Christian Pulisic 9/10 for Dortmund in dispiriting home defeat vs. Bayern
On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund had to swallow a 3-1 Klassiker defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich, who extended their lead at the top of the table with a deserved win at the Westfalenstadion. For the hosts, it is their third loss in their past four Bundesliga matches. Between two international breaks, the Black and Yellows have lost 11 points to their southern rivals, having started out with a five-point cushion in October only to end up with a six-point disadvantage in November.
The home side was wasteful in front of goal with only Marc Bartra scoring a consolation goal late in the game after Bayern had already taken care of business in form of the clinical Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba. As far as high-profile matches go, Dortmund have conceded three goals each against Tottenham, Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and the Bavarians. An atrocious defensive record has seen them falter in the Champions League and to add insult to injury, the Ruhr side are level on points with bitter rivals Schalke after 11 matchdays.
There are two truths to BVB's performance. Firstly, the hosts arguably had the better chances overall. If the expected goal count is to be believed (2.08 to 1.30 in Dortmund's favour), the Black and Yellows could have made this a far more enticing affair with better finishing. But Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Andrey Yarmolenko and Shinji Kagawa could not beat Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich from promising positions.
On the other hand, Dortmund showed that their individual quality in the defensive department is just not on the level of a top European team. "The amount of space the opponents get in our own box must not happen," said Peter Bosz after the match, adding that "Robben's goal in the first half underscored that we awarded [Bayern] too much space within the penalty area." Bayern Munich have lost in Dortmund before while playing better football. On Saturday, the guests were ruthless in front of Roman Burki while BVB's defenders were duped by Robben and Lewandowski in the box time and time again.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Peter Bosz promised to adjust his approach and so he did, having his team play in a 4-4-2 shape when without possession.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- There was little he could have done to keep out any of Bayern's goals. Alaba's cross-shot took a bounce that was tricky to keep out with the Swiss international having to worry about Lewandowski getting a touch. However, his quick reflexes on the line denied the Poland striker the chance to put a bow on the match earlier in the second half.
DF Marc Bartra, 6 -- He's still not a good option at right-back. Was lost in his positioning while Bayern built up for their first goal. Unsurprisingly improved after switching to centre-back in the second half and scored a cracking goal in the 88th minute.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 4 -- Was lucky to get away with a foul on Robert Lewandowski. Was hit by Kingsley Coman's foot late in the first half and had to go off before the break.
DF Omer Toprak, 2 -- Toprak was too far away from his opponents in all of Bayern's three goals and was snoozing when Robben picked up a loose ball in the second half that nearly resulted in another for the guests. The 28-year-old was sluggish, slow and simply outclassed. A torrid non-performance for 90 minutes.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 5 -- The left-back could not deny Joshua Kimmich's cross before Bayern's second but had a lot of bright moments going forward.
MF Julian Weigl, 4 -- Prior to Bayern's first goal, Weigl fell like a wet sack of potatoes in a tackle against Coman, which created the initial danger. He had to fill in as a centre-back in the 37th minute while Sokratis was receiving treatment on the sideline but Weigl showed he doesn't know how to defend man-to-man and Lewandowski took full advantage. The midfielder was then unlucky to deflect the ball over Burki.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 5 -- Gonzalo Castro is a streaky player. Some perfectly weighed passes were accompanied by some inexplicably atrocious touches.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 7 -- "Mr. Gegenpressing" himself expertly dispossessed Javi Martinez in the first half to create Dortmund's first big chance of the game. He was unlucky that his shot hit the outside of the post in the 32nd minute. The Japan international showed some fine twists and turns to free himself from precarious situations.
FW Andrey Yarmolenko, 3 -- It was a rotten day for the Ukraine international, who squandered three promising chances. Twice he failed to beat Ulreich one-on-one and then he took the ball away from the better-positioned Aubameyang for what should have been a tap-in after Christian Pulisic teed it up perfectly. His passive defending as Alaba took his time to ping in a cross that ended up in the net was simply unacceptable and a disservice to his team.
FW Christian Pulisic, 9 -- "Christian Pulisic was our best player today," said Bosz after the game. The U.S. international had 14 take-ons and won eight of them, tearing Bayern apart seemingly on his own in the second half. He should at least have two assists to his name but did collect a "pre-assist" for Bartra's goal after a filthy nutmeg against Robben. Had his teammates hit similar form in the attacking department, Dortmund would have blasted Bayern out of the Westfalenstadion.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 4 -- The Gabon international is now scoreless in 474 minutes across all competitions. He had two chances on the night but was denied by Niklas Sule and Ulreich respectively. Saturday proved to be another example as to why Aubameyang does not fit into Bosz's idea of football. Shame.
DF Jeremy Toljan, 6 -- Bartra played at right-back initially because Toljan was not in form, though he showed a decent match after coming on in the 42nd minute.
MF Mario Gotze, 7 -- Replaced a very good Shinji Kagawa in the 68th minute and managed to invigorate Pulisic on the left side in his 20 minutes on the field. A shame that Dortmund's arguably best player of recent weeks did not start.
FW Jadon Sancho, NR -- The Englishman got a 10-minute run-out toward the end, replacing the frustrating Yarmolenko.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.