TOWhen the full-time whistle sounded, the Eintracht Frankfurt coaching staff hugged each other but tried to hold back, aware that the season’s work was not yet complete. However, such is the hole that Borussia Dortmund has dug this season, that there was already a feeling that an end point had been entered.
If this weekend had the feeling that some teams on the continent had more than half an eye on their Champions League commitments in the coming week, Dortmund had neither the time nor the comfort to project themselves that far. The prospect of a visit to Premier League leaders Manchester City would have to wait if they were to maintain their hopes of sharing the same competitive air again next season.
As it turned out, incoming BVB coach Marco Rose could be reduced to texting his new friend Pep Guardiola, asking him on WhatsApp for a couple of video clips of the famous anthem of City’s adventures in competition next term. Prospects of maintaining their place in the European elite do not look bright for Dortmund after Saturday’s home loss to Frankfurt, which left them seven points behind their opponents in fourth place.
This game felt a bit like the Australian soap opera Neighbors. Even if a large number of episodes had been missed, it would only take a watch to quickly catch up on the trials, tribulations and dramas unfolding in Dortmund in the medium term. “We have made too many wrong decisions,” said sporting director Michael Zorc. He was referring to Saturday’s game, but could easily have been talking about the club as a whole over the course of the season.
He started out with the hope of tipping over to the Bundesliga title, or at least upsetting a Bayern Munich team that is pushed to the physical and mental limit of two seasons in one. Some of the BVB persuasion might have seen some of Bayern’s recent history for themselves, starting a season with a coach, Lucien Favre, who they weren’t completely convinced or convinced of that a top replacement was available. Bayern had started last season under the leadership of Niko Kovac, who is far from being unanimously endorsed, for similar reasons.
Consequently, a three-game losing streak in five Bundesliga games, the latest of which was a particularly humiliating 5-1 home blowout against Stuttgart, was all Dortmund needed to convince Favre. Like Bayern last season, BVB chose to replace the retired manager with his assistant. They were seduced by his youth, his knowledge and passion for the club as a childhood fan and his enthusiasm for top-tier football, moving away from Favre’s pragmatism. Unfortunately for them, Edin Terzic is not Hansi Flick.
It is not Terzic’s fault that he was put in this position, or that he is unprepared for it. Wanting to change Dortmund’s approach to a more dynamic one is great in theory, it befits more of the team’s profile and certainly the desire of the fans, but this is the worst possible season to change course mid-year. There has been no time to get into training camp and work, with the pressure on the schedule even reducing the famous Bundesliga winter break.
Consequently, the team’s record since the 38-year-old took office in mid-December is only sixth best in the Bundesliga. As disappointing as the season was shaping up under Favre, it seemed like the low of the top four was rarely in jeopardy. Confusion and tactical imprecision now reign. Emre Can fought valiantly on Saturday against the excellent Filip Kostic as an improvised right-back, while three real right-backs – Lukasz Piszczek, Mateu Morey and the admittedly out of shape Thomas Meunier – watched from the bench.
The origin of the two Frankfurt goals was from Dortmund’s left and right. Pursuing a victory that would have narrowed the gap between the top four to one point with desperation but little cunning, Giovanni Reyna and Reinier replaced Nico Schulz and an annoying Marco Reus, but the team further lost form and André Silva’s latest winner. turned from a disappointing Dortmund day into a ruinous one.
Frankfurt may be well below Dortmund’s quality in terms of player-by-player (although the excellent Silva, whose goal took him past Erling Haaland’s Bundesliga tally for the season, has been suggested as an eventual replacement for the Norwegian). On Saturday, they showed greater determination and composure in the moments that counted.
“I always stood up for the team,” CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a Sunday interview with Ruhr Nachrichten, “but I can’t do that for [this game]. It is a question of will and our team disappointed me enormously ”. The BVB is now on the brink of “a sporting and financial catastrophe”, as Mats Hummels described the possibility of missing the top four. The defender brutally (and not incorrectly) assessed Dortmund as “too unfocused and technically not good enough.”
Terzic could still theoretically end his time in command with two trophies: DfB Pokal and the Champions League. However, dealing with the Haaland situation, with Mino Raiola and his father Alf-Inge’s mid-week European tour not exactly sensitively scheduled, and a restless team would be difficult for a veteran, let alone a coach. inexperienced boss.
Reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League is a victory in itself, a welcome sporting and financial boost, to borrow Hummels’ parameters, and the first time they have reached the round of 16 since 2017, an eclipsed occasion. for the infamous bus attack before playing. Monaco. This time, against City, Dortmund couldn’t wish they were a more pronounced loser.
The absence of Jadon Sancho weighs heavily, as the England winger definitely missed the first leg and probably the comeback as well, if the tie should still be alive when he reaches Westfalen. Guardiola may have given too much thought to recent Champions League playoffs, but little suggests that this incarnation of Dortmund has the drive to capitalize on a replay.
Not Robert Lewandowski but no problem for Bayern, who won in Leipzig with a fine goal from the mighty Leon Goretzka to move seven points away from their hosts at the top. They had it all covered, from Manuel Neuer mending a broken net that delayed kickoff, to Flick resting Serge Gnabry, who was expected to cover Lewandowski against PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday, from the starting eleven.
Perhaps Dortmund fans can start thinking about “rolling with Marco Rose” after he planned a second straight win for Borussia Mönchengladbach, with Marcus Thuram’s double sealing a comeback over Freiburg. BVB alumnus Hannes Wolf made a good debut as coach of Leverkusen, who beat Schalke 2-1 after replacing Peter Bosz.
There were fireworks in the Berlin derby, even without fans, with some 70 Union fans gathered to greet the Hertha team bus in Köpenick before being dispersed by the police. A fireworks artillery was detonated at the start, briefly setting a snack kiosk on fire, and former Hertha youth product Robert Andrich scored a cookie to give the hosts a flying start. Dodi Lukebakio’s penalty salvaged a point desperately needed by struggling Hertha.
Augsburg 2-1 Hoffenheim; Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Schalke; Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt; Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 Freiburg; Mainz 1-1 Arminia Bielefeld; RB Leipzig 0-1 Bayern Munich; Stuttgart 1-0 Werder Bremen; Union Berlin 1-1 Hertha Berlin; Wolfsburg 1-0 Cologne