On Matchday 27, Borussia Dortmund ensured a finish in the top four by beating FC Augsburg 3-1 on the road on Sunday. Based on the first half, it didn't look like it would be Dortmund's day. Augsburg's coach, Markus Weinzierl, did well to stifle the attack of the visitors, who felt the recent run of fixture congestion in their minds and legs.
The hosts took a deserved lead after 15 minutes and kept Dortmund out until the 41st minute. The Black and Yellows had to rely on individual skill to be at level-pegging at halftime, but the second half told the story of why BVB are a full 20 points ahead of Ruhr Rivals Schalke and just five points behind Bayern.
Dortmund had to make do without Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender, Ilkay Gündogan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Missing those key players could have been an excuse, had they dropped points. But Tuchel made adjustments in the second half and fielded second-string players such as Moritz Leitner, and his team managed to win a difficult match comfortably in the end.
Surely, Dortmund would have conceded that kind of match against a well-structured Augsburg side in the past. This year, however, they seem unstoppable.
<Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Bürki, 7 -- The Dortmund goalkeeper couldn't do much about Augsburg's goal, a simple tap-in by Alfred Finnbogason. But he comfortably defused everything else directed at his goal, and on top of that, he boasted a 100 percent pass completion rate.
DF Erik Durm, 5 -- He was not outstanding but solid in the wake of Marcel Schmelzer. His limitations in his passing game made Dortmund's left side a bit stale as he slowed a lot of plays. But that was also down to Augsburg's rigid, five-man defense.
DF Mats Hummels, 7 -- He gave Finnbogason a bit too much space for Augsburg's goal but surely made up for it with his long pass to Ramos, which ultimately led to BVB's second goal.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 8 -- With Hummels often marked out of the match, Sokratis had 176 actions on the ball. More importantly, though, he was a rock in BVB's defence.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 5 -- He was caught in no-man's-land for Augsburg's goal. Since Tuchel restricted Piszczek's input on offense, he is a little less involved in BVB's plays, but in general, it's one of the big reasons Dortmund conceded only three league goals in 2016.
MF Nuri Sahin, 6 -- It was a very important match for Sahin, which can be said about any playing time he gets this season. The midfielder doesn't quite have the trust in his own skills to apply his vertical play, the tools that once led Real Madrid to a purchase. His assist should help him gain more confidence.
MF Julian Weigl, 7 -- A pattern of consistency.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 10 -- Of course it was Henrikh Mkhitaryan who created Dortmund's equalizer all by himself after 44 minutes. His world-class form was once again the difference for Dortmund. His dribbles were mesmerizing. He is now the player Mario Gotze was hoping to be one day. BVB better extend the Armenian's contract sooner than later.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 4 -- It's not for a lack of trying, but Kagawa seems to have lost his mojo. Chances are he will find himself down the pecking order yet again, after traveling the globe with Japan during the international break.
MF Marco Reus, 4 -- The midfielder played only the first half, and it was marked by a surprisingly heavy first touch. BVB's first chance fell for Reus, who only succeeded in shooting at Alexander Manninger from a promising position. He was involved in Dortmund's opening goal, but that was the only positive for him on Sunday.
FW Adrian Ramos, 10 -- Hardly present in the first half due to a lack of service, Ramos was ultimately the reason Aubameyang wasn't missed too severely. He chested down a long pass from Hummels in the 69th minute, took another touch and laid the ball on a silver platter for Castro. Even Robert Lewandowski couldn't have done better.
Scoring Dortmund's third off a corner had Ramos making the most of his limited playing time. He scores every 80 minutes and is involved in a goal every 50 minutes, stats one could only hope for from a second-string striker.
MF Gonzalo Castro, 7 -- He replaced a hapless Reus at halftime and found himself on the score sheet. He should be happy with his development at the club.
MF Moritz Leitner, 7 -- He came on for Kagawa in the 62nd minute and played in defensive midfield. It speaks as much for Tuchel as it does for Leitner that he can come on in a difficult match and improve his side.
MF Felix Passlack, 6 -- He was subbed on for Nuri Sahin in the 68th minute, when the match was still tied. Fielding Passlack on the right wing was more than a run-out; rather, it was a big vote of confidence that he could have an impact. His energy on the right side made Weinzierl reinstall a back five, which made it practically impossible for Augsburg to work their way back into the game.