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Opinion: Dortmund win but slow starts will hurt

January 3, 2021

Second-half strikes from Manuel Akanji and Jadon Sancho won Borussia Dortmund the game against Wolfsburg. But, again, they started slowly. It's a habit they need to break sooner rather than later, says DW's Matt Pearson.

Manuel Akanji celebrates with Erling Haaland
Manuel Akanji's header was enough for Dortmund but they were not convincingImage: Leon Kuegeler/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

A home win that takes them back in to the Champions League spots, and a clean sheet to go with it. On first glance, it looks like a productive Sunday afternoon for Borussia Dortmund.

On that level, it was. Manuel Akanji's header from Jadon Sancho's 66th-minute corner was enough to hand interim coach Eden Terzic a second win in three Bundesliga games, while Sancho made sure in injury time. 

Result and Sancho's drought-breaking goal aside, it was hard to see too many positives for Dortmund. Marco Reus again struggled, Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney made for a stodgy midfield, and only Wolfsburg's errant finishing and a few last-gasp blocks prevented individual defensive errors from costing points.

These are familiar problems, which all contributed to Lucien Favre's dismissal last month. And though their second-half display looked professional enough, the paucity of their early efforts should not be forgotten. Wolfsburg spurned two big chances in the opening seven minutes as the home side stumbled out of the blocks yet again. It could have been very different.

Dortmund have led at the break just twice in their 14 Bundesliga games this season, on opening day and matchday three, and would average just a point per game if games stopped at halftime. They haven't led at the interval in a single away game.

That they managed to find a way on Sunday could be read as encouraging but these slow starts have cost them plenty of points. Judging by the evidence of the first half hour at the Westfalenstadion, it'll cost them more unless Terzic addresses it.

DW's Matt Pearson
DW's Matt Pearson

From the outside, the cause is not clear. What is now clear is that it wasn't all on Favre. Is it pre-match motivation? Preparation? Complacency? The absence of fans? Or something deeper, something cultural?

Whatever it is, such soporific starts will be punished by more clinical sides than Wolfsburg. With trips to Leipzig, Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach making up their next three away fixtures, there's no time to waste.

"This month is definitely crucial for us in terms of how we go in the Bundesliga," Terzic admitted before this one. It certainly is. Many more slow starts and Dortmund may be sleeping their way to another wasted season.

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