Werder Bremen 1-2 Borussia Dortmund, Weserstadion
(Möhwald 28′ — Guerreiro 12′, Reus pen. 79′)
It wasn’t how Edin Terzic will have drawn it up, but it’s unlikely the 38-year-old will care.
“I am happy, relieved and tired,” a smiling Terzic told Sky afterwards. “I’m sure I’m not alone in that respect and I imagine a few people will sleep on the bus journey back to Dortmund,” Terzic said after a frantic two days that saw him go from Lucien Favre’s assistant to the Swiss’ replacement.
Dortmund’s win in Bremen was the sort of win that good teams secure even when they’re not playing their best, and just days after a 5-1 drubbing at home to Stuttgart it is safe to say Dortmund were reeling.
Terzic had them fly out of the blocks though, perhaps aided by the energy of youth. Dortmund’s army of youngsters all started, including 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko. Terzic’ decision to hand Moukoko his first start was partly a statement, partly his only real option. Either way, it looked like Terzic had simply told his team to just enjoy playing a bit more.
Strong start soon fades
Passes were flicked on, the ball moved fluidly from yellow shirt to yellow shirt as Dortmund looked to lean more on their sense than a system. Eventually, they rewarded their intuition — Raphael Guerreiro poking home after Jadon Sancho’s neat feet and instinct created the chance.
Inevitably, Dortmund’s early intensity waned and Bremen crept back into the game. A misplaced pass by Manuel Akanji invited Bremen to attack, although Kevin Möhwald deserves credit for the touch he applied to curl home.
It was to be that kind of game, one in which both sides exchanged brief passages of intent. Both keepers traded great reflex saves before the break as chances remained few and far between. Hummels called for more pressure as Dortmund began to ease off.
A new coach and a first start — it felt like this was going to be the night Moukoko scored his first Bundesliga goal. Instead though, the 16-year-old looked his age. He snapped at his chances, looking so keen to score that he was almost destined not to. In the first five minutes of both halves he missed the chance to meet crosses at the far post.
“It wasn’t about him scoring the winner but rather working for the team,” Terzic said afterwards. “That he did that aged 16 is worthy of a huge compliment.”
With Moukoko looking out of his depth, Jadon Sancho short of the final moment of brilliance that he carried with him throughout last season, Dortmund looked destined to take a point that they’d be forced to talk into a step in the right direction.
But then they took advantage of a gift from Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka, who had been outstanding up until that point. Inside the final 20 minutes Pavlenka did superbly to keep out a diving Marco Reus header, but as the clock moved closer to the final 10 the Czech keeper fluffed his lines.
Dropping a cross he should have caught saw him scramble to recover the ball, but in doing so he fouled Manuel Akanji. That Reus could only score on the rebound after Pavlenka made a great save epitomised a game that Bremen lacked the quality to control and Dortmund looked nervous to lose.
“We are a good team when we put it all together, offensively and defensively,” Reus said afterwards. Thanks to a goal from their best player this season and a strong performance from their captain, Dortmund just about did that in Bremen.
As the seconds ticked away and he was calling for calm, Terzic’s jacket, one that had been done up all game, was unzipped. He watched as his side missed the chance to score a third, but did their best not to concede a second. Then came the final whistle.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a start.