Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Three Talking Points From Borussia Dortmund’s Loss To Benfica In The Champions League

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Anas Molla
An ageing teenager who apparently still likes Twenty One Pilots and HIMYM. Also fascinated by Greek and Egyptian mythology and history. Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam.

Thomas Tuchel’s woes continue as his black and yellow troops once again failed to clinch a victory. BVB fell at the hands of SL Benfica last night, failing to find an equalizer to Mitroglou’s second half strike. The Portuguese outfit ran away narrow winners and gained a decent advantage for the second leg.

Following a loss against Darmstadt, in what was already a shameful week, Die Schwarzgelben went into the game as bookmakers’ favorites. Mario Götze’s injury kept him out of the CL squad as Tuchel approached with a mixed starting lineup against the Portuguese giants.

Dortmund Too Passive

This has been Dortmund’s problem for the entirety of the season. They often become too passive in front of goal or in the buildup play. Indeed, the away side amassed a total 564 passes against Benfica. A mammoth 69% of possession also makes sense. However, most of the possession was rather fruitless. Center backs Marc Bartra and Sokratis completed 60 passes between themselves. That’s 33% of the entire passes Benfica had made through the whole 90 minutes!

The departures of Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan have caused a lot of trouble for Thomas Tuchel’s team and his system, especially in the buildup phase. Completing so many passes without even threatening the opposition is a big sign of worry.

Resolute Benfica 

We also have to give plaudits to this excellent Benfica squad for executing a tactical masterclass. Rui Vitoria’s side managed a high backline throughout the game, especially in the first half. In the second half, the Aguias dropped off after the go-ahead goal. After a length of extreme vulnerability, the two center backs Luisão and Lindelof slowly started becoming more resolute. In fact, Luisão ended up having an extraordinary game, making four interceptions, winning four aerial duels and a whopping nine clearances.

It was still not enough for him to be crowned the man of the match, because of the stunning performance of the goalkeeper Ederson Moraes! The 23-year old made five crucial saves on the night. His saves ended up being the difference between the two teams.

Missing Chances

Despite Benfica’s attempts of keeping out the dangerous Dortmund attack at bay, the Portuguese side still handed a handful number of chances to the opposition. However, the Ruhr outfit failed to convert any of the chances. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in particular, received a fair amount of criticism after he missed his penalty in the second half. But prior to the penalty, the Gabonese international also missed two glorious opportunities.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 14: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang of Dortmund looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between SL Benfica and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio da Luz on February 14, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Since returning from the African Cup of Nations, Aubameyang’s form has seen a downward trajectory. Regardless, the 27-year old still leads the scoring charts in the Bundesliga with 17 strikes, and we can expect more in the future. It was probably just a case of having a not-so-great day at the office for him and entire Dortmund team as well.

The odds are still in favor of BVB. Two weeks later, the German giants will welcome Benfica to their fortress, Signal Iduna Park, where even the likes of Bayern and Real Madrid have failed this season. A 2:0 win could easily pave their way into the next round. The main task would be to stay resolute and use their firepower against this sharp attacking Benfica side.

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