On Sunday at the BayArena, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund shared the spoils in the derby of the 13th round of the Bundesliga season. It was Julian Ryerson who broke the deadlock for the visitors as early as the fifth minute, and Victor Boniface who equalized for Leverkusen in the 79th.
It came as no surprise that Leverkusen dominated a large majority of the contest, even more so after Dortmund’s early opener which forced them to chase the result. At the end, the numbers were all notably in favour of the home side, all but the most important ones – those on the scoreboard.
Xabi Alonso’s men dominated possession with the ball at their feet for 69% of the time, and took a total of 23 shots, six of which went on target. Dortmund took a total of six, with just two going the right way. Leverkusen took 16 corners, Dortmund one.
However, despite the number being overwhelmingly in favour of the hosts, they created preciously little throughout, and far too frequently their attacks ended with shots from range. Granit Xhaka alone wasted five, and others had no more luck than the former Arsenal man. It should be said that it appeared to have been a part of the visitors’ plan, to allow Bayer to shoot from range while defending the inside of their box with strong determination and in large numbers.
On two notable occasions, Alonso’s men broke through and threatened Gregor Kobel from closer range, the first ending with Mats Hummels putting in a spectacular tackle to prevent Exequiel Palacios from scoring in the 62nd minute, and the other one in Patrik Schick laying it on a platter for Boniface’s equalizer.
It should also be said that in-demand midfielder Florian Wirtz appeared to have scored what would’ve been a terrific goal in the dying seconds of the first half, slamming it in off the crossbar from around 15 yards, but as it happened, Boniface acted from an offside position in the buildup and the VAR ruled it out.
As for Dortmund, content though they were with protecting their lead until the equalizer, they did threaten through counterattacks several times, but to no effect.
On the other hand, their early opener was a masterpiece of attacking play. Marco Reus made a brilliant dummy run into the box, pulling two defenders away from their positions to open the space for Ryerson, and Niclas Fullkrug, who had the ball at his feet at that moment, did very well to wait for Reus’ move to produce its desired effect, before giving it to Ryerson. Checkmate.
Leverkusen remain undefeated this season, winning 11 and drawing the other two Bundesliga games played so far – and those two were against last season’s champions and runners-up. For their part, Dortmund have come away from the BayArena undefeated, the first team to do so this season.
And yet, neither side will have been too happy at the sounding of the final whistle. With Bayern’s game against Union Berlin postponed due to a heavy snowfall in Munich, Leverkusen remain at the top of the table with a three-point advantage over Bayern, but the Bavarians now have a game in hand and a significantly better goal-difference. With all due respect to Union, it’s very likely that the Munich snowfall prevented a change at the top this weekend.
Had someone offered Dortmund a draw before the game, they’d probably have taken it. However, having scored early and showed resolute defending for 75 minutes after that, it surely feels as disappointment not to have held on to the end. With the point they took, they remain 10 behind Leverkusen on a tally of 25, with Bayern (32) and Stuttgart (30) in between. And with the middle of the season approaching fast, the gap is worryingly wide for Terzic and his men if they mean to fight for the title again.