The 49th instalment of Germany’s top professional league began much the way it finished last term – with a 3-1 home win for Deutscher Meister Borussia Dortmund.
The side they beat last May were of course Eintracht Frankfurt, who had to bare the ignominy of being relegated on the day their opponents lifted the Salad Bowl. This weekend, it was Hamburg who were blown out of the water by the incisive and thrusting style Jürgen Klopp has impressed upon his young side.
Dortmund were simply too good on the night for a young and very much ‘work-in-progress’ Hamburg. Nuri Sahin may be gone, Lucas Barrios and Marcel Schmelzer might be injured, but die Schwatzgelben nonchalantly disposed of Michael Oenning’s men within 48 minutes.
Dortmund were vibrant from the start. Quick, purposeful passing was backed up with pressing that bordered on harassment at times. Their midfield, on paper largely the same as last year but with Ilkay Gündogan in for the departed Sahin, popped the ball around swiftly like they’d never been away. Ex-Nürnberger Gündogan lined up alongside Sven Bender, but it was Shinji Kagawa who often dropped deep in order to create room high up the pitch.
This Dortmund side is beginning to draw tentative comparisons with a certain Catalan outfit. There are similarities with the way they conduct themselves off the ball, but Borussia’s first goal showed they are not afraid to go direct. A long punt upfield was controlled by Lewandowski, who turned and gave the ball to Götze. One pass, a hopelessly out of position Dennis Diekmeier, and two Kevin Groβkreutz touches later, the ball was in the back of the net.
By this stage, Dortmund were rampant. Kagawa hit the post after seemingly doing all the hard work. Minutes later Groβkreutz was again away down the left and his clever pull back found the Japanese in acres once again. This time Shinji pushed his shot wide of Drobny’s goal.
But the Südtribune, waiting patiently at the other end didn’t have to wait long for the second. Just a minute later, ‘Super Mario’ – no doubt worthy of the name – was causing problems again. Big problems. Tidy work from Gündogan gave the young German international a chance to run at the all-at-sea Hamburg defence. Young Michael Mancienne had probably had enough already, but Götze rolled the ball into Robert Lewandowski, whose sublime flick past the Englishman found the marauding Mario who finished calmly.
2-0 at the interval and it was to get worse for the Bundesliga ever-presents just minutes after the restart. After clearing a corner, Hamburg’s defence just stood and watched as Götze and Sven Bender exchanged a neat one-two before the former laid the ball into Kevin Groβkreutz who bagged his double at the second attempt with half a dozen yellow shirts waiting to pounce. 48 minutes of drool-inducing stuff from Dortmund.
And that’s all it took. The home side were happy to meander towards full-time, bringing Ivan Perisic on for his home debut. But as so often happens when a team takes its foot of the gas, one sloppy piece of defending let in substitute Robert Tesche to score on the half-volley following Kagawa’s goal-line clearance.
We must be careful not to come down too hard on Hamburg. Many sides would have been rolled over at the Westfalenstadion tonight. From an English perspective, it was a shame that Michael Mancienne wasn’t at his best, and showed his naivety at times. The young man will learn, however, and he will likely not have a tougher game this season. In at the deep end, and all that. To make things worse for HSV, Paolo Guerrero limped off in the first half. One positive for the travelling side was the form of Gokhan Töre. The young man signed from Chelsea showed some positive intent, some nice skill and particularly good vision in one instance.
A lot was said, particularly in the Munich area, about how the league was returning to Bavaria. On this display, the champions will have a lot to say about that. Comfortable, classy and beyond all, imaginative, Klopp’s side will no doubt be a strong contender.
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Bayern Munich and Schalke will both have been relieved to have lucked out on kind European draws. Bayern will play FC Zurich over two legs and die Knappen will have to pass Bangor City’s conquerors – HJK Helsinki – to reach the group stage.
Hannover weren’t so lucky. They face Sevilla, who effectively knocked out BVB in the group stage last season. Mainz, of course, blew their chance of progression on Thursday night with a miserable defeat on penalties to Gaz Metan Medias of Romania.