Christian Pulisic’s Dortmund Finally Back In Win Column
Borussia Dortmund hadn’t won in nine Bundesliga matches, so they hired a manager who hadn’t won in 14 matches. And it worked, somehow. Dortmund beat Mainz 2-0 to win for the first time in league play since September to give new coach Peter Stöger his first victory this season.
Dortmund fired coach Peter Bosz after falling to eighth in the Bundesliga and replaced him with Stöger on Sunday. Stöger had coached Cologne for the first 14 matches of the season, going 0-11-3 in that span. But as soon as he made the move to Dortmund, he finally earned his first victory of the season, albeit in a scrappy win over relegation-threatened Mainz.
Stöger’s Dortmund bared little resemblance to BVB squads in recent years, often willing to cede possession and shut up shop in the back. The result was an incongruous offensive display, but a defense that posted its first clean sheet in league play since Sept. 20, when a 3-0 win over Hamburg put Dortmund on top of the Bundesliga.
Stöger, who has a history of utilizing the now-old-fashioned 4-4-2, opted to keep Dortmund’s formation relatively intact, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, Andriy Yarmolenko on the right and Christian Pulisic on the left. None of the three attackers found much fluidity on offense, though Aubameyang did supply a nice assist for the second goal.
In the midst of feeling out their new coach’s demands, Dortmund took the lead in the 55th minute on a strong finish from Sokratis Papastathopoulos on a rebound off the post.
Sokratis has given Dortmund just what they needed!Can they hold on for the final 30+ minutes? https://t.co/yrgfySqRuG
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 12, 2017
Dortmund seemed to grow in confidence as the match went on, but still looked nothing like a club capable of challenging for Bundesliga or Champions League titles. But they were strong in the back, with goalkeeper Roman Burki only needing to make one save, a diving effort in the 66th minute.
Pulisic was subbed out in 70th minute after an indifferent performance, failing to make much of an impact. He had a few poor touches and gave the ball away a couple times but did create a good scoring chance he hit off target.
Personally, I sometimes wish Dortmund matches were like in FIFA, where you could just simulate the remaining minutes once Pulisic is subbed off. Unfortunately the match had to actually be played so we could watch Pulisic’s replacement, Mahmoud Dahoud miss two great chances to score.
Dortmund did add a late goal in the 89th minute through Shinji Kagawa. Though the Japanese midfielder supplied the finish, Aubameyang did all the hard work, taking the keeper out of the play and laying off to Kagawa to fire home.
Dortmund are on their way to a win thanks to this insurance goal from Kagawa! https://t.co/yrjiHWojFd— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 12, 2017
The win boosted Dortmund to fourth place, in the Champions League spots, but still 10 points behind league-leading Bayern Munich, which has a game in hand. It’s unlikely Dortmund can catch Munich, but if Stöger can keep his club playing strong defense, a top-four finish seems much more likely than it did last week.