Thomas Tuchel’s first league campaign as Borussia Dortmund coach got off to a flying start at home with a stunning 4-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.
Playing their fourth competitive fixture of the season, Dortmund picked last season’s third-place finishers off at ease with some scintillating, dynamic football. Marco Reus scored the first against his former club before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang toasted his new deal this summer with a fine header.
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The form player this summer is Henrikh Mkhitaryan who added to his scoring streak with two goals either side of the half-time whistle. With no goalless draw between these sides in 21 years, there was always the potential for a fascinating encounter — however the manner of Borussia Dortmund’s performance caught most by surprise.
Tuchel kept roughly the same shape as recent games where his players have shown glimpses of class without looking completely settled. Meanwhile, Lucien Favre’s decision to keep Marvin Schulz and Andreas Christensen in the heart of defense appeared to back-fire. The pair — 19 and 20, respective — made their debut together at St Pauli on Monday, yet that paled in comparison to what was unfold at Signal Iduna Park.
Favre’s decision was bold. Confidence is fragile at that age, yet the Swiss coach wasn’t exactly helped out by his more experienced performers at fullback and in midfield. Neither centernack looked particularly convincing, leaving the organization down to goalie Yann Sommer, which is a risky strategy.
Dortmund’s threat on the attack was conspicuous, especially after seven minutes when Mkhitaryan stormed clear of the Foals defense and slotted home â but the linesman incorrectly ruled judged the Armenian to be offside.
Eight minutes later, the effort of the home team was rewarded when Dortmund pin-balled through the compact defensive lines of Gladbach. Mats Hummels marshalled the move, passing into the feet of Shinji Kagawa whose reverse pass found Reus in the inside-left channel and he hammered the ball emphatically into the net.
Reus rose to prominence at Borussia-Park with 18 months of highly-impressive performances before his move to Borussia Dortmund in 2012. The German forward hasn’t had the most successful time at his boyhood team, but he did strike twice in the club’s largest win (5-0) over Gladbach shortly after his arrival.
Feeding off the intensity of the home crowd, Tuchel’s side began to swarm the visitors with attack-after-attack. On 21 minutes, the resistance was beaten – Marcel Schmelzer received the ball high on the left-wing, and his cross was spun cannily into the far corner by Aubameyang.
Quick to win the ball back, incisive in possession and lethal on the break: Dortmund was fully-dominant. Rather impressive was the 19-year-old midfielder Julian Weigl who showed composure well beyond his years to orchestrate proceedings. The youngster, who was almost relegated to the third-tier with 1860 Munich, has the potential to a special player.
Midway through the half, his midfield partner, the all-rounder Ilkay Gundogan, picked out Reus on the counterattack and he blazed over the crossbar. The same pattern ensued to make it 3-0: Gundogan sweeped up on poor Gladbach passing, released Aubameyang who left Christensen for dead in a head-to-head sprint and set up Mkhitaryan for his fifth goal of the season.
Hummels saw a header cleared off-the-line by Raffael on 35 minutes as the pressure mounted once more,. Two minutes later, Mkhitaryan almost converted a sumptuous left-foot volley as he was off-balance, but the ball flew wide of the target.
Mkhitaryan noted in an interview this week how his confidence had been resurrected under Tuchel this summer. He swept home his second of the game — his sixth in three games — to match his tally of five goals in 42 appearances last season.
Dortmund was unlucky not to add to the four goals as Gundogan’s chance on the hour mark would have put the icing on the cake for the midfielder who looks to be on track to his best form since his first six months in the first-team.
Clearly, the home side had the edge with so much competitive action before the first game of the season. However, concerns won’t be far away from Favre right now following the loss of Christoph Kramer and Max Kruse from his squad over the summer. With UEFA Champions League on the horizon, the demands are remarkably high on the Foals.
But the nod of the evening goes to new coach Tuchel. It’s early days, of course, and there won’t be much mention of a title-race, yet the raw energy around Dortmund on the first weekend of the new season couldn’t be any further away from their struggles last term.