It really feels like there’s nothing Bayern Munich cannot do when they put their minds to it; at least for as long as they have Robert Lewandowski in their ranks. Nobody is really surprised anymore when they overturn an opposition lead to come out on top, and sometimes taking that lead against them seems like a dangerous thing to do.
Borussia Dortmund felt the reality of that in “Der Klassiker” on Saturday at the Allianz arena, when they went two goals up inside 10 minutes to lose the game in the end by 4-2.
Haaland and Lewandowski show
Erling Haaland is, of course, among the most sought-after players in the world right now, and a look at his numbers shows exactly why. Add his age (just 20) into the equation and we’re looking at a player who will in all probability be a true great in the next decade.
The Norwegian reminded Bayern of his top-striker credentials straight away. The first whistle was just over a minute gone when he picked up the ball outside the box, set himself up and blasted goalwards, with his shot slightly grazing the foot of an indecisive Jerome Boateng before it found the bottom corner. There was nothing Manuel Neuer could do about it. Minute nine was passing when Nico Schulz took the ball forward and put Thorgan Hazard through down the left. Haaland was sharper than Boateng again as he made his run to the near post to get on Hazard’s pullback and turn it in from three or four yards.
Haaland now has 29 goals in 28 games in all competitions. Once again – he’s 20 years old.
But as it turned out, in Lewandowski, or LewanGOALski, as Thomas Muller once jokingly referred to him, Bayern have a striker who simply cannot allow anyone to outshine him, not even Haaland. The 32-year-old first got on the end of a pass which followed a brilliant run from Leroy Sane to tap it in from close range, then he calmly put away a penalty previously won by Kingsley Coman, both still in the first half. And just for good measure, he whacked one from just outside the box in final minute of the 90, right after Leon Goretzka’s skillful volley gave the Bavarians a late lead.
And if Haaland’s numbers are impressive – and they certainly are – those of Lewandowski are incredible: 37 goals in 33 matches in all competitions this season. Watching these two strikers in one match truly seems like a privilege.
Kimmich vital for Bayern
Champions of Germany, Europe and the world at the moment, Bayern are officially the best team on the planet right now. The way they control matches is indeed impressive, as they always find ways to push opponents back. Lewandowski and the pacey wingers playing around him usually get most of the praise, but it has to be said that the role that Joshua Kimmich performs at the midfield base is equally important, if not even more so. It’s even more impressive when you take into account the fact that he was playing right-back until recently.
Whenever the more advanced players run into a wall built by a well-organized defence, they always know that Kimmich is there to take the ball back and try sending it down another ally. His smart positioning and shrewd side-switching play makes Bayern tick. Without it, their high-possession game far up the pitch and constant attacking approach would have been impossible. Not one of the attacking players would’ve been able to shine as much as they do, not even Lewandowski.
Dortmund put to sleep
The start of the game was hectic and the visitors capitalized immensely. Bayern hit back quickly and the whole first half was extremely dynamic.
But after the break, Bayern notably slowed the game down. Being back on level terms and confident in their superior quality, they now took a patient approach, moving the ball around in a very composed fashion, waiting for the opponents to lose focus and then to strike. It’s no coincidence that they eventually won the game late – Goretzka’s volley gave them the lead in the 88th minute and Lewandowski set the final score in the 90th, but it only goes to show how confident they were that their moment would come before the end. And they reaped the reward.
Throughout that second half, it became obvious that the influence of players like Mahmoud Dahoud and Hazard was diminishing by the minute. Dortmund boss Edin Terzic tried to counter this by introducing Julian Brandt for Hazard on the hour-mark, but it made no difference. He then tried to do something by replacing Thomas Delaney with teen sensation Jude Bellingham, but again to no effect – Bayern had the game under complete control and simply weren’t going to allow things to change, regardless of the names of the players they were facing.
It should be said, however, that Terzic was forced to withdraw Haaland as well in the 60th minute due to a knock the striker picked up. Had Haaland been there for the rest of the match, who knows, he might have pulled another rabbit out of the hat to help his team, but it wasn’t to be. Without him, and winger Jadon Sancho who missed the game through injury, on top of the midfield’s inability to compete with their Bayern counterparts, Dortmund were completely toothless upfront and it was only a matter of time before they were broken through at the back.
The Bavarians thus returned to the top of the table, having relinquished it for a few hours to RB Leipzig who thrashed Freiburg away earlier in the day. They obviously have a lot to do still, with the gap between these two teams no more than two points.
Dortmund, on the other hand, will have to take the remaining games in the season just as seriously if they intend to continue fighting for a place in the top four. They are currently sixth, four points off Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth with Bayer Leverkusen squeezed in between. There are 10 rounds to go, so nothing is lost yet.
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