Borussia Dortmund were made to work hard for their goals, but ultimately eased to a 6-1 thrashing over bottom side Paderborn – with winger Jadon Sancho marking his first start since March with the first senior hat-trick of his career to date.
After Borussia Monchengladbach’s impressive display over Union Berlin earlier today, it was imperative Lucien Favre’s men returned to winning ways.
Their title hopes were in tatters after a 1-0 defeat to leaders Bayern on Tuesday, meaning there’s now a seven-point gap between the two sides with just five matches remaining.
Bayern, whose last defeat across all competitions was by Gladbach in early December, cruised to a 5-0 win over relegation-threatened Fortuna Dusseldorf yesterday.
With that in mind, as well as a top-four race which continues to hot up with a month left of the 2019-20 campaign, BVB couldn’t afford to lose any further ground on their rivals.
Paderborn defensively disciplined, causing frustration
Paderborn though, are the division’s bottom side with just 19 points all season. They needed a result of their own to help climb closer towards safety, as time is of the essence for Steffen Baumgart’s side – who have only recorded four wins in 2019-20.
Three successive draws vs. Dusseldorf, Hoffenheim and Augsburg after returning from the coronavirus-enforced break showed improvement on four defeats beforehand, but they need victories before relegation back to 2. Bundesliga is mathematically confirmed.
Rigid tactics were key to their success here: pack the midfield, stay compact, overwhelm Dortmund’s fullbacks and create an overload – to create counter-attacking opportunities.
They did precisely that. Gerrit Holtmann and Christopher Antwi-Adjej caused havoc for Dortmund to defend in transition, while the latter had two chances which flew wide.
Sancho and Julian Brandt combined down the left-hand side, but not enough to fashion many clear-cut opportunities as Paderborn’s gameplan was clearly working.
BVB players were becoming visibly agitated at the levels of pressure they were under in possession, while their half-chances were wasteful to say the least – Emre Can and Brandt firing wide when they showed patience and persistence to get into dangerous positions.
Dortmund’s best chance of the half fell to Raphael Guerreiro, whose goalbound shot was deflected wide by an alert Jamilu Collins. This proved a warning sign of things to come.
Favre’s men increase their tempo after the restart
Within the first eight minutes after half-time, goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle was forced into an excellent reflex save with his outstretched leg to deny Achraf Hakimi.
Then, Sancho fizzed a great low ball across the box to an unmarked Thorgan Hazard, though the Belgian somehow managed to skew a close-range effort wide of the post.
With those two near misses in mind, there was a sense of increasing inevitability that Dortmund would break the deadlock sooner or later.
They did so, rather unceremoniously, after Emre Can’s striding run and shot into the box was parried by a busy Zingerle – straight into the path of a grateful Hazard.
After his earlier miss, he was in the perfect place at the right moment to slot into an empty net with the ‘keeper scrambling at his near post.
Sancho’s first of the afternoon was under similar circumstances. Thomas Delaney’s defence-splitting pass freed an overlapping Brandt, who looked up to see the Englishman open at the far post.
Firing across goal, it was a straightforward finish which seemed to break Paderborn’s collective spirit – having conceded two goals in three minutes so effortlessly after almost an hour of great defending.
Can gives away contentious penalty, Paderborn handed lifeline
Nonetheless, they kept trying and got their reward with 20 minutes to play.
Can was penalised, albeit harshly, after making a brave sliding block to stop Mohamed Drager’s effort from testing Roman Burki.
The referee pointed to the spot, booking Can for a handball, after believing his arm was in an unnatural position – though there wasn’t much he could have done differently.
A contentious decision but Paderborn were suddenly handed a lifeline as former BVB youth product Uwe Hunemeier made no mistake from twelve yards out.
2-1 and the game was on again. For less than two minutes.
BVB turn on the style late on to finish strong
A missed interception by captain Christian Strohdiek, making his first appearance since March, allowed Hazard’s pass to find Sancho.
After evading one challenge and striking goalwards with his weaker left foot, Sancho watched as Zingerle could only get fingertips to the effort as it nestled in the bottom corner.
So much for a comeback storyline, then.
As both sides made full use of their five substitutions, this is where the scoreline got ugly.
Sancho and Hazard exchanged passes before the latter was dispossessed in the box after a well-timed challenge by Hunemeier.
The goalscorer’s firm tackle went unrewarded though but the ball broke for substitute Marcel Schmelzer – who continued running before slotting across into Hakimi’s path.
He showed composure and was not going to be denied a second time, firing into the bottom corner with aplomb.
4-1 and although Paderborn gave a good account for themselves in the first hour, the game was quickly drifting away from them as Dortmund’s attacking quality pounced on a side unable to maintain their first-half intensity.
Schmelzer turned goalscorer from close-range four minutes later, pouncing onto Axel Witsel’s fizzed low delivery.
It was his first Bundesliga goal since 2013-14 and four substitutes combined in the build-up: Giovanni Reyna, Spanish young defender Mateu Morey, assist man Witsel and the one-club man Schmelzer.
Yet, they were not finished there. Moments earlier, Zingerle produced a great fingertip save to thwart Reyna from getting on the scoresheet but could do nothing as BVB finished in style.
Straight from Paderborn’s own corner, Sancho completed his hat-trick after Morey’s searching pass freed him and Hazard in a two-on-one situation.
Usually unselfish, Dortmund’s assist king was not going to pass up the opportunity to complete a memorable first career hat-trick.
Making his first start since their 2-0 UCL last-16 defeat by PSG on March 11, Sancho certainly snatched the headlines on an evening where BVB could have easily slipped up.