Borussia Dortmund moved within one point of the summit of the Bundesliga on Saturday night as they came from behind to beat Hertha Berlin 5-2 at the historic Olympiastadion.
A pair of strikes from Matheus Cunha proved to be in vain as a rampant second-half showing saw Erling Haaland net four times and defender Raphael Guerreiro open his account on the season.
Opening exchanges poised a fiercely-contested tie ahead as the ball was enjoyed in equal measures by both sides. Clumsy control in the final third kept the ‘keepers untested for the first 20 minutes, with either side struggling to bring a controlled spell of possession to their game.
Things started to click for the visitors as they worked to stretch Die Alte Dame’s ailing defence. The pressure was ramped up by a lengthy spell in front of goal, in which the sprightly Dortmund attack drew a number of free-kicks.
Very much against the run of play, it was Hertha who opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. A long ball forward was brought down neatly and fell to the feet of Dodi Lukebakio, who rolled a smart set-up for Brazilian youngster Cunha to smash the ball beyond a hapless Roman Burki from 25 yards out.
BVB plugged away with their relentless threat, and barely looked fazed by the goal. Norwegian striker Haaland had a strong penalty appeal turned down just minutes later when he appeared to be brought down by a desperate lunge from Omar Alderete.
Haaland caught sight of goal again on the stroke of halftime when a square pass sent the ball bobbling across the face of goal, leaving Hertha goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow and his defence in its wake. The pass came unexpectedly to Haaland, who failed to trap the ball, and he could only watch as the gilt-edged chance slipped from his reach.
Scores were level within two minutes of the restart. An immensely efficient attack found Emre Can out wide on the right flank, and his low cross towards the far post was met excellently by Haaland, who had slipped away from the marking of Dedryck Boyata, and powered home.
Haaland’s tally was doubled only a couple of minutes later when he took advantage of Hertha’s lackadaisical defensive positioning and rifled beyond Schwolow to turn the match on its head.
The Norwegian’s dominance continued to shine, with his hat-trick being chalked up on the hour mark. Haaland displayed his exponential pace to evade Alderete’s challenge and bring the ball around Schwolow before firing into a largely-unguarded net.
Hertha’s defending was punished yet again 10 minutes later. This time it was Guerreiro poking home to put a fourth goal on the board for Dortmund. The Portuguese met a ball into the penalty area well but was thwarted by Peter Pekarik. However, the Dortmund man reacted first to the loose ball and poked home his first Bundesliga goal of the season.
The hosts looked to be back in the game with 10 minutes still on the clock. The in-form Cunha coolly tucked away a penalty after 21-year-old Matteo Guendouzi was fouled in the box.
The two-goal deficit was to last only a handful of seconds, though, as Dortmund restored their cushion immediately after kick-off. Berlin’s defence was caught napping as English starlet Jude Bellingham broke free to find Haaland at the far post for his fourth of the night and tenth of the campaign.
Hertha tried to find a third as the clock ticked to its end, but resolute defending ensured there was no way back for Bruno Labbadia’s side. The loss sees Hertha linger just four points clear of the relegation zone, with three of the five clubs beneath Die Alte Dame having played one match fewer.
Takeaways from the match
Hertha’s defensive discipline
Bruno Labbadia may consider his Hertha Berlin side fortunate to have held the lead for so long. On many occasions, a lapse in concentration – or communication – from the centre-back partnership of Alderete and Boyata allowed Dortmund a look on goal. Although the visitors failed to capitalise on the majority of mistakes, both their equaliser and the go-ahead goal came as a direct result of a mishap.
It has been a running theme throughout the season so far that defending is Die Alte Dame’s achilles’ heel, with communication being a serious defect. Lack of direction from keeper Schwolow, coupled with an unsettled defence (owing to the sporadic rotation) has made relationship development very slow indeed.
Chemistry is king
Dortmund were a cut above their hosts. Passing was seamless and they maintained a consistent shape in which the ball was moved confidently and efficiently. Their build-up proved to be too much for Hertha’s defence, and Dortmund tore them apart with rapid workings that, more often than not, found an end product.
Lucien Favre’s side was well-oiled and looked every bit good value for the title race they find themselves in.
Man of the match - Erling Haaland
It may be an obvious selection, but Haaland would have made the cut even without his quartet of strikes. The Norwegian was better than his counterparts in every area: speed, strength, and movement. The 20-year-old outsmarted his markers every time he went forward, and his ability to slip into space is unrivalled across the Bundesliga.