Dortmund defeat hints at club’s likely hurdles

by Jonathan Lines

In a week in which Mario Götze scored a sublime goal as Germany beat Brazil 3-2 in a friendly, he and Borussia Dortmund, also on a high after last weekend’s impressive victory, were given a reality check. Dortmund were beaten 1-0 at TSG Hoffenheim, leaving coach Jürgen Klopp with plenty to think about as his side look to defend their Bundesliga title. Bayern München avoided a disastrous start to the season following last week’s defeat with a last-minute victory over Wolfsburg, while Schalke thrashed Köln 5-1, as their reputation for unpredictability grows.

Hoffenheim are proving something of a bogey-team for Klopp’s Dortmund, with the Deutscher Meister now without a win in five matches against their weekend opponents. But there was more at play this afternoon than merely the hosts having a knack for beating the Schwarzgelben. While they were in thrilling form last Friday night against Hamburg, some of the concerns raised ahead of Dortmund’s season were evident for the first time here.

Far from being in full attacking flow, Dortmund looked tired and seemed almost to have been killed off by the early goal, falling behind to Sejad Salihovic’s wicked free-kick on 7 minutes, the only goal of the game. Their tiredness was perhaps a result of the midweek international fixtures. This week, Mario Götze was given his first start for the senior national team (and played a starring role), a mentally and physically-draining occasion, and Shinji Kagawa started despite having played half way across the world for Japan on Wednesday. Having to play in midweek ahead of the weekend fixtures is a burden they will have to overcome if they are to have a successful season, with Champions League football back at the Westfalenstadion this campaign.

Another problem Klopp’s side were exposed to for the first time is how differently they will be treated this season as champions. After the early goal, Hoffenheim defended. The midfield sat deep, particularly late in the game, to excellent effect, occupying the space between the lines of midfield and attack Dortmund’s attackers love. As the team to beat, which they were not seen as for most of last season, Dortmund will have to expect more teams to play as tactically against them as Hoffenheim did, and how well they react to this will be crucial if they are to defend their title.

But this is one defeat, so Klopp will not be too concerned, especially given the side’s ability last season to pick up points when not playing well. However, when the likes of Götze, Grosskreutz and Kagawa misfire, as they did this weekend, it’s clear that the champions are vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Bayern München scraped past Wolfsburg on Saturday afternoon. Their star-studded attack, missing Arjen Robben for the match, had gone the first 179 minutes of the season without scoring before Luis Gustavo fired them to a last-minute win. Wolfsburg were unlucky to have a goal disallowed, and Bayern scarcely deserved the win. Thus far, the title favourites have failed to live up to the pre-season optimism at the club.

Elsewhere, Schalke, having played atrociously in their 3-0 defeat to Stuttgart last week, turned things around with a 5-1 home drubbing of Köln, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring a hat-trick. There was also a superb chipped goal from Raúl. It will be interesting to observe whether they will continue their vastly inconsistent form from last season (a Champions Leauge semi-final coupled with a 14th place league finish and the German Cup) or whether Ralf Rangnick’s side can gather some momentum from the win. Köln have conceded eight goals in their first two games.

Mainz and Hannover sit atop the table with two wins from their first two fixtures, having made excellent starts as they seek to show they were not merely overachievers last season (finishing 5th and 4th respectively). Both sealed 2-1 away wins, with Mainz winning at Freiburg and Hannover beating Nürnberg.

Bayer Leverkusen bounced back from defeat last weekend to beat Werder Bremen 1-0. Michael Kadlec scored the winner late in the match to recover a lacklustre performance, having started strongly. Tim Wiese was excellent in goal for the visitors, who look to have improved defensively at the start of this season.

In the other weekend matches, Borussia Mönchengladbach drew 1-1 with VfB Stuttgart, with both teams on four points from their first two games. Kaiserslautern and Augsburg also drew 1-1, and Hamburger SV drew 2-2 with Hertha Berlin. A final mention of this round-up is for Hamburg’s 19-year-old South Korean attacker Son Heung-Min. Having recently broken into the first team, Son has been touted as a potential Bundesliga star, and will be one to watch among the league’s new faces for this season. His superb goal had given Hamburg a 2-1 lead in the match, firing in from 25-yards after a solo run.

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