The Battle of the Borussia’s promised to be the Topspiel on Matchday 6, but only one team came to the party with Borussia Mönchengladbach beating Borussia Dortmund 1-0. Denis Zakaria scored the winner in a man of the match performance at Borussia Park, the visitors failing to test Yan Sommer in a limp display.
Dortmund lacked creativity going forward
For the opening 30 minutes the Topspiel appeared to be false advertising. The visitors were missing the injured Julian Brandt, Giovanni Reyna, Marco Reus and Erling Haaland which meant Donyell Malen partnered Youssoufa Moukoko up front.
Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund mirrored themselves with back three formations which made chances hard to come by.
Adi Hütter’s side finally began to sustain some pressure before Denis Zakaria broke the deadlock in the 37th minute. When Mahmoud Dahoud was sent from the field three minutes later, it was always going to be problematic and so it proved, Dortmund unable to fashion a shot on target in a long 90 minutes.
If Marco Rose thought he would be welcomed back to Borussia Park with open arms, he was sadly mistaken in the minutes leading up to kick off.
His former supporters accused him of “feigned identification and false promises,” adding to a heated atmosphere which was amplified after some heavy challenges and an early fracas.
This was Dortmund’s poorest performance under Rose. While there were excuses due to the attacking talent unavailable, this was a match to forget as quickly as possible.
Mahmoud Dahoud came through the youth ranks at Mönchengladbach before switching to the Black and Yellows in 2017. In the 10th minute he lost possession in a dangerous position, fouled Lars Stindl on the edge of the 18-yard-box and was booked for his trouble.
Dahoud’s afternoon went from bad to worse in the 40th minute. His petulant reaction to giving away a foul saw referee Deniz Aytekin brandish a second yellow card and marching orders for the 25-year-old.
Thorgan Hazard was another player to make his return to Mönchengladbach after five years with the Foals. He tried hard to make things happen after being introduced at half time, spurning Dortmund’s best chance of the match when he headed over from close range.
Denis Zakaria didn’t take long to get involved in the action, getting stuck into challenges and earning himself an early yellow card.
In the 37th minute he made the decisive breakthrough, picking up a poor clearance from Raphael Guerreiro and playing a quick 1-2 with Matthias Ginter before charging at Dortmund’s defence. He benefitted from a fortunate deflection before slamming the ball into the back of the net.
Zakaria controlled the middle of the park alongside debutant Kouadio Koné, especially after Dahoud’s dismissal, and showed why he has long been threatening to break through and become one of Europe’s elite central midfielders.
The 24-year-old suffered a bad knee injury in March 2020 which put him out of action for seven months. A battle with COVID-19 hindered his start to the current campaign, but he looked fit and on fire in his third consecutive 90-minute appearance.
Recently linked with a move to Roma, Zakaria changed his agent and is on the verge of signing a new contract, no doubt influenced by his reunion with Adi Hütter who gave him his breakthrough at Young Boys.
“The situation with my former agent was a bit complicated, but I never said that I definitely wanted to leave,” he told the local Rheinische Post newspaper ahead of the Dortmund game.
“I have always said that I feel comfortable in Mönchengladbach. Obviously, Adi Hütter is a plus for me. He was like a father to me (in Bern) and I learnt so much from him. It’s always good when you have a coach who likes your playing style.”
The win was the second in the Bundesliga for Hütter and Borussia Mönchengladbach this season, and it’s no coincidence that Zakaria has started and scored in both victories. Fingers crossed he stays injury free for the rest of the campaign and continues to flourish under his old mentor.