FEATURE | Erling Haaland shines as Borussia Dortmund top the Bundesliga

Matthew Marshall – Westfalenstadion, Dortmund

Haaland double fires Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga

Erling Haaland shook off any fitness doubts by steering Borussia Dortmund to a 3-1 win against Mainz at the Westfalenstadion. The victory in front of 63,812 spectators sees Die Schwarzgelben rise to the top of the Bundesliga table.

Marco Reus opened the scoring with a fine strike in the third minute. Dortmund completely bossed the first half, and when Erling Haaland’s penalty extended the lead in the 54th minute it seemed the contest was over.

Jonathan Burkardt capitalised on a Gregor Kobel error to reduce the deficit in the 87th minute however, but any thoughts of a comeback were extinguished in added time when Jude Bellingham provided Haaland with his second which put the result beyond doubt.

One way traffic

Borussia Dortmund monopolised possession early on and took the lead in the third minute. Julian Brandt and Thomas Meunier combined on the right wing, Meunier’s cross falling to Marco Reus who smashed an unstoppable left footed half volley into the top corner.

Nico Schulz was off the pace and appeared to be lacking confidence. He was loose on the ball, picked up an early yellow card and lost possession which invited Mainz to launch a rare attack.

The visitors were being thoroughly outplayed as Erling Haaland broke free and squared to Meunier who fired wide. Dortmund were enjoying 80% possession but Mainz goalkeeper Robin Zenter wasn’t being tested.

It seemed the only way Mainz could score would come from a Dortmund blunder. Manuel Akanji gave them their first chance in the 35th minute, booked for a late challenge on Leandro Barreiro Martins with Anton Stach’s free kick fired into the wall.

Jean-Paul Boëtius pounced on another error from the hosts, breaking clear in the 41st minute but unable to pick out a teammate.

Borussia Dortmund went desperately close to extending their lead on the stroke of half-time. Haaland’s shot was saved, he headed the rebound into the danger area where Jude Bellingham saw his shot cleared off the line by Moussa Niakhaté.

Haaland wins and converts the penalty

Mainz manager Bo Svensson introduced Aarón Martín for Anderson Lucoqui after the break. The 05ers were showing more enterprise in the second half but couldn’t make it count, Dortmund extending their lead in the 54th minute.

Haaland took a touch in Mainz’s 18-yard-box and the ball connected with Silvan Widmer’s elbow. It was initially missed by referee Daniel Schlager, but he pointed to the spot after checking the touchline monitor and Haaland drilled the penalty down the middle.

Mainz were finally competing and missed a great chance to reduce the deficit. Karim Onisiwo brought down a pass over Dortmund’s defence, his attempted lob sailing over Gregor Kobel and the bar.

The action soon returned to the other end, Brandt’s corner picking out Mats Hummels who saw his header hit the post. It was his last involvement in the game, replaced by Marin Pongracic with Thorgan Hazard replacing Donyell Malen.

Svensson made a triple substitution in the 69th minute with Alexander Hack, Lee Jae-Sung and Jonathan Burkardt coming on for Stefan Bell, Leandro Barreiro and Marcus Ingvartsen.

Burkardt was immediately involved, breaking clear with Bellingham recovering to make a crucial interception. Boëtius finally tested Dortmund’s keeper in the 77th minute, playing a neat 1-2 with Onisiwo before a low drive forced a save from Kobel.

Marius Wolf came on for Julian Brandt but the visitors continued to threaten. Boëtius fired wide and Onisiwo released Burkhardt who was thwarted by Pongracic.

Marco Rose was trying to rouse the home support who had gone quiet, seemingly expecting their team to cruise to the finish line.

The substitutions kept coming with Merveille Papela replacing Anton Stach. Rose made two more changes with Axel Witsel and Reinier coming on for Emre Can and Marco Reus.

Just when it seemed the contest was over, Mainz hit back. Gregor Kobel’s poor pass fell only as far as Niklas Tauer, he combined with Jae-Sung before Burkhardt fired home to set up a nervy five minutes of added time.

There was no need for concern however, Dortmund’s two rising stars combining to put the result beyond doubt. Bellingham robbed Widmer, raced clear and found an unmarked Haaland who beat Zentner in front of an ecstatic Yellow Wall.

Haaland is incredible on and off the pitch

There were doubts surrounding Erling Haaland’s fitness during the week, but the 21-year-old superstar started and scored twice in another match winning performance, taking his tally to 49 goals in 49 Bundesliga matches.

His skill, speed and strength is common knowledge, but what happened after the final whistle displayed a lot about his character.

There was an uncomfortable moment when he celebrated with a pitch invader, giving him his shirt and posing for selfies. You can understand players being thrilled about playing in front of fans again, but it wasn’t a good look considering the coronavirus concerns.

Absolutely adoring the adulation from the crowd, Haaland lapped up the praise for as long as possible on a solo lap of honour, soaking up all of the love before a post-match interview with Jan Aage Fjørtoft.

He stubbornly refused another interview, giving a lucky supporter his jacket before eventually walking off the pitch.

Haaland is his own man and going to do what he wants, when he wants. He has the world at his feet and knows it, an incredible player who is going to command an enormous transfer fee.

It can’t be underestimated just how difficult it will be for Dortmund to replace his impact on and off the pitch.

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