DORTMUND, Germany — Borussia Dortmund celebrated their 500th Bundesliga home win on Saturday, defeating 17th-place Hamburg 2-0 to move back into third place in the Bundesliga. They trail second-place RB Leipzig by one point.
After a stingy first half, Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi scored the opener in the 49th minute off a Christian Pulisic assist. Pulisic had received the ball from Marco Reus, who made his full debut after being sidelined for nearly nine months.
Relegation-threatened Hamburg were hopeful to find an equaliser as a wasteful Dortmund side failed to put a seal on the game. It took until the second minute of stoppage time for Mario Gotze to remove all doubts of the first home win in 2018. The substitute was played into position by Andre Schurrle and lobbed goalkeeper Christian Mathenia for a hard-fought victory.
Without a doubt, Reus’ return has to be the biggest positive coming out of the game. The midfielder had been sorely missed since his injury last May, especially after the club lost star midfielder Ousmane Dembele in a €105 million transfer to Barcelona. The 28-year-old admitted to ESPN FC after the game that he would still need time for him to gel with his teammates. His impact, however, was immediately visible. During 70 minutes on the field, Reus created three chances, one of which led to the opener.
It took 34 minutes until the Yellow Wall started to air its discontent after yet another back pass forced by a lack of penetration in build-up play. BVB are lacking urgency and almost exclusively create chances in transition. A slow build-up play was also a subject of criticism by the fans during Thomas Tuchel’s tenure. The difference, however, was that Dortmund then were more in control of the game and had a clear plan in how to open gaps. Both control in possession and a plan on what to do with the ball is lacking at the moment, which is why the hosts could hardly press the issue against the second-worst team in the Bundesliga that had to do without its best centre-back.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Handing debuts to Reus and winter signing Manuel Akanji was the right decision. Dortmund, however, lacked a plan in possession.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 5 — Burki was hardly tested by Hamburg’s two shots on target. He made life harder for himself and his team by playing the ball to opposition several times.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 5 — The veteran lacked focus during the 90 minutes, stepping over the ball and overhitting passes.
DF Manuel Akanji, 7 — One dangerously misplaced pass could not overshadow a promising debut for the 22-year-old, who replaced Sokratis Papastathopoulos at the heart of BVB’s defence. Jokingly said after the game that he “only plays Champions League,” when asked to comment about Batshuayi being picked for the Europa League squad instead of him.
DF Omer Toprak, 8 — Another faultless match by the centre-back, who won 100 percent of his aerials and tackles and intercepted the ball four times.
DF Jeremy Toljan, 5 — Often struggled on his left side against Gotoku Sakai and Albin Ekdal. The visitors created their best chance as Toljan was nutmegged.
MF Julian Weigl, 6 — Admitted after the match that it was not his best performance. Weigl dropped very deep to play the ball without pressure but failed to instigate attacking moves.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 6 — After a very bright start, Kagawa faded as the game progressed, having little impact in central midfield next to Weigl.
MF Marcos Reus, 7 — Really showed how much Dortmund had missed him during his absence by being one of the few players to create momentum up front.
FW Christian Pulisic, 6 — Picked up another assist in consecutive games. Even when Pulisic is not at the very top of his game he manages to contribute.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 7 — Was singing “Everything Aubameyang can do I can do better,” as he celebrated his third goal since arriving in Dortmund with a flip. The “Batsman” has been directly involved in four of BVB’s five goals.
FW Andre Schurrle, 6 — Rounded off a topsy-turvy performance with a brilliant run and an even better pass to find Gotze ahead of the 2-0 goal.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 5 — Replaced the injured Kagawa in the second half, wasted promising scoring opportunity and awkwardly misplaced a few balls in build-up.
MF Mario Gotze, 7 — Scored his second league goal of the season with the calmness of a centre-forward.
MF Gonzalo Castro, NR — Helped his team to see out a nervy win in the final five minutes.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.