Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen: Key talking points

Borussia Dortmund players celebrate their goal against Leverkusen. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Borussia Dortmund players celebrate their goal against Leverkusen. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /
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Nico Schlotterbeck. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Nico Schlotterbeck. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /

Nico Schlotterbeck and Gregor Kobel shine as Borussia Dortmund record a clean sheet

Starting off with what is the most resounding difference between the Borussia Dortmund of last year and what seems to be the trajectory the team is heading in this year, we have to of course highlight the fact that Borussia Dortmund walked away from this game with a relatively convincing clean sheet. The two players behind this, at least in large part, were Gregor Kobel and new signing Nico Schlotterbeck.

Both Kobel and Schlotterbeck played instrumental roles in shutting down Leverkusen’s attempts to get on the scoreboard. In goal, Kobel was put to the test numerous times. Each time, he was able to showcase a commanding presence in the box, top tier reflexes and decision making one would expect from a keeper who plays for a club like Borussia Dortmund. Kobel was the key to ensuring that Dortmund kept Patrik Schick quiet, with the Swiss international smothering some point-blank shots that could have easily found the net.

Schlotterbeck, on his end, put in a performance that justified BVB’s strong interest in him and did a good job showcasing why he was such a sought-after player over the course of the first few months of the year.

The German international’s performance embodies everything that Dortmund have been missing in the center-back position for some time now; strength, pace, and the tenacity to go toe to toe with opponents and ensure their route towards goal is blocked off. Schlotterebeck was often the last man back, putting in tackles and making clearances that actually don’t allow opponents to recycle play close to or at the edge of the box. Both his athleticism as well as his football IQ will prove invaluable to the side going forward.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the defensive performance was without flaws. The offside goals that were discounted as well as Schick’s opportunities on goal were signs of defensive lapses that Edin Terzić and his staff will still have to work on moving forward. Schlotterebeck himself made a clumsy error in the first half that was nearly punished.

The returns of Niklas Süle and Salih Özcan will go a long way towards curtailing these lapses once they are fit and reintegrated, but players like Mats Hummels, Raphaël Guerreiro an co. will have to play their part in helping restructure this defense into one that is far less assailable than it has been in the past.