Time to get things together
All week long, the theme has been "Bremen is where we must find our confidence." Blaming the season's miscues on a plethora of injuries can only explain the dropped points for so long. When the mistakes and losses happen because of mental lapses, you cannot blame a blown out ACL or a pulled hamstring. With this rückrunde starting off drawing a match against Augsburg 2-2 with them only attempting 1 ½ shots and a nervy and unbalanced match where we are pushed to the ropes by the bottom of the table Braunschweig, one must look in the mirror, take a cold shower, slap his face and say "GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, MAN."That's exactly what happened. Sure...It's Bremen. The Weserstadion may not exactly be a fortress for SV Werder, and I'm not going to spend time discussing where Bremen needs to improve. They're a mess. However, it's still a team of eleven professional footballers and if one genuinely and truly believes the Bundesliga is the best top to bottom league in the world, then even a piss poor debacle of Bremen is an opponent to at least consider worthy, seeing how this second half has started for Dortmund. As famous American college basketball legend John Wooden once said, "Make sure you have no wrinkles or gaps in your socks and make sure your shoes are tied properly if you want to win a championship." We needed to get our rhythm back in small ways to build upon it.
Listing the positives of Saturday would be a long list and it's just relieving to not say the same, tired lines. There was urgency in chasing down long passes. There was the focus and patience to move the ball out of tight spaces when spacing got congested. Reus may not have scored, but he was a presence in the build up play and held the ball with confidence, excluding his magnificent back heel assist in the second half. Sure, there was one glimpse of unnecessary passing in the box in the opening minutes, but one need not look any later than the 5th minute when a beautiful Mkhitaryan-Bender-Schmelzer-Reus series demonstrated that, while we didn't generate a goal from a shanked Reus attempt, the movement and passing looked comfortable, which just frankly hadn't been the case in recent weeks. Perhaps the space was more generous than other opponents would give, but you know what? Who cares!?!? It was lovely to see and made me as an observer feel like "maybe this is the day" very early on.As the minutes passed, Bremen got no attack going. They just looked limp and passed blindly with no intention of moving forward and threatening, and we continued to push. There were a few confident strikes were managed comfortably by Roman and none of them felt threatening. Defensively, when moving forward, Friedrich was passing with confidence. He was making LONG passes that moved us forward. By the time Lewandowski sank what appeared to be a very routine goal for him to make it 1-0, it was easy to remember that same shot was just as likely to hit the post a few weeks back. We were off to a good start and while I've been a critic of Lewandowski's effort (forget the Bayern news, I'm more focused on his fall & flap arms & whine to officials to goals ratio leaves a bit to be desired), his job for the next four months is to score goals for BVB and all too often this was not happening when it needed to.
As more time pushed along, the confidence looked to continue. On a Reus lob to Aubemayang that was headed just wide and Miki's follow up when into the side of the net (which, unfortunately, didn't have a hole in it...), that series did not feel like a wasted chance. It felt like a chance they were earning and while it was a miss, those things are going to happen. It was a different level of effort and intention and it was great to see. Long passes were chased down on both ends of the pitch and everyone was fighting for possession and (most of the time) keeping it.
Another aspect of our season that has lead to moments of greatness and equal moments of frustration is the peaks and valleys in Mkhitaryan's performance. He showed early signs of composure, but as the game got on, and he danced with the ball across the top of the box it was easy to flash back to moments of missed shots, holding the ball too long when he should have passed...but no...he drained an opposite corner shot, and that was long overdue.The second half started and was all BVB. Adding to the theme of "building confidence" a third goal was tacked on by none other than former Oberhausen man Manuel Friedrich...ON A CORNER. Reading all of those words in one sentence are surprising, but hey...I'll take it and I know he will, too. For what it's worth, I personally have been a fan of Friedrich this season. Sure, he has made a few errant passes. He was thrust into a situation that I do not think most 34-year old players looking at the end of their careers would handle as well. He's not a first choice player, and you could easily argue for Sarr's inclusion against Bremen to build up his confidence as well, but I've got a soft spot for the old man and it was clear he appreciated the chance and the celebration.
Wasted opportunities didn't really even enter my mind until the second half when we were already up 3-0 with Lewandowski as the culprit tossing one over the bar. Even as BVB poured the shots on goal on with some being controlled by Wolf or clanking off the woodwork, the opportunities weren't heartless and didn't FEEL wasted. As Mkhitaryan graced another goal for his second brace of the season and Lewandowski dribbled past Wolf and drilled his second goal with the lone defender playing makeshift keeper, the most important lessons are THEY MADE THE SHOTS. They went in. They remembered what it was like to put the ball across the line in between the posts and under the crossbar. They scored against professional footballing defenses instead of pissing the ball off to the side, the post, or directly at the keeper. It's the little things, sometimes.I feel like I must keep my optimism tempered because it's very easy to laud a lopsided victory when you're desperate for good news. It's easy to over-emphasize the positive after experiencing such a long drought, but let's take this for what it is for the next few days. We have an undefeated start to the Rückrunde. Hummels will be back in a few weeks again. We had a pair of braces. The news this morning concerning Reus and Bender don't even bother me at this point because it's just the theme of the season. Let Jojic and Hofmann get more time and let's go on with our business. The round of 16 in the Champions' League is against Zenit, which is as good as it can get in that first round. The fact that we had a defensive lapse on a corner at the 30th minute with now-famous questionable set-piece marking was also forgiven because Bremen squandered the chance and sometimes that needs to happen for you. Sure it was Bremen...but sometimes getting a number at the bar is all you need to turn your night around, right?
Of course...we still didn't keep a clean sheet, but you can't change it all in one day. I, for one, enjoyed my day and the match and let's hope this continues.
Werder Bremen: Wolf – Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Lukimya, Caldirola – Junuzovic, Bargfrede – Elia, Hunt, Obraniak – Di Santo
Subs: Petersen & Kobylanski for Di Santo & Elia (55th), Aycicek for Hunt (79th)
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Friedrich, Sokratis, Schmelzer –Sahin, Bender –Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Lewandowski
Subs: Kehl & Großkreutz for Bender & Reus (65th), Hofmann for Aubameyang (77th)
Goals: 0-1 Lewandowski (26th), 0-2 Mkhitaryan (41st), 0-3 Friedrich (48th), 0-4 Mkhitaryan (62nd), 0-5 Lewandowski (85th), 1-5 Aycicek (89th)
Referee: Perl (München)
Bookings: Di Santo, Kobylanski - Friedrich, Sokratis
Attendance: 42.100 (sold-out Weserstadion)