Shootout loss in German Super Cup still a step forward for Dortmund
DORTMUND, Germany -- "The fight for Germany's crown" was crocheted into a bootleg Dortmund-Bayern, half-and-half scarf outside the stadium. The wording was perhaps a bit over the top, given that German Super Cup is seen by many as a glorified friendly. In the end, Bayern Munich took the trophy home on Saturday night, beating the hosts on penalties 6-7 after finding a late 2-2 equaliser in regular time. The match showed that Germany's two biggest sides still have a lot of work ahead of them before the season starts.
The Black and Yellows took an early lead after 12 minutes thanks to Christian Pulisic's awareness to steal the ball off Javi Martinez's foot and go on to slot it home. The Bavarians were quick to answer that, as Robert Lewandowski pushed the ball over the line six minutes later.
Afterward, it was all Bayern in the first half. Dortmund, however, reclaimed their lead in the second half with a nifty finish by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 78th minute, and until Roman Burki's own goal in the 88th minute, the hosts had subsequently become the better side.
Nuri Sahin confirmed it later in the mixed zone, saying, "We were the dominant team in the second half and should have gotten the win over the line." They did not. But since it was "only" the Super Cup, it did not really matter. What did matter, though, was that Dortmund managed to find a way back into the match after terribly uninspired periods in the first half, when they looked as though they had forgotten all about possession football.
A big part of the team's second-half success was that it looked the much fitter team. Despite the relentless counter pressing, the Westphalians had still something left in their tanks, while their main rivals deteriorated heavily after 70 minutes. Initial shape can make all the difference at the beginning of the season. Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos said after the match that his team was at about 80 percent of its capabilities and that it is going to add the other 20 percent until the start of the Bundesliga. The match was a step forward; the result is secondary.
Although it was a step forward, the match also showed that there are still a lot of forwarding steps necessary for the Black and Yellows. As already seen in the preseason friendlies, their build-up play left a lot to be desired and only improved once the guests ran out of steam and revealed more spaces themselves. Both 18-year-old debutant Dan-Axel Zagadou on the left side and 32-year-old Lukasz Piszczek on the right side showed that Dortmund have notable issues at the full-back position. Marcel Schmelzer and Raphael Guerreiro will return eventually, but Piszczek looks as though he has lost a step and there is no real alternative in sight.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Peter Bosz was not happy. A coach is never happy, according to Bosz at the postmatch news conference. At last year's Super Cup, Dortmund looked like a team that picked up where it had left off in the previous season. On Saturday, it often looked like someone pushed the reset button and that BVB have to start over. Luckily for the 53-year-old Bosz, his team also showed a more familiar face in the second period.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 8 -- His hand touched the ball last in the 88th minute, putting him on the score sheet with an own goal, but at that stage, it was already too late. Already in top form. Saved Dortmund's bacon countless times in the first half. One saved penalty kick in the shootout wasn't enough to win it, though.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 4 -- Franck Ribery ran rings around the Polish right-back, who time and time again allowed his opponent to get past him on the inside. Too easy.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- Battled hard against Robert Lewandowski. Won most of the time.
DF Marc Bartra, 6 -- Was gutted to miss the last spot kick off the match. Otherwise did well but can be sharper in build-up play.
DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, 3 -- Making your professional debut in front of 80,000 can be intimidating. Especially when it's against Bayern Munich and out of position. The 18-year-old centre-back had to play in the left-back position due to a lack of better alternatives. Unsurprisingly, he was often caught ball-watching and was outpaced by Bayern's midfielders. Tough night.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 5 -- Good movements in pressing, but too many giveaways in midfield.
MF Nuri Sahin, 6 -- Defensively sound, but like Castro, his distribution has room for improvement.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 5 -- Stadium announcer Norbert Dickel described Dahoud as "explosive" in an interview with sporting director Michael Zorc. There wasn't much to see of said explosiveness in the 45 minutes on the pitch of the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder. He did impress with some precise vertical passes. Still needs time to regain his full fitness after joining the training camp late.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 7 -- The stadium uttered a loud cheer when Dembele's dribbling left two Bayern players in his dust. He couldn't provoke too many cheers in the first half, however, with BVB's grip on the match collapsing. In the second half, his perfectly timed assist alone for Aubameyang was worth the entrance fee.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 -- Not one to win aerials but valuable in Dortmund's pressing, as his runs are not only fast, but also intelligent. Oh, and his finishing is quite good, too, as he casually lobbed Sven Ulreich at full speed to make it 2-1.
FW Christian Pulisic, 7 -- After 12 minutes, he was free on Ulreich after stealing the ball of Javier Martinez and slotted home effortlessly to give his team the 1-0 lead. If a prediction is allowed: Pulisic will make another big leap in his development over last season.
MF Sebastian Rode, 6 -- Replaced Dahoud after the break and looked like he could be an asset off the bench this season.
DF Felix Passlack, NR -- Came on for the tired Zagadou with 13 minutes left to play. His foul in the 88th minute led to the fateful free kick that resulted in the equaliser.
FW Maximilian Philipp, NR -- Brought on in the 90th for Pulisic to take a penalty. Scored.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.