A clean sheet and a perfect start
The Champions League seems to be a different world for our players of Borussia Dortmund. Suddenly, everyone shows a different mindset, is more encouraged and willing to give everything for the success of the club. This may sound a bit exaggerated, but I missed this attitude during several Bundesliga matches over the last weeks (especially in the derby) and therefore, it surprises me that Borussia is able to gain two (!) clean sheets in Champions League competition with the 2-0 over Arsenal and the 3-0 away from home at RSC Anderlecht while their defensive performance in the Bundesliga at times looks like a persiflage of how not to play defensively. However, let's take it as we got it and be happy with the second Champions League victory of the season and hope that this could bring some new confidence for the upcoming matches even though after the match against Hamburg, we will get a break because of the national team.
Before the match
An away trip from Germany to Belgium sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It is not too far away, Belgium is a nice country, Brussels is a good city to visit and after the match, you'll be at home very quick. Right? Well, the supporters of Borussia who travelled to Anderlecht will report differently. The only option to make it to the match was by traveling with the bus directly from Dortmund to the stadium and back again. No stops (sometimes not even to go to the toilet), convoys by the Belgian police, waiting on the stands for 45 minutes after the match (again without the possibility to go to the toilet), no opportunity to see something from the country or the city except looking out of the window. And even though this sounds pretty bad, there were some problems with the tickets before the match as well, since RSC Anderlecht decided to deliver late and (which is even worse) send a box that basically said "Here are the tickets for the match". The consequence: The box was opened before it got to Dortmund and the tickets needed to be send again. All in all, it was not easy to make it to the Anderlecht match, but this is not the main reason why only around 1.000 fans travelled to the match, the other reason being the small stadium. However, those who travelled did a pretty good job supporting their team even though the opinions about pyro techniques which were presented at the start of the second half can be ambivalent. I like them as long nobody is put into a dangerous position so I was okay with everything.
Looking at the personal situation before the match, Borussia was happy to welcome back Sebastian Kehl. The former captain replaced Matthias Ginter besides Sven Bender on the double six and brought back some security to the defensive end of the team. Furthermore, the back four was changed yet another time. Mats Hummels who started in the derby and did not look good in several situations was put on the bench, also because he still is not able to play for whole 90 minutes. Marcel Schmelzer was also brought in for Erik Durm and Shinji Kagawa was back in the starting eleven and replaced Adrian Ramos. Especially Kagawa brought back some creativity, not only after he was subbed in during the derby on Saturday, but also during the whole match against Anderlecht. All in all, the personal situation slightly looks better, at least there is some light to be seen on the horizon even though BVB still misses Mkhitaryan, Kuba, Gündogan, Kirch, Reus and Sahin. Anderlecht changed twice in comparison their Jupiler League match this weekend – Praet and Nuytinck were brought in for Colin and Heylen.
The game could not have started any better. While several fans were still outside of the stadium due to the circumstances during their travel to Belgium, Shinji Kagawa once again showed his genius by assisting Italian striker Ciro Immobile with a great chip. Anderlecht's defense tried to put Immobile offside but were too slow to do so, giving Ciro the opportunity to score by just getting the ball past goalkeeper Proto which looked very easy. Immobile scores his second Champions League goal in his second match and therefore underlines that critics should not be too harsh with him. He is an efficient striker, also in the Dortmund jersey, but he just still needs some time to get used to the style of play. In addition, there are no words to describe the brilliant assist by Kagawa which made this early lead possible (3rd). Borussia's start into the match was pretty good with the before-mentioned right attitude and will to win and several good situations, but also with the old habits of lacking focus in the defense. This nearly resulted in the equalizer which was already scored by Mitrovic after a quick attack over Anderlecht's left side and some help by snoring BVB defenders. However, Dortmund was lucky at that time that Mitrovic stood offside and this 1-1 was rightfully not awarded to Anderlecht (9th). Borussia did not seem impressed though and continued to play with the right mindset and nice combinations in their offense just like in minute 10, when a great combination over Kagawa and Großkreutz brought Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into the position to just need to bring the ball into the empty goal but our number 17 failed to do so. Even though he played a good overall match and in doing so confirmed his great recent form, he was unlucky in several situations, for example eight minutes later when Proto cleared another Aubameyang opportunity.
Anderlecht, however, created chances on their own as well and Borussia could be happy that Weidenfeller cleared a good opportunity by Praet, who appeared solely in front of our goalie after one of the patented and feared misdirected passes by former skipper Sebastian Kehl (15th). The away team could have doubled the score until half time very well though and seemed to have done so in minute 26, when a Aubameyang cross found Kevin Großkreutz and the Dortmunder Jung scored but was assisted with some inches in offside so this 2-0 was just as rightfully denied as the equalizer 17 minutes earlier. The last real opportunity of the first half was Marcel Schmelzer's direct shot after a cross from the right side by Lukasz Piszczek which was blocked by goalkeeper Proto (30th). The last 15 minutes of this first half were not too entertaining because Anderlecht played more defensively and Dortmund did not find the key to creating any more chances.
The match continued in the same way that the first half ended. Only a few chances, one of them seeing Aubameyang's next try to defeat Proto (52nd), for both sides and a match which Borussia had in some way under control. But the result was dangerous especially keeping in mind the opportunities Anderlecht had in the first half and concerning the fact that Borussia haven't kept a clean sheet for a long time, a 2-0 would have been much better and much more relaxing than the result of this period in the match. That may also be one reason why Jürgen Klopp brought Adrian Ramos for Kevin Großkreutz, a second striker instead of replacing Immobile. Ramos would prove Klopp was right just four minutes after his substitution. A great cross by Piszczek from the right side found the Columbian striker who got rid of his defending follower and had no big problem to double Borussia's lead (69th). This was the relaxing 2-0 and at that moment, one could have thought that Borussia will win this match for sure. But even though Aubameyang nearly made it 3-0 some seconds later, Anderlecht was still trying to come back. Mitrovic was brought into position with a long ball because a BVB defender was not focused enough, but luckily, the striker only hit the right post with his shot because a 2-1 may have caused some trouble for the rest 15 minutes (75th). However, Ramos set the proclamation mark another four minutes later when Aubameyang could use his entire speed on the left wing, assisted Ramos who proved that he is a player capable of going into a dribbling and then made it 3-0 which was the very decider of the evening.
This was the perfect start into the new season of the Champions League. However, one question needs to be answered: Why does the team look to play different in Bundesliga and Champions League? I mean, I understand that the Champions League is the most attractive competition, playing against international opponents and not against Freiburg, Mainz and stuff, but to make it to the Champions League, you need do gain a good place in the Bundesliga ranking. And especially comparing the will and attitude of the derby with the passion the players showed against Anderlecht, I kinda feel disappointed. But the lack of passion is not the only reason for the recent results in the Bundesliga and I don't want to be too big of a critic with the team which has to deal with several personal worries and many matches in short periods of time. Let's just hope that the match in Anderlecht was a start into a better stage of the season and Borussia will continue with the same attitude, mindset and passion on Saturday against Hamburg. Then I would be happy and would have the answer to my question in the match in Anderlecht being maybe some kind of a can opener.
Anderlecht: Proto - Najar, Mbemba, Nuytinck, Deschacht - Defour, Tielemans - Conté, Praet, Suarez – Mitrovic
Subs: Acheampong for Conté (73rd), Kabasele and Cyriac for Suarez and Mitrovic (82nd)
Borussia: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Sokratis, Subotic, Schmelzer – Kehl, Bender – Aubameyang, Kagawa, Großkreutz – Immobile
Subs: Ramos for Großkreutz (65th), Durm for Immobile (72nd), Hummels for Bender (82nd)
Goals: 0-1 Immobile (3rd), 0-2 Ramos (69th), 0-3 Ramos (79th)
Referee: Tagliavento (Italy)
Bookings: Suarez, -
Attendance: 18.649 (sold-out)