MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany — Borussia Dortmund added their third Bundesliga win in a row, narrowly beating Borussia Monchengladbach 1-0 with a magical strike provided by Marco Reus after 31 minutes.
In the second half, the pass completion rate of the visitors dropped from 75 percent to 67, which perfectly captures their grind of an afternoon. The Foals amassed a superior expected goal count of 2.3 to Dortmund’s 0.42; it’s fair to say the Black and Yellows were somewhat lucky to escape the bumpy Borussia Park pitch with all three points.
The following player ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt as the atrocious pitch in Monchengladbach turned the match into a slip-and-slide, often denying the execution of simple footballing tasks.
The prospect of Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze and Reus playing together always sounded enticing. It was the first time they all started together on the pitch for Dortmund and immediately linked up for BVB’s goal. Every member of the trio can make the difference by himself for Dortmund at any given moment, but their synergy makes the sum greater than its parts. Fans already got a good glimpse at how their off-field understanding and friendship translates on the field.
For a billion-dollar business like the Bundesliga, the pitch in Monchengladbach was an embarrassment. It not only makes it hard for the game to be enjoyed in its full beauty but is also a significant injury risk for players. BVB already lost 17-year-old Jadon Sancho due to a poor pitch in Cologne a fortnight ago, as he twisted his ankle while getting stuck in the ground.
Manager rating out of 10
5 — Peter Stoger’s decision to let his team defend and rely on counter-attacks might make sense due to Dortmund’s pacy attackers but it’s playing with fire given his shaky defence.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 10 — Dortmund kept a clean sheet more because of the hosts’ lacklustre finishing and a lot of amazing stops by Burki than Dortmund’s defending. Gladbach had 28 shots but couldn’t broach Burki between the posts.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 6 — Was defensively sound on the right flank but nothing more.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 — Dortmund had to rely on last-ditch defending a lot as Gladbach picked holes all afternoon. Luckily, Sokratis excelled in those moments.
DF Manuel Akanji, 7 — Looked very comfortable in his second start for BVB… as comfortable as one can look with a brittle midfield.
DF Jeremy Toljan, 4 — The make-shift left-back started the year out well but his form has been deteriorating ever since as he slows play when on the ball. Defensively, he gets turned too quickly on the wing, making it too easy for opposing attackers to slip past him.
MF Julian Weigl, 4 — Given his continuing search for form, Weigl’s positive influence has been harshly limited of late. From a fan’s perspective, it looks as though he is overthinking vertical passing options so long that such opportunities disappear. His lacklustre backtracking remains a liability and he desperately needs an “enforcer” to cover his back.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 5 — Castro is not the partner to really help Weigl out. The fact that Gladbach created better chances from open play had much to do with the hosts’ possession thanks to their better central midfield duo of Christoph Kramer and Denis Zakaria.
MF Marco Reus, 7 — Instinct and technique combined for Reus’ amazing strike in the first half as he smacked the ball over goalkeeper Yann Sommer from just inside the box. The ball kissed the underside of the bar and proceeded into the net.
MF Mario Gotze, 6 — His long diagonal pass to Andre Schurrle after 31 minutes was picture perfect and unlocked the chance that eventually led to the goal. However, Gotze receives minus points for picking the wrong footwear at the start of the game. He improved after changing his shoes after 25 minutes but his form deteriorated in the second half.
MF Andre Schurrle, 6 — Arguably Dortmund’s best player in the first half, he grabbed the assist for Reus’ goal. Not much of that good form was visible in the second period, though.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 5 — Could not impose himself as much as he did in his first three games but did help out with his hold-up play whenever possible.
MF Christian Pulisic, NR — Introduced with 15 minutes left to play, Pulisic was mostly busy throwing himself into crunching challenges as his team failed to string together any counter-attacks.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, NR — Replaced Reus with 10 minutes left to play and was one of the culprits for BVB’s lack of counter-attacking threat.
DF Omer Toprak, NR — The centre-back came on for Schurrle with three minutes left in regular time. Stoger wanted to sit on the narrow lead by building a wall around his own box.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.