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Malen off the mark as Reus helps Borussia Dortmund close gap on Bayern Munich

  • November 24, 2021

Borussia Dortmund 2 – 1 Stuttgart
(Malyen 56′, Reus 85′ – Massimo 63′), Westfalenstadion

As the ball flew perilously around the Dortmund penalty box with six minutes remaining and the scores level, the familiar feeling of a wasted chance hung over the Westfalenstadion.

But the loose ball broke to substitute Steffen Tigges. His perceptive pass set Marco Reus away on the counter and the captain tucked in the rebound from Thorgan Hazard’s effort to send Dortmund to within a point of Bayern Munich at the Bundesliga summit. The chance was, just about, taken.

But the maintenance of Dortmund’s perfect home league record was far from comfortable against a Stuttgart side who troubled their hosts throughout. Dortmund looked toothless without Erling Haaland for significant spells. Even when Donyell Malen’s deflected opener from outside the box came just before the hour mark, the hopeful nature of the strike was perhaps indicative of a side struggling to break down their opponents.


Dortmund have often been charged with blowing their rare chances to put pressure on Bayern Munich during the Bavarians’ run of nine consecutive titles, so finding a way back from Roberto Massimo’s fine equalizer felt critical ahead of a big few weeks.

“It is an important win that should give us a lot of confidence and energy. We can live well with this result ahead of the weeks leading up to Christmas,” coach Marco Rose said post-match.

Doing just enough

“We didn’t really shine, but we fought,” defender Mats Hummels told Sky after the game. “And it was another step in the right direction.”

While that’s true domestically, comprehensive defeats to Ajax at home and away have left Marco Rose’s side with plenty to do in the Champions League and a trip to face Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday looks do-or-die. The visit of Bayern on December 4 appears to have less immediate jeopardy but, given they’ve lost the last five meetings between the sides, it may be just as significant, even at this stage of the league season.

Dortmund’s players celebrate a win that took them to within a point of Bayern Munich

“We have high expectations of ourselves. We saw yesterday’s (Bayern) result. We did our duty and won our game. We are now right there at the top and we want to stay there,” Rose added.

Though Rose has lofty ambitions, there is some sense from the outside that, given the financial gulf between Bayern and the rest, BVB won’t always be able to put a title run together, particularly given that their model relies so heavy on players high on talent and resale value but low on experience. But competing is essential.

Malen’s moment

At €30 million ($34 million), Dortmund’s third biggest outlay in history, Malen broke the “buy low, sell high” mold somewhat, meaning his goal drought in the Bundesliga brought more pressure. As did the injury to Haaland, who has so often been the man to bail Dortmund out of trouble.

While the other man for a crisis, captain Reus, made the decisive intervention on Saturday, Malen’s goal should at least provide the Dutchman with a boost to confidence that was clearly lacking when his mistimed a free header on goal in the first half. With the severity of Haaland’s injury as unclear as his future, Rose needs his players, and his forwards in particular, to be clinical. And, ideally, a few injuries to clear up.

Rose has generally impressed so far in a job where success can be tough to measure but failure is easily identified. A home win against Stuttgart won’t mean much in isolation but if it’s the springboard for Malen and Co. to make the most from what’s around the corner, its importance may yet become clear.

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