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Bundesliga

Bundesliga: Harsh lessons part of Dortmund's learning curve

Leverkusen outplayed Borussia Dortmund on Saturday evening. Dortmund's disappointment is palpable, but such lessons are part of a young team's learning process. How they respond will define them, writes DW's Ross Dunbar.

Bayer Leverkusen's high-octane approach paid dividends on Saturday, earning them a deserved 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund. After a frustrating start to the season in domestic and European competition, Leverkusen came into their own against the Bundesliga's highest-scoring team.

The aggression and organization of Roger Schmidt's team forced their high-flying opponents into uncomfortable situations and the home side comprehensively dominated their individual battles on the pitch.

It all started from the back. Central defender Jonathan Tah turned in one of his best performances, marshaling Dortmund's normally prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Essential bridge

Tah and Leverkusen captain Omer Toprak were imperious when faced with the league's joint top scorer. In midfield, the combination of Charles Aranguiz and Kevin Kampl helped swamp the normally dominant Julian Weigl.

The 21-year-old offers the essential bridge between defense and midfield in Dortmund's build-up game and without himTuchel's side were forced into playing longer balls.

Neither Aranguiz nor Kampl gave a moment's peace to Sebastian Rode or Gonzalo Castro. Dortmund's normally effective combination play, consisting of quick interchanges, failed to spark into life.

As midfielder Matthias Ginter discussed in his post-match interview, the game was similar in style to Dortmund's 1-0 loss at RB Leipzig on matchday two - a closed central area of the pitch and a team threatening to pounce on the counterattack with precision and quality. On top of a set-piece mistake, which Weigl will take the blame for, it was precisely that which undid Dortmund.

Such a commanding and tactically-astute opponent forced Tuchel's team to play into ineffective wide positions. Aimless balls into the outside channels are something the Dortmund coach usually tends to avoid at all costs.

Ousmane Dembele, Dortmund's chief mischief maker in possession, was kept in check by Lars Bender in the first half, then Wendell in the second period.

Christian Pulisic got very little joy against Benjamin Henrichs, who was aggressive in his close marking of the U.S. international, who celebrated his 18th birthday last week.

Dortmund substitute Emre Mor, another teenager, struggled to impose himself on a tight game, despite flashes of quality. A harsh lesson it may be for the likes of Dembele and Pulisic, but in the future, it should stand them in good stead.

Harsher lessons

Any thoughts of cutting Bayern's lead at the top after the champions' draw with Cologne were premature. In the early stages of the campaign, Dortmund simply aren't playing to the same standard as the German champions.

In a league as competitive as the Bundesliga, there will be plenty of setbacks to come for a young Dortmund team. There are likely to be even harsher lessons along the way for a side whose average age in Leverkusen was 23 and whose regular captain, Marcel Schmelzer, was on the bench.

Some thought that this exciting young Dortmund side could halt Bayern's inexorable charge towards a fifth consecutive Bundesliga crown. On Saturday's evidence, they may have to wait a good deal longer for Dortmund to usurp the dominant Bavarians.

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