bundesliga

How RB Leipzig beat Borussia Dortmund: AWS match facts analysis

RB Leipzig took the honours in the big game of Matchday 11 with a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund lifting Jesse Marsch's men to fifth in the table, just six points behind their opponents in second. Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS explains how they did it...

Leipzig stuck to their 3-4-1-2 system from previous weeks, with Christopher Nkunku more of a strike partner to Yussuf Poulsen up front.

Dortmund also lined up with a back three, although this was more of an enforced choice due to a lack of a left-sided defender, with Raphael Guerreiro, Nico Schulz and Marius Wolf all out injured. This led to Thorgan Hazard being deployed on the left-hand side of Marco Rose's 3-4-2-1 formation - a role he has played for the Belgium national team.

Average Position of RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in the first half. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

This was precisely where Marsch had identified Dortmund's weakest link, however. Leipzig launched most of their attacks in the first half down their right wing – the side where Hazard was operating on. After 35 minutes, the Red Bulls had initiated 55 percent of their attacks down the right-hand side of the four Attacking Zones, which is an extraordinarily high proportion.

As a result, Nordi Mukiele and Hazard, who met often on this side of the field, were involved in the most challenges – 26 each – of anybody on the field, except for Dortmund central midfielder Jude Bellingham. Benjamin Henrichs, who was also operating on the Leipzig right, had an above average number of duels (13) to contend with for the 60 minutes he was on the field.

This plan nevertheless only succeeded to a certain extent, since the real danger could be seen on the opposite flank, whenever Nkunku got the ball. The Frenchman was the clear match-winner, scoring the opening goal to make it 1-0 from an outstanding, defence-splitting pass from Josko Gvardiol down the left, and he then set up the winning goal for Poulsen with an attack down the left.

The Attacking Zones (Angriffszonen) show how Leipzig attacked in the first 35 minutes (left) and over the whole 90 minutes (right). - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Nkunku's forays, coupled with Rose's switch to a back four Rose, meant the Attacking Zones balanced out over the full 90 minutes. Ansgar Knauff – a winger – took the place of central defender Marin Pongracic, as Dortmund reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation and Hazard moved to left full-back.

After the game, Marco Reus said: "we changed to a back four in the second half and this suits us better because we are more active than when we play with a back three. In addition, when we play with three at the back, we have one man less in the middle who can press with us."

Indeed, after only seven minutes of the second half, an improved Dortmund were back on level terms, Reus providing the finish to an excellent assist from Thomas Meunier.

The equaliser prompted Marsch to switch to a back four, reflecting the tactics that Dortmund were employing, with attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg brought on for a defender, Henrichs, whose place at right-back was taken by Mukiele.

Average Position of Leipzig and Dortmund in the first half. - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

This change also had an immediate impact. While Dortmund had managed to play their way back into the game, it was Leipzig's turn to regain the upper hand and launch one attack after the other, and it took them just ten minutes to restore their advantage.

It was never plain sailing, with Dortmund testing them again towards the end of the match, but Leipzig held on for a deserved win.

With 2.58 vs. 0.86 Expected Goals (xG), Leipzig had created the better opportunities, while several other statistics also supported the impression that Leipzig had been the more threatening team over the 90 minutes, such as shots on goal (15-9), possession (54%-46%) and duels won (123-98), while they also played more successful passes (81%-77%).

Ultimately, Leipzig's Marsch trumped Dortmund counterpart Rose.