Union Berlin 2-1 Borussia Dortmund, Stadion An der Alten Försterei
(Awoniyi 57′, Friedrich 78′ — Moukoko 60′)

If Borussia Dortmund’s win against Bremen on Tuesday was about Edin Terzic making a start, the loss in Berlin against Union was all about Youssoufa Moukoko.

It was the 16-year-old’s low cross that a more confident Jadon Sancho would have finished, his rasping effort that rattled the post and his sensational goal that drew Dortmund level. Relying on teenagers has become part of Dortmund’s DNA in recent years, but that Moukoko was the brightest spark for Dortmund in Berlin was alarming.

Perhaps Dortmund were just tired, but too much of this game they spent hanging around in midfield. Mats Hummels did his best to deliver vertical passes, but again Dortmund found themselves bunching up in space.

Defensively, the lapses returned too as Manuel Akanji was fortunate to end the first half without an assist for the home side. Having escaped punishment for those errors, Dortmund were haunted by an old problem as two set-piece goals cost them the game.

Inexcusable loss

“It was set pieces amongst other things, but set pieces were definitely a problem,” Hummels said afterwards. “We had man to man marking but their strongest player in the air had no one 10 meters around him. That cannot happen. It is inexcusable,” Hummels said of Marvin Friedrich’s winner. The Union defender himself admitted he too was surprised at how free he was.

So great was the frustration that just before his interview, Hummels punched the advertising board. Given that Dortmund had lost but also by giving up two goals to a side known for their quality from set-pieces looked too much to stomach for Hummels.

“We cannot make it so easy for the opposition because then you lose too many games in the Bundesliga,” Hummels said.

At the turn of the Bundesliga season, Dortmund have already lost five (they lost seven in the whole of last season’s campaign). Edin Terzic, who lived through the ups and downs of his team’s performance on the sidelines, has evidently changed the atmosphere at the club, but he will be grateful for some more time on the training ground.

“You defend set-pieces best by not giving them up,” said Terzic afterwards, who also lamented that “there wasn’t enough movement from both the players and the ball.” Clearly, there is work to be done.

Union Berlin, on the other hand, are reaping the reward of the good work they have done over the last 12 months. Without star man Max Kruse, this is a side that nearly beat Bayern last weekend, one that ran eight kilometres more than Dortmund and after this win finishes the year with 21 points (just one fewer than Dortmund). Football wise, Union have got every decision right in 2020.

Marvin Friedrich heads home the winner

Marvin Friedrich scored the winner

History but no points

Dortmund are struggling to make enough right decisions in 90 minutes. While Hummels and Bürki agreed that Taiwo Awoniyi’s goal at the back post was harder to defend because near-post flick-ons are in their nature trickier, both were frustrated by the second.

Bürki also was frustrated at how harmless Dortmund were in attack. Indeed, that a team with Jadon Sancho, Julian Brandt and Marco Reus needed 16-year-old Moukoko to ignite them is concerning. Only Raphael Guerreiro, whose superb vertical pass set up Moukoko for his goal, could lay a claim to contributing.

So Dortmund leave the capital with history. Moukoko’s brilliant goal made him the youngest ever Bundesliga (16 years, 28 days) goalscorer, but it’s a goal that comes with a bad aftertaste for Dortmund.

“We’re happy he scored, but we lost so it doesn’t help us much,” Hummels said, bluntly afterwards.

Even when Dortmund take a step forward, they can’t seem to help also taking two backwards.