Borussia Dortmund struck three times in the opening 25 minutes to beat hosts VfB Stuttgart 4-0 away on Saturday and protect their four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.
Jadon Sancho put them ahead with a deflected effort in the third minute before Marco Reus launched their attack for the second goal and finished it off with a fine shot in the 23rd.
Spaniard Paco Alcacer continued his spectacular scoring run two minutes later to notch his seventh league goal this season and become the first Bundesliga player to require just 106 minutes of playing time to do so.
Stuttgart, in 17th place, attempted to force their way back into the game early in the second half but quickly ran out of ideas before Dortmund took control again.
Maximilian Philipp completed the rout in the 85th minute to become Dortmund’s 14th scorer in eight league games this season. The Ruhr valley club has also scored 27 goals so far, a club record after eight games.
Dortmund, who earned their fourth straight league win, are on 20 points, four ahead of champions Bayern Munich, who are in second place.
“I will defend Niko Kovac to the last drop of blood,” Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness vowed in an interview with Kicker magazine on Monday, insisting that Sabener Strasse was engulfed by total calmness, contrary to reports.
The Croatian coach has escaped censure for a run of four winless games, with most commentators focusing on the German champions’ muted activities in the transfer market and the fatigue of key players in their efforts to explain the malaise.
However, despite emphatic backing from the most important man in the club, 46-year-old Kovac’s position is more precarious than outward appearances suggest. Multiple sources close to senior figures in the dressing room have told ESPN of growing doubts about his suitability for the job among the playing staff.
First, a caveat. At a club like Bayern, it is not difficult to find disgruntled pros who feel misunderstood and disagree with the manager’s tactics, especially in times of bad results. James Rodriguez, for example, has made no effort to hide his annoyance in light of his limited game-time. Privately, a couple of younger players are also unhappy that Kovac has stuck with the veterans for key games.
That is just the way things are; without the glue of success, it is unrealistic to expect cohesion in a team of so many disparate parts. But it goes much deeper in this particular instance. After impressing his new charges with a sharp preseason regime and strong attention to defensive details on the pitch, Kovac, as the complaints go, has offered too little by way of creative sparks for the final third, relying on routine automatisms and individual qualities of the squad.
Seven consecutive wins at the start of the campaign, including some strong performances, suggested that Bayern’s brilliance didn’t necessitate too much tinkering. However, a succession of opposition managers have since worked out that the Bavarians attack in rather predictable patterns on the flanks, with very little penetrative movement in the centre and no positional variety.
The problem was most pronounced in the 3-0 defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach last Saturday, when the hosts were unable to create any high-calibre chances and the manager persisted with the same, impotent set-up throughout 90 minutes.
“Kovac has been good on fitness levels and defensive organisation but the players expected solutions up front,” a source told ESPN. “And they got nothing.” Centre-back Mats Hummels hinted at those frustrations, noting that Bayern had mostly operated “in non-dangerous tactical spaces” against Borussia.
Carlo Ancelotti was fired just over a year ago after key players spoke out internally about his overly relaxed training sessions and the strange line-up he picked for a 3-0 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain.
There are not yet similar levels of personal hostility towards the new man in charge, but Kovac is in danger of losing the team’s confidence when it comes to his footballing ideas and a nigh-impossible balancing act on the man-management side.
More seasoned operators than him would have surely struggled to reconcile the club’s mutually exclusive policies of paving the way for a transition and keeping faith with a family of trusted stalwarts. By gamely trying to do both, Kovac is perilously close to doing neither: “Half the dressing room are not entirely sure of him,” a source said.
In his defence, Kovac has little previous experience of coaching a combination game, having found success with a very muscular and collective approach at Eintracht Frankfurt last season. Maybe it was inevitable that he would need some time to adjust to a vastly more talented side and the need to break down deep defences.
The support of Hoeness will keep the axe at bay for the moment, but the players require answers and, three months into the job, their coach still has to prove he is the right man. Finding immediate ways to address tactical needs and personal discontent is a matter of critical importance if Kovac’s reign is not to end before it has really begun.
As he knows all too well, time is only ever afforded to those who win in Munich and, sometimes, not even then.
Borussia Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji has said it is his dream to play for Manchester United one day.
Akanji, 23, joined Dortmund from FC Basel in January and has already established himself as a key player in their back four.
When club captain Marco Reus was substituted against Nurnberg, Akanji took over the armband, but he already has much bigger targets in his sights.
“I have a big dream,” Akanji told NZZ. “To get as far as possible in football. Since my childhood days Manchester United have been my favourite club. I’d like to play there one day.
“But right now, that’s not an issue. I am happy at Dortmund and try to be the best possible person off the pitch.”
Having played every minute of all of Dortmund’s competitive games this term, Akanji has averaged around 72 passes per Bundesliga match, with 94.5 percent completed.
Surging runs into midfield and his build-up play have drawn comparisons between Akanji and former Dortmund captain Mats Hummels, something that he puts down to new coach Lucien Favre.
“I feel from the coach that as a centre-back I should also play a part in the attacking game,” Akanji said. “I have a lot of liberties under Favre and he gives me the belief to start plays from the back.”
But I also must take on more responsibility in defence. At 23, I am the eldest of the two centre-backs. I was the junior last season. I like having more responsibility. I must coach more than before.”
Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara has brushed aside speculation Zinedine Zidane is being lined up to replace under-pressure Niko Kovac.
Zidane, who left Real Madrid at the end of last season after guiding them to their third straight Champions League title, is reportedly a potential replacement for Kovac at Bayern if they dismiss him following a run of four league games without a win.
Asked about the possibility of seeing Zidane at Bayern, Alcantara, in his sixth season at the Allianz Arena, told Cadena Ser radio: “It’s just rumours. Rumours are rumours. Fortunately, there are many veteran players at Bayern and we know how to deal with this.
“We try to work in order to change this situation and move forward. We have to work with what we have now. Speculating on the future serves for nothing.”
Kovac won his first seven matches in charge, but a run of four games without a victory and just two goals against Augsburg, Hertha Berlin, Ajax and Borussia Monchengladbach has left him under pressure.
Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to Gladbach dropped Bayern to sixth in the Bundesliga, four points adrift of league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
But Spain international Alcantara says he and his teammates must not panic.
“We started the season well, winning convincingly our first official seven games,” Alcantara said.
“After the international break, we returned and the team was a bit tired, we started to lose the nuances and the guidelines that leaves a team having bad vibes. We go out looking to get a result but we concede after 10 minutes and then it’s like a bad nightmare, you think ‘s— not again’ and after that, it all goes badly.
“From then on, you are in recovery mode. We need to be calm in order to return to be what we were. After all, only two weeks have passed.
“We have this beautiful tradition at Bayern that we all get together with our families after the game in a room and celebrate the wins. That is why it hurts a lot more when we lose. We want to recover those nice feelings, not just for us players, but for the fans and our families. On the pitch we are competitive animals that want to always win.
Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the Whisper.
Here are today’s top five emerging whispers. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip.
Cenk Tosun to Besiktas
Turkish giants Besiktas reportedly want to bring Everton striker Tosun back to Istanbul as the 27-year-old has failed to shine at Goodison Park. Tosun moved to the Toffees last January for £27m and has scored six goals in 22 Premier League appearances, however has been inconsistent so far under Marco Silva. Talksport report that Besiktas are planning a loan move in January for their former striker.
Milan Skriniar to Manchester United
Jose Mourinho’s search for a centre-back continues with attentions turning to Inter Milan defender Skriniar. Sourceshave told ESPN that Mourinho has requested the Slovakia international as a show of faith from the board that he has a long-term future at Old Trafford. At 23, Skriniar is also significantly younger than Mourinho’s previous targets of Toby Alderweireld, Jerome Boateng and Diego Godin which should help convince the board.
Alessio Romagnoli to Manchester United
Also among Mourinho’s targets to bolster his ailing backline, according to ESPN sources, is Milan centre-back Romagnoli, who is also 23. The Italian has previously been linked with Chelsea and the Rossoneri successfully agreed a new contract extension in August taking his current deal up to 2022. Should Mourinho be sufficiently backed in the market, however, Milan may have no choice but to accept an offer.
Harry Kane to Real Madrid
Madrid’s poor start to the season, in which they have been winless and scoreless in their last four matches, has prompted president Florentino Perez to push for a marquee signing in attack. The failure to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer has meant Kane is back in consideration for Los Blancos, according to El Confidencial. However, Real’s director general Jose Angel Sanchez has also suggested RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner as a more affordable alternative.
Jadon Sancho to Chelsea
Sancho’s stunning start to the season for Borussia Dortmund has alerted the Premier League’s finest, although the Bundesliga club will demand £100m for the English winger. The Sun claim that Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham are all monitoring the 18-year-old, who left City last year after turning down a contract. Dortmund, however, view Sancho as Ousmane Dembele’s long-term replacement and have no plans to let him go.
Spain forward Paco Alcacer is convinced he made the right decision to leave Barcelona for Borussia Dortmund in August as he said he can now “enjoy my profession.”
Alcacer, the Bundesliga’s leading scorer with six goals in 81 minutes, joined Dortmund on a season-long loan.
He has been rewarded with a call-up by Spain coach Luis Enrique for the first time since March 2016 and could feature in the international friendly against Wales on Thursday and the Nations League game against England in Seville on Monday.
“The start that I’ve had at Borussia has allowed me to be here,” Alcacer said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The players in this national team are very good and you have to play at just as high a level as they are in order to be selected. It gives me great pride to be here and I’m very happy with the work I’m doing at Borussia.
“I have to continue and not slow down. The aim is to come here and help the team and if given the chance to play, to make the most of this opportunity.”
Alcacer made only 37 La Liga appearances in his two seasons at Barcelona, the club he joined from Valencia in 2016 for €30 million. Dortmund have an option to sign him for €23m in June.
“I took the decision to leave and go elsewhere in order to find playing time and enjoy my profession,” Alcacer said. “At Barcelona, it’s very difficult to have minutes with the quality of players that Barcelona has with [Lionel] Messi, Luis [Suarez] and Philippe [Coutinho].
“I’m very happy with the decision I made. From the first day I arrived [at Dortmund], all the players in the team have helped me considering all the challenges one faces when going abroad and not speaking the language. I’ve adapted well.”
Luis Enrique said he was thrilled to call up Alcacer, who he coached at Barcelona in 2016-17.
Alcacer, who has scored six goals in 13 appearances for Spain, is happy to be able to work again under his former coach.
“He is serious and direct,” Alcacer said of Luis Enrique. “He tells you like it is. He says very clearly what he wants from you and that is good for the players.”
Borussia Dortmund’s head of licenced player department Sebastian Kehl has said Jadon Sancho has no release clause in his new contract, though the club are aware “there will be enquiries” for the winger.
Sancho, 18, has set up eight goals and scored one in 10 competitive appearances so far this season, leading the Bundesliga assists table and receiving his first call-up to the England senior team.
He signed a new deal at Dortmund until 2022 last week, and Kehl said this comes “without a release clause” as they are aware of the interest in him.
“We are not naïve to not take note of other club’s interest,” he told Sky. “The lads are doing a grand job right now. And thus, there will always be enquiries for the players we have here.”
“Especially for players like Jadon Sancho, who has been invited to the England senior squad for the first time.”
Meanwhile, Dortmund captain Marco Reus has pulled out of the Germany squad for the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches against the Netherlands and France with a knee problem.
Reus has started the season in fine form, with Dortmund topping the Bundesliga table heading into the international break.
Just as they do at this time every year, the Bayern Munich stars donned their lederhosen to attend the club’s annual Oktoberfest celebrations on Sunday afternoon.
The atmosphere was perhaps a little awkward given the team had suffered an embarrassing 3-0 home defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach the previous day — but copious amounts of beer soon rectified that.
As always, there was a cavalcade of leather and suspenders on show, with the entire Bayern squad stepping out in their traditional finery.
Now without a win in their last four games, Kovac and Bayern will no doubt be hoping that this seasonal team-bonding excursion will provide the squad a timely boost ahead of the trip to Wolfsburg on Oct. 20.
If they need a reminder of how to be clinical, they need look no further than Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. The Bayern CEO, lest we forget, was a centre-forward back in his playing days at Bayern, and the 63-year-old showed he is still a mean marksman by hitting every target in the duck shoot stand at the Oktoberfest fair.
Bayern have scored just two goals in their last four games, so they could probably do worse than give the two-time Ballon d’Or a a go in the team after the international break.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has said he will defend coach Niko Kovac “to the blood” after the champions dropped to sixth place following a 3-0 home defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Kovac won his first seven matches in charge, but a run of four games without a victory and just two goals against Augsburg, Hertha Berlin, Ajax and Borussia Monchengladbach has left him under pressure.
Speaking after the defeat to Gladbach, Kovac said he was “not the one to answer questions” on his future.
But a little over a year after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked after a run of 13 points from the first six league games of last season, Hoeness backed Kovac.
“I will defend Niko Kovac to the blood,” the president said. “It’s all totally calm here.”
The champions recorded just three shots on target on Saturday, and Germany international Joshua Kimmich told reporters: “It’s not like we wasted that many chances — we simply didn’t have any.
“I don’t think the defence is our problem. Sure, every shot finds the back of the net right now and we must keep a clean sheet again, but usually as Bayern we must score one, two goals.”
Kimmich added that he had been unhappy with Gladbach’s reaction to their victory, saying: “They can talk after a 3-0, but when we beat the s— out of them they didn’t say anything. But hey, it’s nice the others have a bit of confidence now.”
Bayern Munich travel to Wolfsburg, who are without a win in five games, after the international break, and then face AEK Athens in the Champions League before a match against mid-table Mainz.
DORTMUND, Germany — Borussia Dortmund maintained their Bundesliga lead with a crazy 4-3 win over FC Augsburg that was decided by a Paco Alcacer free kick in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
It was a heated match at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday, with Augsburg determined to hunt the host for every inch of the field.
After 22 minutes, Alfred Finnbogason squeezed the ball past Roman Burki after the ball fell into his lap off a set piece to deservedly put the guests ahead — though VAR might have intervened because Andre Hahn blatantly pushed Marco Reus to the ground as the ball was played into the box.
Dortmund, tired after playing their seventh match in three weeks, needed a long time to respond against feisty guests, who totalled seven yellow cards over 90 minutes. The game kicked into another gear with the introduction of Alcacer in the 62nd minute. The Spaniard was on the pitch just three minutes before he slotted home the equaliser — courtesy of Jadon Sancho’s sixth assist of the season.
Yet Augsburg were thoroughly unimpressed and kept the pressure on the Ruhr side and rewarded themselves with the lead again nine minutes later as Philipp Max finished from a tight angle on the break.
With 20 minutes left to play, the Black and Yellows found their second wind and mounted the pressure. Substitute Raphael Guerreiro had the presence of mind to dink a free kick to Alacer, who volleyed home past Andreas Luthe. And BVB surely thought they had won it in the 84th minute. Substitute Mario Gotze caught his brother Felix Gotze napping as he made a run into the box and tucked the ball in from a tight angle for the 3-2 lead.
But Augsburg were not defeated yet. In the 87th minute, Michael Gregoritsch beat Abdou Diallo to a header off a corner. The ball bounced off Burki into the net. However, it was Alcacer who had the last laugh with a free kick from 25 yards out. The shot to the near post caught Luthe by surprise and sent the Westfalenstadion into pandemonium.
Michael Zorc said after the match that he hadn’t seen the stadium boiling that loudly in the final minutes of a game in a very long time. Even after Augsburg equalised for the 3-3, both the Dortmund fans and the team on the pitch showed a palpable belief that they could still keep all three points at home. The hosts stayed calm and trusted their footballing quality rather than punting long balls downfield in the hope for a lucky deflection. And they were rewarded yet again.
In 10 competitive games this season, Dortmund have failed to score before the break. Lucien Favre bemoaned the balance of his team that conceded thrice for the first time this season, but Augsburg certainly deserve credit for their relentless aggression and their ability to profit off every untidy play by the league leaders.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Favre could not rotate as much as he wanted to due to several niggling injuries in the squad, but yet again all four goals were scored by substitutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 — Had to keep his team in the game right after half-time with a strong double save but looked awkward in Gregoritsch’s goal.
DF Achraf Hakimi, 7 — The right-back was a 90-minute headache for Augsburg’s defence, and picked out an intelligent pass to assist Gotze’s goal. At times, he also posed a headache for his fellow defenders.
DF Manuel Akanji, 7 — Made strong forward runs to break Augsburg’s man-marking. Had a couple of awkward passes, too.
DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, 7 — The 19-year-old kept his strong form alive using both his physique and wit to dominate on both sides of the ball. If there is one caveat, the referee should have pointed to the spot after the centre-back took out Gregoritsch in the box after 14 minutes.
DF Abdou Diallo, 4 — The left-back had his moments going forward but was too often exposed on his left side. He looked questionable in all of Augsburg’s goals.
MF Axel Witsel, 6 — Had a monster play before Dortmund equalised the first time, as he won the ball in midfield and then sent Sancho into space for a pre-assist.
MF Julian Weigl, 5 — At times, Weigl looked lost against physical Augsburg, who followed him wherever he went.
MF Jacob Bruun Larsen, 4 — The Dane was visibly tired and was the first to be subbed out at the hour mark.
MF Marco Reus, 6 — Reus was bullied by Augsburg over stretches of the game as the guests pushed him to the ground whenever they had the chance. It provoked an outburst of frustration from the captain that warranted a booking in the 52nd minute but it got the crowd riled up.
MF Jadon Sancho, 7 — The Englishman grabbed his sixth assist of the season in his first league start, once again underscoring why he earned Gareth Southgate’s call-up to England’s senior team.
FW Maximilian Philipp, 4 — With Alcacer not having the fitness yet to start after playing his first full 90 minutes for the club on Wednesday, Philipp had to fill in as centre-forward yet again. It went as badly as expected.
FW Paco Alcacer, 10 — The Spaniard is too much to handle for Bundesliga defences; with only 81 minutes of accumulated playing time, he is the league’s top scorer with six goals. His hat trick on Saturday was a demonstration of his sheer brilliance.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 7 — Playing on the left wing, Guerreiro energised BVB’s attack. He grabbed an assist for Alcacer but arguably his best move of the game was to leave the final free kick to the Spanish striker after he had already placed it on the grass for himself.
MF Mario Gotze, NR — Fans greeted Gotze with a very loud cheer as he made his first appearance in the league off the bench. They cheered even harder after he scored the temporary 3-2 lead. The 26-year-old used his 13-minute appearance well, building triangles all over the pitch and bringing Dortmund’s combination play to life.
Paco Alcacer came off the bench to score a hat trick, including a free kick in added time, to give Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund a dramatic 4-3 win over Augsburg on Saturday.
A see-saw match produced four goals in the last 10 minutes as Borussia hit back from 2-1 down to lead 3-2, defiant Augsburg equalised and Alcacer, on loan from Barcelona, grabbed the winner.
Alfred Finnbogason gave Augsburg a half-time lead before Alcacer scored with his first touch in the 62nd minute, three minutes after coming on, as he turned in Jadon Sancho’s pass following a lethal counter-attack.
Philipp Max volleyed Augsburg back in front before Alcacer levelled again in the 80th minute, getting away from his marker to latch on to a free kick and score with a shot on the turn.
Substitute Mario Gotze, playing his first league match of the season, put Dortmund ahead for the first time four minutes later.
Michael Gregoritsch headed Augsburg level from a corner in the 87th minute but the drama was still not over.
Augsburg substitute Sergio Cordova clumsily gave away a free kick with a high challenge and Alcacer curled his shot around the wall in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Dortmund remain the Bundesliga’s only unbeaten team after seven games.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness suggested that coach Niko Kovac’s decision to rotate players is behind the club’s recent struggles and that he is risking his job by doing so.
The 1-1 draw against Ajax on Tuesday marked the first time Bayern dropped points at home in the Champions League group stage in more than four years, and it followed a draw with Augsburg on Sept. 25 and a defeat against Hertha Berlin three days later.
They are second in the Bundesliga table on 13 points, one behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.
“There’s been a lot of rotation, and ever since, there’s something a bit wrong with us, but I don’t think it’s dramatic,” Hoeness told reporters. “It’s up to the coach. In the end, he’s putting his neck on the line for it.”
Bayern took the lead after 48 minutes against Augsburg, but conceded a late equaliser as they dropped their first points of the season.
“I believe we lost our rhythm against Augsburg,” Hoeness said, adding that the Bayern fans protesting the German football association and the German football league by observing 20 minutes of silence did not help. “It also contributed as we did not get into the match.”
And, according to Bild, Bayern’s dressing room is growing impatient with Kovac, the former Eintracht Frankfurt coach who was appointed in April to replace Jupp Heynckes.
On Tuesday, James Rodriguez was pictured leaving the Allianz Arena only 11 minutes after the final whistle of a match he could have decided after coming off the bench.
He is one of many players, including Sandro Wagner, Niklas Sule, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry, who are reportedly becoming increasingly unhappy with the lack of playing time in spite of the rotation and a small squad.
Kovac urged his players on Tuesday to raise their performance again, adding that he “knows the time of day” and that it was now time “to focus on the essentials again.”
Bayern will host fourth-place Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga in the final match before the upcoming international break.
Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho has been compared to Ousmane Dembele by the club’s sporting director Michael Zorc.
Sancho has contributed to a Dortmund goal every 20 minutes so far this campaign, coming off the bench six times in as many league games to record one goal and five assists in just over 120 minutes of action to help BVB top the Bundesliga.
“Jadon could still play in the under-19s. He’s brutally good, he can do things, I have rarely seen,” Zorc told Funke Media before likening him to Dembele, who left Dortmund for Barcelona for over €100 million in 2017.
“Even though he is a different player type: The extent to which his actions are not to defend, he reminds me of Ousmane Dembele.”
Dortmund trailed Leverkusen 2-0 with only 25 minutes left on the clock when Jacob Bruun Larsen’s goal sparked a comeback.
Three minutes later, Sancho replaced Christian Pulisic and within seconds started a counter attack which resulted in Marco Reus’ equaliser before setting up Paco Alcacer for the final goal.
Only six matches into the season, Dortmund substitutes have already contributed to more goals either by scoring or assisting them than in entire 2017-18 season.
Mario Gotze however, remains without a minute of Bundesliga action, missing the trip to Leverkusen with a minor illness. Having been advised to leave Dortmund by former teammate Kevin Grosskreutz, he remained the centre of attention once again.
“We should stop talking about Mario every single day,” Dortmund captain Reus told Sky following the game. “It’s not good for him, it’s not good for us.”
After BVB’s 7-0 rout over Nurnberg on Wednesday, the Topspiel against Leverkusen served as a litmus test, and they passed — albeit not with flying colours.
It took nine minutes for the hosts to open their account as Mitchell Weiser perfectly placed a shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner. Dortmund slowly wrestled back control of the game without actually creating danger in the first half. In the 39th minute, Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah was in the right place at the right time as BVB failed to clear a corner and slotted home for a 2-0 half-time lead.
Dortmund only started to create chances of their own in the second half but it took until the 65th minute before Jacob Bruun Larsen beat substitute Paco Alcacer to a tap-in. While the game remained on the edge, it was BVB scored the goals. In the 69th minute, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus combined quicker than Leverkusen defenders could think, let alone move. The captain’s strike was out of reach of Lukas Hradecky.
Dortmund were not done yet, with substitute Alcacer playing an one-two with Achraf Hakimi and poked it home against the inside of the post in the 85th. The Spaniard put the nail in the coffin in the 94th minute, scoring the open-net goal after Hradecky had moved upfield for a desperate last-second set piece.
Dortmund keep coming back in matches and they keep improving within games. In the final 25 minutes, their attack offered far more runs than they did in the first half, rendering BVB’s first act of the game almost as lazy. Yet BVB made the 60-kilometre trip east worth their fans’ while in the second half with super-fast combinations and beautiful goals. Dortmund look like they are on to something, and such a big win could be season-defining. On top of that, they celebrated closely with their fans after the game; building a bond with the fans was one of the proclaimed tasks before the season.
BVB took far too long to get their act together in the match. Lucien Favre is right to experiment with different setups as he fielded a completely new back line with Abdou Diallo as left-back, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Manuel Akanji in the centre and Hakimi as a right-back. The downside is that more often than not, misunderstandings happen.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Favre mended his mistakes with good substitutions, like taking Thomas Delaney off at the break.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 7 — This season, he is “big-save Burki” as he had to come up with three crucial stops to keep his team in the game.
DF Achraf Hakimi, 6 — Hakimi was somewhat underwhelming defensively, but he still tipped the scale in the right direction as his excellent cross created Dortmund’s first and a clever one-two combination with Alcacer meant the all-crucial assist.
DF Manuel Akanji, 6 — For the most part, he had a solid game, but one misplaced pass nearly cost BVB the game, as Kevin Volland hit the post on the ensuing counter.
DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, 7 — Was trusted with another start at centre-back and for the most part did well in building the play from the back. In the 39th minute, however, he took too long to sort his feet and moments later Leverkusen capitalised.
DF Abdou Diallo, 6 — The Frenchman had arguably played well at the left-back position in Mainz, but as he filled in for Marcel Schmelzer, he was not effective.
MF Axel Witsel, 8 — He was a menace in midfield, making all the intelligent plays.
MF Thomas Delaney, 3 — The Danish international looked very bright against Nurenberg when there was no pressure on him, but on Saturday, he faltered completely under Leverkusen’s pressure. His substitution at half-time was the logical thing to do.
MF Jacob Bruun Larsen, 7 — Got the start again after a good midweek showing and was arguably BVB’s most effective player in creating space in the first half.
MF Christian Pulisic, 5 — The lasting memory of Pulisic in this match will be him sitting on the floor with both arms stretched into the air in protest after losing yet another dribble.
MF Marco Reus, 8 — Reus got a 30-minute rest on Wednesday and it helped him to kill Leverkusen once again. He picked up one inadvertent assist and scored the equaliser with a thumping hit.
FW Maximilian Philipp, 3 — What was true against Hoffenheim also holds true against Leverkusen: Philipp is not a striker.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 6 — Dortmund had visibly more punch going forward once Dahoud was introduced. BVB needed a risk taker to make up a two-goal disadvantage — though the 22-year-old nearly cost BVB the game with a sloppy pass in his own half.
FW Paco Alcacer, 9 — Used his intelligence and technique to score a brace, including the open-net dagger. His 30-minute cameo changed the tide in BVB’s favour. Given that he’s just arrived, that is promising.
MF Jadon Sancho, 8 — His impact was more instant than one-minute rice as he assisted BVB’s equaliser with his first move in the game — a spectacular one-two at that. He had the presence of mind to pick out Alcacer in the last relevant play of the game as the net was left vacant by Hradecky after a season.
DORTMUND, Germany — The crowd reverted to benign applause at the sidestreet bar Viertelliebe, a stone’s throw away from the Borussia Dortmund’s vaunted Wastfalenstadion, as referee Marco Fritz’s final whistle at the Olympiastadion sealed Bayern Munich’s first loss of the season on Friday night.
The crowd at the outskirts of Dortmund’s city-centre did not turn too euphoric although they had just witnessed on the many screens their rivals deservedly lose against a well-organised and ruthless Hertha Berlin — which was made even more significant due to the fact that the Bavarian outfit were looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Augsburg, fielding a stronger line-up this time.
But after six years of inescapable dominance by the Bavarian powerhouse, the prospect of moving to the top of the table after six matchdays isn’t quite getting the juices flowing just yet in Dortmund, despite BVB’s emphatic 7-0 win over FC Nurnberg on Wednesday. The newly-promoted side was simply too naive and too weak in order to serve as a measuring stick.
The Bundesliga Topspiel between Bayer Leverkusen and Dortmund, on the other hand, has now become an occasion for the Ruhr side to make a statement while Bayern are now showing some vulnerability.
It looked as though Bayern Munich were going to run away with Championship yet again in this still very young season (and still might) but Lucien Favre’s men have a chance to raise rare hopes of a title race in the German top flight.
The Deutsche Fussball Liga are marketing the Bundesliga abroad as “football as it’s meant to be,” advertising the packed arenas and the splendid atmosphere. Football, however, is first and foremost meant to be exciting and that entails a close race for the Championship.
Dortmund’s faithful are also cautious not least because they saw their team topping the league table in the previous campaign until Matchday 10 before they crashed and burned under Peter Bosz.
Yet, this time Dortmund look like they will only improve from here on out under Favre rather than collapse. And if Bayern run into trouble under their new head coach Nico Kovac, there won’t be Jupp Heynckes coming back from retirement to bail them out this time.
The game against Leverkusen will show whether Favre has drawn the right conclusions from recent weeks that saw Dortmund struggle in a fortunate 1-0 win away to Club Brugge in the Champions League and a flattering 1-1 draw against a better Hoffenheim side — or whether the 7-0 over Nurnberg was merely a fluky flash in the pan.
Heiko Herrlich’s men have picked up three consecutive wins in the Bundesliga and Europa League, dismantling Mainz 05 (1-0), Ludogorez Razgrad (3-2) and Fortuna Dusseldorf (1-0) after starting the season on two losses. Many experts had initially tipped Bayer to be one of the favourites to win the league after keeping their squad together in the summer but apart from 19-year-old Kai Havartz’s individual brilliance in the attacking midfield, very little has clicked for die Werkself thus far.
Nevertheless, Dortmund captain Marco Reus warned on Wednesday night that Saturday’s game is not to be taking lightly. He told the assembled reporters: “We are aware of the fact that Nurnberg didn’t push us to our limit and that the match against Leverkusen will be very tough. They are on the up after winning their last three games, including the [Europa] League, and I’m sure that it will be another nail-biter.”
And Favre did not take long to plead for more time fresh off the 7-0 victory for him and his players to learn more about themselves and to develop. The 60-year-old was well in his rights to do that after seeing Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi make his debut at the right-back position, 19-year-old centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou make his first appearance of the season for the suspended Abdou Diallo and Bruun Larsen score his very first goal for the Black and Yellows.
Hakimi, who scored with his very first shot on goal as a right-back in the second half on Wednesday, has hinted with a strong performance at things that are yet to come. He seemingly impressed Favre enough to earn another start at left-back this time, a position that he has filled for Morocco at the World Cup, while former team captain Marcel Schmelzer will be rested.
Dortmund will also have to make do without Omer Toprak (injured), Mario Gotze (illness) and Shinji Kagawa (dropped for midfielder Marius Wolf), while Favre still has to understand how to best implement midfielder Julian Weigl next to Axel Witsel, Thomas Delaney or Mahmoud Dahoud. Saturday’s match should also deliver more insight into how BVB fare with newly signed striker Paco Alcacer, who joined from Barcelona during the summer and picked up a muscular injury during a promising 15-minute cameo in a 3-1 over Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago.
In the meantime, Favre had to realise that neither Gotze, Maximilian Philipp, Wolf or Reus are viable options upfront while 19-year-old Swedish striker Alexander Iska has been completely excluded of any planning.
BVB are visibly in the process of building a new side with many young talents with the Swiss coach hoping that his constant alterations during a crammed schedule pay off every three days. Yet, together with Werder Bremen, Juventus and Chelsea, they are one of the few teams of Europe’s top five leagues to remain unbeaten.
Saturday’s match against Leverkusen will show if die Schwarzgelben are already far enough in their development to give Bayern Munich a run for their money and if they can turn mild cheers into a louder buzz in Dortmund’s bars when the latter are to once again drop points.
Bayern Munich slumped to their first defeat of the season, losing 2-0 to a pair of first-half goals at capital-city club Hertha Berlin on Friday.
Despite tasting defeat for the first time this season, the champions held on to the Bundesliga’s top spot on goal difference.
Failing to score in the Bundesliga for the first time since February (against Hertha), Bayern also suffered their first defeat during Oktoberfest in over eight years, going down for the first time since 2009 and the days of Jurgen Klinsmann (as well as Andriy Voronin) against normally hapless Hertha.
Manager rating out of 10
5 — Niko Kovac shuffled his troops again, making six changes from the side that drew disappointingly vs. Augsburg in midweek. With injuries taking their toll, and chasing a two-goal deficit, Kovac had no choice but to use all three of his attacking substitutes, but somehow Franck Ribery stayed on the pitch for the entire game as Kovac slipped to his first defeat in charge.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Manuel Neuer, 6 — Brilliantly kept out Vedad Ibisevic’s header, but Jerome Boateng immediately ruined the captain’s good work by bringing down Salomon Kalou to concede the opening penalty. He was powerless to prevent Ondrej Duda’s second for Hertha as well.
DF David Alaba, 5 — An average performance at left-back, especially after his bright start to the season.
DF Jerome Boateng, 4 — Rested for the previous two Bundesliga games but failed to cover himself in glory on his return to his first club, giving away a penalty with a needless challenge after Neuer’s fantastic stop. He did go close with a couple of headers but couldn’t repair the damage of his clumsy challenge that set Bayern on their way to the defeat. We await Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s inevitable “back to earth” advice with baited breath.
DF Niklas Sule, 6 — Solid and unspectacular, therefore failing to catch the eye in comparison to his Germany teammate.
DF Joshua Kimmich, 5 — Had a goal-bound shot diverted wide by Ribery’s backside and enjoyed promising moments going forward, but always a little uncomfortable when asked to do some basic defending.
MF Renato Sanches, 5 — Had a couple of surging runs, but this was largely Sanches slipping back to his form under Carlo Ancelotti as the game passed him by.
MF Thiago, 6 — Restored to central midfield, the silky Spaniard was also below his best, but at least he got the dejected team together at the final whistle to show their appreciation to the fans for making the long journey to the German capital on a Friday evening.
MF James Rodriguez, 4 — The Colombia star cut a forlorn figure throughout and he made way for Sandro Wagner’s uninspiring overture on 72 minutes.
MF Franck Ribery, 4 — Restored to the starting lineup, the 35-year-old veteran struggled in vain, displaying precious little spark throughout. Was honestly fortunate to play the full 90 minutes, catching the eye only with a couple of clumsy attempts when trying to “earn” a penalty.
MF Arjen Robben, 6 — Toiled industriously in the first half and, with Bayern chasing the game, there were certainly more deserving candidates to be hooked off as the “Flying Dutchman” made way for Thomas Muller on 52 minutes.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 4 — Didn’t feature against local rivals Augsburg as Bayern dropped their first points of the season. Before the game, there was the school of thought that the return of Lewy would be the cure for a host of missed chances in midweek. Wrong. Bayern’s leading scorer was largely anonymous throughout.
MF Thomas Muller, 5 — Brought on for Robben after 52 minutes but couldn’t provide any attacking impetus.
MF Serge Gnabry, 6 — The former Arsenal winger replaced Sanches and enjoyed some promising moments but little of the desired end product.
FW Sandro Wagner, NR — Dropped to the bench after his distinctly average game vs. Augsburg and caught the eye only when acting as a ball boy as he attempted to hurry up Hertha’s play while the hosts comfortably held on to their lead.
DORTMUND, Germany — Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus felt very honoured after scoring his 100th career goal for the club, as his team dismantled FC Nurnberg 7-0 on Wednesday.
Reus, 29, scored a brace and provided an assist in a highly lopsided tie against the Franconian outfit.
“Scoring the 100th goal means a lot to me,” he told assembled media after the game. “It’s a great honour. It took long enough, and I hope that those won’t be the last goals I score for the club. I hope it continues like that.”
The Westfalenstadion was silent throughout the first 20 minutes as fans across the Bundesliga had agreed to remain mute in an “atmosphere boycott” to protest inconvenient kickoff times and the general treatment of supporters after a breakdown in dialogue with the German football federation (DFB) and German football league (DFL).
That, however, did not stop the Black and Yellows from making some noise on the pitch. Twenty-year-old Jacob Bruun Larsen opened the scoring after nine minutes and Reus doubled the lead in the 32nd. The goal fest ensued after the break with Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi (49′), Reus (58′), Manuel Akanji (74′), Jadon Sancho (85′) and Julian Weigl (88′) all adding their name to the score sheet. It was Dortmund’s first 7-0 win since 1986 against Blau-Weiss Berlin.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was easy, but you can say that Nurnberg were very passive today,” Reus explained. “They set up with a back five and were not very aggressive. Because of that, we could cleanly build from the back and quickly created scoring chances. Nevertheless, it was important that we scored goals early. Christian [Pulisic] and Jacob [Bruun Larsen] created an outstanding goal and we never let up after that, creating loads more chances.
“We always said that it will take time under the new coach and a new philosophy. Today was already really good, especially because Christian and Jacob not only stuck to the wings but also occupied the half-spaces. That made life much easier for Maximilian [Philipp] and myself because we could combine quicker and more directly.
“We know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We are aware of the fact that Nurnberg didn’t push us to our limit and that the match against Leverkusen will be very tough. They are on the up after winning their last three games, including the [Europa] League, and I’m sure that it will be another nail-biter.”
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre made five changes to the team that drew 1-1 away to Hoffenheim on Saturday. Hakimi made his debut in place of Lukasz Piszczek, while centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou replaced the suspended Abdou Diallo. Thomas Delaney, Philipp and Larsen filled in for Shinji Kagawa, Marius Wolf and Mahmoud Dahoud.
But Reus said that the rotation that included a lot of young players wasn’t an issue at all.
“I’m not surprised that [Achraf] Hakimi played well today. In general, the coach told our wingers to be more courageous and force one-on-one situations more frequently. That’s the way to go for us to create chances and open up spaces for combination play elsewhere. Our attack and defence worked very well; our pressing worked like a charm. It was a step in the right direction.”
Sancho provided his fourth assist and first goal as a substitute in all competitions on Wednesday. Asked, whether the 18-year-old was of too much value as a super-sub rather than starting, Reus replied: “It’s just insane at the moment. It’s incredibly important for us because when [Jadon] comes on in the 75th minute, his maybe already tired opponent already knows [what’s coming]. That’s a great weapon to have. We’re happy to have him up our sleeve.”
Dortmund reduced Bayern Munich’s lead at the top of the table to two points after the latter had drawn 1-1 against Augsburg on Tuesday, although Reus said that he was taking little interest in the Bundesliga having a close title race.
“At the moment I don’t care if second and first are close together in the league. Right now we’re focused on ourselves and are taking every point that we can get — whether it’s a dirty win or a 7-0 drubbing. Looking at the table or at Bayern doesn’t make much sense currently.”
Meanwhile, Favre remained tight-lipped, telling his news conference after the game: “It’s great fun building this team,” but warned that there is a lot of work ahead.
BVB travel to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday before hosting Monaco in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The German football association (DFB) has opened investigations against Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund following incidents that occurred before the teams’ 1-1 draw on Saturday.
Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp was verbally abused by some travelling Borussia Dortmund fans who displayed several offensive banners, including one showing a portrait of the 78-year-old in crosshairs with “Hasta La Vista Hopp!” written underneath.
The banners were a reply to a banning order sent last week to at least 33 Dortmund fans who insulted Hopp in May during the final match of last season.
“The DFB control body has opened proceedings against TSG Hoffenheim (suspicion of insufficient security) and Borussia Dortmund (unsporting behaviour of its fans),” the DFB said in a statement released to ESPN FC.
There were also reports that Dortmund supporters destroyed some restrooms at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim.
While Dortmund must explain their fans’ behaviour and could face punishment of a partial stadium ban or a closed away end when they next travel to Hoffenheim, the hosts must answer why Dortmund supporters were able to smuggle the giant banners into the block.
Dortmund fans attending the match told ESPN FC that security had been tight, with officers searching the purses of those sitting in the away end.
In an open letter published on Hoffenheim’s website on Sunday, they called the banner an “incitement to murder” and said they are “deeply shocked by the insults against Dietmar Hopp.”
Christoph Schickhardt, the lawyer representing both Hopp and the club, told SWR that “in the future, a game should not be kicked off like that.”
Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke apologised to Hopp in a statement posted on the club’s website.
“We tried to de-escalate last week as things were blowing up,” Watzke’s statement read. “We talked to all parties, but sadly, we were not successful. Such a behaviour in no way corresponds with the values of Borussia Dortmund.”
It had not been the first time the crosshairs were on display at a Dortmund match in Hoffenheim.
When the sides met for the first time in the Bundesliga in September 2008, a smaller version of the banner was displayed as Dortmund supporters began their protest against Hoffenheim under the slogan, “Tradition beats every trend.”
That day, Hoffenheim fans replied with: “Tradition beats every trend. We are not a trend. We are the future.”
The relationship between Hopp and Dortmund supporters has been strained since 2008, when Hoffenheim were first promoted to the Bundesliga behind financing from Hopp, a local billionaire. In 2015, Hopp was allowed to take over his hometown club after 20 years of funding it.
While most of the animosity was initiated by the Dortmund fans, in 2011, Hoffenheim admitted to having used a sound system to fill the away stands with loud and strident noise. They argued that the stadium’s caretaker had installed the sound system without the club’s approval.
Dortmund supporters and other fan groups in Germany believe Hoffenheim’s arrival opened the door to the undermining of the Bundesliga’s football culture by working around the 50+1 rule, which stipulates that more than 50 percent of a club must be owned by its members.