Marcel Schmelzer: Dortmund lacked 'basic virtues' in Europa defeat
DORTMUND, Germany -- Borussia Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer said his team lacked "basic virtues" and looked "silly" in a 2-1 home loss to FC Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday.
The Black and Yellows showed a resilient performance in their 1-1 draw on Saturday in the Bundesliga, but Schmelzer said the same attitude was missing in the defeat to Leipzig's sister club Salzburg.
The 30-year-old told reporters after the game that in terms of attitude, "this was almost nothing, which is a pity because we could have had it so much easier if we only had played with half of the passion and energy that we invested into the match in Leipzig.
"Now, we have it so much harder in the return leg and that's completely on us."
Dortmund were on top for the opening quarter of an hour but eased off afterwards, which resulted in two scoring chances for the visitors close to half-time as Hee-Chan Hwang hit the post and Munas Dabbur saw his shot cleared off the line by Schmelzer.
"The problem was that we allowed our opponent to build courage throughout the game," Schmelzer said. "If we had played on as we did in the opening 15 minutes, and had created a chance then it maybe would have been easier for us over all.
"We also botched too many plays that could have led to a chance. We are lacking a lot of precision in our game -- especially when it comes to the last ball."
Salzburg's 49th-minute breakthrough came via a controversial Valon Berisha penalty that was awarded after Omer Toprak brought down Hwang near the endline, though the contact appeared to occur outside the box. Salzburg soon doubled their lead when Stefan Lainer cut the ball back through the 18-yard box for Berisha to lash home his second.
Dortmund brought on Christian Pulisic after the hour mark, and the U.S. teenager made an immediate impact, racing towards goal and delivering a cross for Andre Schurrle to tap in from close range to supply a lifeline, but Schmelzer was not pleased with the result.
"We are currently struggling to play beautiful football," the left-back admitted. "Thus far, at least the results were OK but we still talked about that we want to find better footballing solutions than we are currently.
"But today we were lacking in basic virtues. This was exactly what made us look very good in Leipzig but if you don't show that in the Europa League, you will look as silly as we did today."
For Dortmund, it was the first home loss under Peter Stoger but already the sixth of the season, which is atypical for the Ruhr side, who traditionally boast a good home record.
Schmelzer struggled to find an explanation for the torrid showings in front of home fans, saying: "It's really sad that we currently give the impression to lack any self-confidence that usually is our great strength at home.
"It's not an easy situation. We're not playing good football, and obviously, the fans aren't happy. It used to be an earmark that the team and the fans battled together out of a tough situation. We have to get back to that unity by showing people that we are willing."
Pulisic found harsh words for Thursday's performance as well, telling reporters: "[Salzburg] were a good opponent. We started well but went through kind of a bad phase. I tried to bring on some energy but in the end, it wasn't enough to tie it up and try to get the win."
The 19-year-old also maligned his team's attitude, saying: "We weren't tuned in 100 percent for the whole game. We just kind of were in for parts of it and that's not going to be enough against this team.
"We have to be in it for the full 90 minutes. It's something we need to work on. We have to come out with the right attitude, be ready to play every single game. This is a very good opponent, we have to be ready next week."
Meanwhile, a visibly disgruntled Stoger struggled to find an explanation for his team's inconsistency.
The Austrian told his news conference: "The efforts we showed today in our movement, especially in our attack, was very sparse. You can't just outplay a well-organised team, which maybe sees this match as the game of the year. You can't just wait for chances to develop from doing little work.
"It's hard to say whether it's down to the fact that our players had to play a lot of games in recent weeks but it's certainly dissatisfying. We're not out of the competition yet but we have to present ourselves differently."
Dortmund will face a direct opponent for the Champions League spot in fourth-placed Frankfurt on Sunday in the Bundesliga before seeking to overturn the home loss away to Salzburg next Thursday in the return leg.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.