Hamburg 1-1 Dortmund: late equaliser snatches a point for the leaders
Jakub Blaszczykowski scored a thunderous volley in stoppage time, so Dortmund’s lead now stands at five points.
Michael Oenning brought back Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Jarolim into his starting XI, playing a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Jurgen Klopp played his expected XI – unchanged from the previous weekend’s win over Hannover, and with the exception of long-term injury victim Shinji Kagawa, this was the standard starting line-up throughout the season.
This was a decent game – the entertainment value game from the tension and the importance of Dortmund’s result, however, rather than any great technical quality or major tactical interest.
There was an unusual match-up of systems. Hamburg’s 4-1-3-2 saw three midfield runners supporting the two strikers, with Jarolim holding. The Czech also joined the attack at some points, however, so it was a very fluid, offensive system from the home side. They were happy enough to let Robert Lewandowski wander between the lines.
Dortmund played their usual formation, with the attacking band of three playing quite narrow, coming into the centre of the pitch and perhaps trying to exploit the fact that Jarolim was often stranded ahead of his own defence – much in the same way Germany broke quickly against the exposed Javier Mascherano in last summer’s World Cup.
With Dortmund taking a while to get going, the most promising part of the pitch was the left-hand side of Hamburg’s attack. Ze Roberto drifted towards that wing, whilst Dennis Aogo sprinted down the flank – they formed a triangle with Eljero Elia, and caused Dortmund problems early on in their right-back zone, especially as Mario Gotze was a little slow to get back and cover Lukazs Piszczek. It was a good move featuring those three players that resulted in the penalty just before half time – van Nistelrooy converted from the spot.
For their part, Dortmund were disappointing. Lucas Barrios kept falling foul of the Hamburg offside trap, whilst counter-attacks lacked momentum and purpose. The full-backs got forward to stretch the play, but there was a lack of cohesion in attacking moves.
The truth was simply that Dortmund weren’t playing well – sloppy with their passing, and lacking true creativity. Gotze took a while to get back into the game – though showed his quality in the second half – whilst Nuri Sahin seemed to play deeper than usual and didn’t have his usual energy.
The away side’s best chances actually came when they put longer balls from deep positions into the box. They hit first the post (via a deflection) and then the crossbar after lofted crosses from the left flank, and Barrios headed just past the far post from a similar situation.
Dortmund’s hopes were dealt a big blow when Barrios went off with an injury. He was replaced by Mohamed Zidan, whilst Lewandowski was replaced by fellow Pole Błaszczykowski. This left Dortmund desperately needing a goal without their most potent goalscorer, Barrios, and their hopes looked slim.
A crucial moment came when Anis Ben-Hatira was dismissed for a second bookable offence. This allowed Klopp to make a third substitution, removing Lars Bender and introducing Patrick Owomoyela, generally known as a right-sided holding player, or a right-back.
Owomoyela went upfront, however, and used his height and aerial ability to win long balls pumped forward. That’s not to say that Dortmund resorted to route one, because they generally worked the ball out wide to the flanks (particularly the left) before lofting it into the box. Sahin moved into a very deep position to dictate play and switch the ball from side to side, leaving five players ahead of him, plus two advanced full-backs, to try and get the goal. Even Mats Hummels went forward in the closing stages.
Oenning tried to shut up shop at the end of the match, withdrawing van Nistelrooy and Elia and putting on Marcell Jansen and Guy Demel, two defenders. However, Hamburg still found themselves outnumbered at the back as Dortmund pushed men forward, and whilst the away side’s goal never seemed to be a formality, its nature was predictable – a long ball from Marcel Schmelzer on the left wing and a header won by Owomoyela. The finish, from Blaszczykowski, was absolutely superb and may turn out to be crucial come the end of the season.
Rarely this season have Dortmund had to scrap for points, but this match showed they have it in them – ‘the mark of champions’ and the usual cliches come to mind.
Klopp should be given credit for the way he altered his side’s strategy late on – he wanted his side to hit longer passes, but they did so via the flanks rather than with the centre-backs hoofing the ball forward, and the passing ability of Sahin was crucial to supply the full-backs.
Throwing Owomoyela on for Bender has to go down as one of the substitutions of the season. The former German international hadn’t provided a goal or an assist for over a year, and hadn’t featured at all since September because of injury, but turned out to be crucial in providing flick-ons and knock-downs, one of which produced the crucial equaliser.Hamburg 1-1 Dortmund: late equaliser snatches a point for the leaders