarized in four words: Victory, record, seven, disappointing. Three of those describe our young guns, one doesn’t - feel free to guess. Since we’re not on twitter here, we can indulge in the sweet celebration of the details behind these brief descriptions.
Victory - A close win against Mainz that was never really at risk though to the outside observer it may seem like it was. Our squad controlled, even dominated the game and while Mainz had opportunities and even scored, the overall control and quality of our performance never put any doubt in my mind that we would be victorious.
Record - With yesterday’s win, our Borussia has won 8 (eight, acht, ocho, etc) straigt games in the Bundesliga. That is a new club record. Also, the no-loss streak has been extended to 18 games - that is more than half a season.
Seven - Our lead in the table ahead of the suddenly quiet Bavarians. The situation with 10 games to go is now very similar to last year. Prior to the game we were speculating on some basic performance statistics. Now, with 10 games to go, BVB is tracking to finish the season with 78 pts (2.3/game) or if we assume a similar drop like last year, to about 72 pts (only 1.7/game in the last 10). Bayern, who are at a 2.0 average right now, would have to increase to 2.5/game to even catch up to the low estimate of 72 points
Disappointing - The performance of what was hailed as the “Fantastic Four” just a few short weeks back. Bayern, Gladbach and the blue scum all managed to utterly fail in trying to keep up with our Borussia.
The weekend started well even before the game took place Saturday early evening. A record-breaking crowd at the historic “Kampfbahn Rote Erde” saw the “small” Borrussia II squad beat the 2nd blue scum team 2:1. Many supporters never left the vicinity of the stadium which is right next to the Westfalenstadion to move straight from one match to the next. Even for those not attending the small derby, news of both Bayern and the other blue team loosing their afternoon games made the trip to the Temple a sweet ride.
The opening minutes of the match saw a active Borussia who had to replace their captain Sebastian Kehl but was otherwise unchanged. Mainz however was able to withstand the initial pressure with a compact defense and was able to drive some attacks into the BVB half themselves. After a good 25 minutes, Dortmund began to increase pressure and in the remaining 65 minutes it become glaringly obvious that despite their recent performances, Mainz was no match for our black-and-yellow squad, neither individual class, overall squad performance or aggressiveness were enough to be a serious threat.
Not surprising, opportunities to score came as a consequence. Mainz’s Fathi made contact with Piszcezk in the penalty box in the 24th minute but the referee waved on - the right call. Only two minutes later, Kagawa only hit Mainz defender Bungert but Kuba was able to recover the ball and a power full and well-placed shot into the left corner scored the lead after 26. minutes. With Mainz not showing any response to the goal, our Borussia continued to press on. Lewandowski however seemed to suffer amnesia on this day and fell back into his old self as a killer of opportunities in both the 29th and 43rd minute.
The second half saw the BVB increasing pressure once again. At this point the game was clearly one-sided and while it was lacking more goals, it was very obvious how self-assured, concentrated and thought-through our squad was acting. Between the 50. and 60. minute, Lewandowski (50., saved by Wetklo and 52. saved by Noveski), Kuba (50.), Kagawa (57., just missing the goal) and Schmelzer (59. from 17 meters away) did not manage to score from very good positions. Mainz had to react and coach Tuchel brought new blood in the 59. minute with Szalai and Baumgartlinger. Not much changed however and Kagawa who with Guendogan was the motor of the young guns that day, had another good opportunity in the 67th minute.
Football can write cruel stories and in the 74th, one of the most prevalent ones came true - if you don’t use your opportunities you will be punished eventually. Szalai was able to beat two Borussia defenders and passed to Zidane who was able to score for the 5th time in his 5th game for Mainz since leaving Dortmund during the winter break. As he announced ahead of the game, Zidane was not ecstatic to score against his former club and teammates and refrained from any celebration. A truly humble and grand gesture to the team that he won the championship with last year.
As if our black-and-yellows were writing the script of the game as they played along, the tie immediately generated a response and Kagawa only had to tip the ball off a Piszczek cross for the 2:1 lead in minute 77. One cannot help but wonder how much of this was truly deliberate - dominating a game, saving some energy and then scoring at will as the opponent ties it. After the 2:1 lead, Dortmund again took control and was able to play it down with routine for the 8th straight victory in the Bundesliga and the 18th no-loss match.
Ten to go
Next week will see our Borussia traveling down to Bavaria to meet Augsburg on Saturday. A year ago, Dortmund management and training staff first started to recognize their chances to win the championship publicly. This time around, Watzke and Klopp seem to be more cautious. No one so far has gone on record making claims or even acknowledging the opportunity. There is still the small matter of the second “week of truth” that right now acts as a convenient shield. Ten days in April where we’ll be playing Bayern, the blue scum and Gladbach. before those games are played, nothing has been decided.
Goals: 1:0 (Kuba, 26.), 1:1 (Zidane, 74.), 2:1 (Kagawa, 77.)
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Bender, Guendogan - Kuba (72. Perisic), Kagawa (82. da Silva), Grosskreutz (90. Owomoyela) - Lewandowski
Bench: Langerak, Santana, Loewe, Barrios
Coach: Juergen Klopp
FSV Mainz 05: Wetklo - Zabavnik, Bungert, Noveski, Fathi (59. Szalai) - Polanski (59. Baumgartlinger) - Caligiuri, Soto - Mueller, Choupo-Moting (80. Ujah) - Zidan
Bench: Mueller (Goalie), Stieber, Malli, Allagui
Coach: Dieter Hecking
Referee: Peter Gagelmann (Bremen)
Attendance: 80,720 (sold out)