Borussia Dortmund cruised to victory against a Freiburg side who should be made to refund the 4,000 or so travelling fans who took the four-and-a-half hour journey to North Rhine-Westphalia from Baden-Württemberg.
Dortmund came into this game experiencing something of a wobble, scoring just one win from the last four games. Their once colossal lead at the top of the table now stood at five points, and were it not for Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski’s late leveller at Hamburg last week, the distance between themselves and Bayer Leverkusen would have been even more slight. Fortunately, Leverkusen’s abysmal display and performance at Bayern Munich in the hours ahead of this game did little to suggest that Dortmund’s lead was truly under threat. Freiburg coach Robin Dutt has already signed a contract to take over at Dortmund’s immediate *title rivals* next season, and this game was a great chance to immediately make himself popular with Bayer fans. If he wanted to appease any Freiburg fans unhappy with his departure, a victory here would also be crucial – Dutt, his players and the fans knew that a loss at Signal-Iduna-Park would finally extinguish their Europa League aspirations. They won last time out, 3-2 against Hoffenheim, but that was their first taste of glory in six games. In Dortmund, Dutt had to make do without Pavel Krmaš, Yacine Abdessadki, Simon Pouplin, Felix Bastians and Jan Rosenthal.
Those players he was able to pick were only really used to performing in front of 20,000 or so fans – not quite the near 80,000 who flock to watch Dortmund play each week. Nevertheless, they had the division’s second top scorer, Papiss Cissé, in their starting XI, although how the Senegalase striker would handle the pressure cooker atmosphere was another matter – hot-headed Cissé came into this tie having collected eight yellow cards in 2010/11. Dutt’s counterpart, 43-year-old Stuttgart-born Jürgen Klopp, was shorn of his own top scorer, Argentina-born Paraguayan international Lucas Barrios. The one time South American journeyman, one year older than Cissé at 26, joined Shinji Kagawa, Damien Le Tallec and former Freiburg midfielder Sebastian Kehl on the sidelines.
The visitors started cynically, knocking the ball side to side on the edge of their own box with Dortmund sitting off. When Freiburg finally elected to make forward passes, they were direct moves, and battled for energetically. This ensured that the opening few minutes were bitty, a pattern that continued until Dortmund’s defence indulged in their own sideways series of passes – easing the pace despite Freiburg bobbing towards the man on the ball in a triangle, looking to narrow the angles. Yet save for one or two sharp and swift first-time passes in the opposition’s half from either side, there was nothing really coherent – ignoring the afternoon sun, the pressing from both sides was effective.
But the difference in class was immediately apparent – Freiburg conceding more fouls without the ball, and showing themselves to be a bit more heavy on it. Dortmund’s movement was superior to that of their guests, and their tactics more varied – Freiburg were too keen on scooping a long ball down the left channel for on-loan Schalke man Erik Jendrišek to chase. He found the ball less easy to come by than Kuba and Mario Götze; both of whom were silky and dangerous down the right, working in tandem. As the game wore on, they helped keep Freiburg pinned back, ensuring that all the away side’s panicky hoofs upfield to the hard-working Cissé were in vain.
Despite the penetration of the aforementioned Dortmund midfield duo, the home side looked most likely to score from a set-piece – one of Łukasz Piszczek’s superhuman long-throws, or a Nuri Şahin floated free-kick. It was becoming such a backs-to-the-wall job for Freiburg that they hauled everyone back into their box to defend the Dortmund free-kicks and corners. This allowed Klopp’s full-backs to stay parked in the opposition’s half, mopping up any overhit crosses from the other flank, and allowing the wingers to stay close to their fellow nominal attackers; thereby increasing the speed and effectiveness of the intricate give-&-go moves that Dortmund have this season made their trademark. When Freiburg did get on the ball, with time, they didn’t muck about – long balls to their box-bound striking superstar, with Cedric Makiadi nearby to mop up any loose balls. Makiadi, who occasionally flanked Cissé up top, would use these knock-downs to lay on the oncoming playmaker Julian Schuster. On one such occasion, the former Stuttgart midfielder superbly picked out Belarussian colleague Anton Putsila in a pocket of space just off the D. But the youngster panicked, overhitting a speculative through-pass to Makiadi.
Dutt was left to rue his starlet’s lack of composure in the 23rd minute, as his side shot themselves in the foot with some hopeless defending to allow Dortmund to take the lead. A scooped pass found Kevin Großkreutz bound for the byline, with a cluster of three defenders standing lazily deep beyond the penalty spot, playing him onside and doing very little else. Oliver Barth was too slow to get across to cut the square/pull-back/shot out, and when the right-footed left-winger’s pass back to the penalty spot was missed by Robert Lewandowski (who dragged two defenders out of the game on his near post dart), Götze had something of a tap-in for 1-0. BVB began to turn the screw in the aftermath of that strike, but failed to take a series of chances created from direct build-up play due to something else that this side has made their trademark this season – profligacy.
Ahead and having ridden a relatively superficial post-goal *backlash* from their visitors, Klopp decided the time was right to remove Şahin, who’d picked up a knock in the opening stages of the game and had been moving gingerly ever since. Antônio da Silva replaced him in a like-for-like switch. Freiburg, meanwhile, were now looking to play a higher line, and therefore pressing the ball higher up the pitch in the process. This encouraged Dortmund to attempt more balls over the top to Lewandowski, playing off the last-shoulder (but not really a master of doing so), or long-diagonals to the widemen. Their change of pace in the final-third was frighteningly good, ensuring that Freiburg stayed in a defensive mindset. Their only means of attack was Oliver Baumann’s drop-kicks towards Roman Weidenfeller’s D. When they managed to hold one such kick in the BVB half, Makiadi showed great composure in the box to dance his way to a toe-poked chance. Unfortunately, it was right at Weidenfeller. Perhaps they could have created more chances, but their will to win was conspicuous only by its absence. Dortmund didn’t let up in spite of their lead – often winning back lost balls within a matter of seconds of giving possession away. This attitude was encapsulated in the 42nd minute when a Makiadi through-pass to Daniel Caligiuri saw Mats Hummels superbly positioned to cut it out. The former Bayern Munich man instigated a quick break, which seemed to falter;only for Ömer Toprak, infected by his side’s lethargy bug, to inexplicably play a through-pass to Lewandowski, who rounded Baumann and made it 2-0.
Presumably fresh from a Dutt lecture at the interval, Freiburg started the half with a bit of intent and urgency. They forced a number of hoofed clearances from their hosts, yet despite spending at least five minutes camped in the BVB half, Weidenfeller wasn’t called into action once. The game’s more familiar pattern soon resumed, with BVB playing aimless keep-ball in either half, forcing Freiburg to consume energy. On one occasion when things got a little too close for comfort in the first-third of the pitch, Hummels scooped a ball upfield, Lewandowski sprinted back to flick it on, and timing his run to perfection, Götze was on the end of it. The 18-year-old seemed determined to forge a partnership with Großkreutz early on in this half, and began this relationship after receiving his Polish colleague’s knock-down. By then, Toprak, Leverkusen-bound along with Dutt, was alert to the danger, and cut the pass out. However, the home side’s best chance in the opening quarter-hour of the second half came in the 55th minute – da Silva’s left-footed right-sided corner kick was sent dropping to the box, where Piszczek just failed to make an adequate connection with the ball.
The visitors, who had adopted a flat 4-4-2 with huge corridors between each bank, were inviting the pressure on themselves, allowing the intelligent fluidity of Dortmund to reap rewards. But the majority of the half was rather flat: occasionally brilliant build-up play from Dortmund ruined by wasteful finishing, and all Freiburg attempts to attack easily corked. The visitors were inviting trouble in the last 25 minutes after replacing Jendrišek with Stefan Reisinger – a right-sided striker. This allowed Piszczek room to fly forward, exploiting the space which was presumably supposed to be covered by either Putsila or Cissé.
It wasn’t until the 79th minute, however, that the game was put to bed. Dortmund broke at pace, and you’ll scoop no prizes for guessing that the assist came from Götze. He laid on Großkreutz, returning the first half favour, and the left winger made it 3-0. The former was then replaced by Dedê – a nice touch from Klopp, with the Brazilian leaving in the summer after 13 years in Dortmund. He gave the hosts a bit more defensive solidity – occasionally showing up on the left of a 4-2-3-1, but mostly falling back to help form a 4-3-2-1. Großkreutz had also been replaced a minute or so after Götze, with the man taking his place, Markus Feulner, moving to the support striker role. Not that it really mattered – the game was well and truly done and dusted. And, of course, the 2010/11 title too.