Borussia Dortmund got their Bundesliga campaign up and running with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach at the Signal Igunda Park yesterday evening.
Goals from Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a brace from Henrik Mkhitaryan ensured that Thomas Tuchel’s first league match as Dortmund manager was a victorious one.
The home side started off on the front foot and were unlucky not to be ahead after just eight minutes when Mkhitaryan had a goal disallowed for offside. Replays showed that the Armenian playmaker was level with Monchengladbach’s back line, and the away side were lucky to still be level.
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The cancelled out strike was created by Shinji Kagawa, who, from the very first whistle, was finding little pockets of space to operate in between the lines of Monchengladbach’s midfield and defence.
Dortmund’s attacking play in the early stages was characterised by freedom; the three attacking midfielders: Mkhitaryan, Reus and Kagawa were interchanging positions constantly behind Aubameyang, who despite being the home side’s lone striker, was finding himself spoilt with support.
The opening goal came on 15 minutes, and what a goal it was. It all started with Mats Hummels, the modern day central defender who looks comfortable enough on the ball to play as a number 10, playing a strong ball forward to the feet of Kagawa. The Japanese midfielder used the weight from Hummels’ pass to guide the ball through to Reus, who had found himself half a yard of space inside Munchdgladbach’s box. Reus gathered the ball wonderfully with the outside of his right foot, before unleashing a powerful, low drive past Yann Sommer in the Monchengladbach goal.
Monchengladbach continually struggled to cope with the high intensity of Dortmund’s game. The away side, who finished third last season, were finding it difficult to apply any sustained pressure on Dortmund. Raffael, so often the shining light of Munchegladbach’s attack, was finding it tricky to find any space to create opportunities for his teammates.
The second goal came after just 20 minutes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the move was once again started by the deepest lying playmaker on the field, Mats Hummels. The German World Cup winner played a pinpoint ball forward to Marcel Schmelzer, Dortmund’s attacking left-sided fullback. Schmelzer then delivered a sumptuous cross into the penalty area, which was met by Aubameyang, who guided his header into the bottom corner of the net.
Reus should’ve put the game to bed after 27 minutes. After some great, hustling midfield work from the central duo of Ilker Gundogan and young Julian Weigl, the ball was played forward to Reus, who was through on goal. On this occasion, however, Reus fired his opportunity over the crossbar.
After 33 minutes, the third goal came. Monchengladbach’s makeshift defensive midfielder, Lars Stindl, was caught in possession deep inside Dortmund’s half after a brilliant tackle from Weigl. The ball fell to Gundogan, who played a through ball to Aubameyang. The Benin born forward used his pace to outsprint young Andreas Christensen, before laying the ball across to Mkhitaryan, who fired the ball into the empty Munchengladbach net.
After 37 minutes, Dortmund lead the shots on goal count 10-3 which was hardly surprising considering their complete dominance.
Mkhitaryan almost rounded off the perfect first half performance with a swerving, left-footed half-volley from 25 yards, but the ball flew half a yard wide of Sommer’s goal.
In all honesty, Dortmund could have been six up at the break. For all the brilliance of Dortmund's play going forward, Monchengladbach looked uncharacteristically shaky at the back. They were certainly missing Christoph Kramer in the middle of the park, the excellent holding midfielder who returned to Bayer Leverkusen after his successful loan spell with the club.
It took Dortmund just five minutes of the second half to add another; this time Reus turned provider, he received a ball over the top from Kagawa, sprinted towards the Monchengladbach box, and laid the ball off to Mkhitaryan, who swept the ball into the top corner to score his second of the evening.
This was a scoreline that few people would have predicted, particularly when you consider Monchengladbach's superb defensive form of last season. In the last half (17 games) of the 2014/15 campaign, they conceded just 10 goals, a new Bundesliga record. After an hour in Dortmund, the away side had almost reached half that figure.
The second half continued with Dortmund dominating the ball, however, to Monchengladbach’s credit, they did tighten up defensively and the game fizzled out without too many more memorable moments.
It was certainly a statement from Tuchel’s side, and any lingering doubts about how the team may fare without Jurgen Klopp will soon be diminished if these sort of excellent performances become the norm.
After the game, Tuchel said: "It was a great performance", he went on to add his side "were very alert and created a lot of chances. I'm very satisfied."
Lucien Favre, Borussia Monchengladbach's manager, was honest in his assessment, he said Dortmund "were better than us - period," he also felt the scoreline was a fair reflection of the game: "They (Dortmund) were faster than us - period. 0-4 was deserved - period."