With seven Bundesliga games left to play each, defending champions welcomed league leaders Borussia Dortmund to the Allianz Arena in a game that is not only the biggest rivalry in German football, but also one that was likely to have a huge impact on the title race given that the two teams were only two points apart. It was also a landmark in the history of the fixture: the 100th Der Klassiker.
It was Dortmund who started the season the stronger as Bayern went through a difficult period early on, but the Bavarians showed their resilience by gradually catching up and even taking the lead at one point. They surrendered that lead back by dropping two points at Freiburg in the previous round, and this was their chance to restore it. On the other hand, it was also a huge chance for the challengers to increase the gap to five and come within the grasp of the title.
Bayern coach Niko Kovač was still without midfielder Corentin Tolisso, though his recovery from an ACL injury is reportedly going better than initially expected. Wingers Arjen Robben and Alphonso Davies were also out as long term absentees.
Manuel Neuer was in goal. Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels paired up in the heart of the defence, flanked by Joshua Kimmich on the right and David Alaba on the left. Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara played the two deep positions in midfield, with Thomas Muller right behind striker Robert Lewandowski. Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman were chosen for the wide attacking roles.
Lucien Favre in the away dugout was without the services of several important players, namely winger Christian Pulisic and striker Paco Alcacer. Forward Maximilian Phillip was also out, and fullback Achraf Hakimi will remain out for the rest of the season.
Roman Burki stood between the posts. The back four consisted of centre-backs Dan-Axel Zagadou and Manuel Akanji, and fullbacks Abdou Diallo (left) and Lukasz Piszczek (right). Axel Witsel anchored the three-man midfield, where he was joined by Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud. Jadon Sancho ad Jacob Bruun Larsen flanked captain Marco Reus upfront.
The First Half
Given that they entered the game behind in the table, Bayern approached the clash accordingly and pushed forward from the start. Lewandowski had a chance after less than two minutes, but he was nicely driven off the ball by Zagadou.
The Bavarians took possession of the ball and controlled the game with patience, often trying to find their striker with a sudden pass, but Dortmund stood fast and proved quite capable of hitting the home side on the counterattack. With an intricate piece of play between Reus and Larsen they charged forward in the seventh minute. Larsen then pulled a low cross towards the onrushing Dahoud whose low drive hit the post.
But Bayern continued their offensive and only three minutes later, they took the lead as Hummels beat everybody in the air to capitalize on a corner well taken by Thiago. A huge goal that instantly swung the title race Bayern’s way.
Born on the wings of the early lead, the Bavarians pushed even harder and Dortmund really had trouble to get out of their box; let alone the halfway line. When they did get forward, they were soon exposed at the back by the trickery and pace of Bayern’s front line.
And if that wasn’t enough, Zagadou allowed his pass towards Akanji to be intercepted by Lewandowski and there was nothing Burki could do to save his centre-back the embarrassment.
Only two minutes later, the Pole used a poorly defended throw-in to turn and shoot, but this time Burki made a fine save. The Dortmund goalkeeper was called into action from the ensuing corner again to prevent Muller from adding a third. Bayern were in complete control.
The biggest problem the visitors were now batting was the insecurity at the back which stemmed from Zagadou’s mistake. Zagadou himself looked properly shaken, but Akanji and Diallo weren’t any better. All three of them looked capable of another calamity at any point, and only the experienced Piszczek held his own.
Dortmund’s midfield was practically non-existent for large patches, and it took both Larsen and Reus to continuously drop deep for the team to move forward. Dahoud and Sancho were particularly invisible. Delaney and Witsel fought hard but were being outplayed. They were looking nothing like a team that had topped the Bundesliga for most of the season.
On the other hand, all Bayern players were extremely industrious. All of them were on the ball frequently, always wanting it, always finding spaces to receive it, and always fighting to win it.
On the half-hour mark, Hummels came close again after another great Thiago corner, but Burki made a fantastic save to deny him. As Dortmund subsequently went forward again and managed to get a few crosses into the box, a slip by Alaba saved them from going further down as the Austrian broke on the counterattack.
Bayern were now playing patiently. They didn’t mind Dortmund seeing more of the ball and defended comfortably, always looking to make use of the pace they packed upfront. In the 38th minute, Burki made another good save, this time to deny Lewandowski as Coman found the striker with a superb far-post cross.
Zagadou’s time was growing more difficult by the minute. The young centre-back had a nightmare against the quality and experience of Lewandowski, and in the 40th minute he picked up a booking for a foul on his opponent. The set-piece was taken in a way that got Muller in behind the defence and Burki came to Dortmund’s rescue again, before Martinez slammed it in from the edge of the box.
Bayern were playing some unstoppable football at this point. It took them only two minutes more to utterly outplay the visitors again and leave them gasping as Gnabry got on the end of a Muller cross to make it four.
From the first to the 45th minute and into the two-minute stoppage time, the difference in experience between the two teams was growing more obvious until it reached the point when it was simply painful to watch.
The Second Half
There was nothing left for Dortmund to do but to try and play with more composure and take a damage limitation approach after the break. Julian Weigl came onto the pitch in the place of the completely rattled Zagadou.
After a few minutes of bleak possession from the visitors, Bayern took control again. They still looked motivated, set on increasing their goal-difference by as many as possible. Weigl’s presence on the pitch did bring some stability to a shaky Dortmund back line and Bayern players had more difficulty in getting past him than they did with Zagadou, but they were still relentless in their attacking approach. Only when they reached the edge of the box did the change in the Dortmund line-up become notable.
The midfield was still, however, non-existent and Favre made his second change on the hour-mark by introducing Mario Gotze for Dahoud. There was no change in the formation as the player who moved twice between these two clubs slotted into Dahoud’s place in midfield, but Gotze proved more capable of holding on to the ball under pressure in the middle of the park; not to mention more active.
In the 68th minute, Kovač replaced Coman who had been holding his hamstring for a few minutes with Franck Ribery, before Favre made his last move by bringing on Marius Wolf for Piszczek.
In the 70th minute, Delaney pulled Lewandowski from behind prompting a reaction from the Bayern striker, and both found their names in referee Manuel Grafe’s book. The game entered a phase which could be described as scrappy and more balanced, but given the scoreline, Bayern had absolutely no problem with that.
With 13 minutes remaining, Kovač went for freshening up his midfield and Leon Goretzka came on for Martinez, right before Lewandowski suddenly got on the end of a Kimmich cross on the six-yard line but failed to divert it on target. Then Muller made way for Renato Sanchez and Bayern changed their shape to 4-3-3.
Lewandowski, who was growing needlessly nervous towards the end, had another good chance in the 84th minute as Gnabry got past Diallo and squared it for him, but his effort from close range was blocked this time at the last moment.
But with 90 seconds of the 90 minutes left to play, Kimmich sent Gnabry behind Dialllo and the winger burst forward, reached the six-yard box coming in from the flank and squared it for Lewandowski who ran towards the gaping goal and made no mistake this time, scoring the 200th Bundesliga goal in his career – a truly remarkable achievement.
The referee saw no point in adding any minutes to a game that could hardly be called a contest and blew the final whistle right on time.
Bayern surely marked the 100th Der Klassiker in style. The biggest telling sign about the difference in level of performance between the two teams was the fact that the scoreline would have been far worse for Dortmund had it not been for Burki. On the other hand, Neuer didn’t have any work to do all game to even warrant a performance rating.
The game has taken the Bavarians to the top of the league again, if only by a single point. There is still a lot to play for, both for Bayern and Dortmund, and Kovač’s men have to make sure this result doesn’t spark complacency in their approach to the rest of the games. On the other hand, Dortmund need to snap out of the shock this defeat is certain to cause them as soon as possible, and respond by winning the next game – against Mainz 05 at the Signal Iduna Park in a week’s time.
BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer N/A, Sule 7, Hummels 8.5, Kimmich 7.5, Alaba 8, Martinez 8.5 (77′ Goretzka N/A), Thiago 8.5, Muller 7.5 (80′ Sanches N/A), Gnabry 8.5, Coman 8 (68′ Ribery 6), Lewandowski 8.5.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND: Burki 8, Zagadou 3 (46′ Weigl 7.5), Akanji 6.5, Diallo 6, Piszczek 7 (69′ Wolf 7), Witsel 6.5, Delaney 7, Dahoud 4 (61′ Gotze 6.5), Sancho 3, Larsen 6, Reus 6.5.
GOALS: Hummels 10′, Lewandowski 17′, 89′, Martinez 41′, Gnabry 43′.
YELLOW CARDS: Zagadou 40′, Delaney 70′, Lewandowski 70′.
REFEREE: Manuel Grafe.
DATE & VENUE: April 6, 2019, Allianz Arena, Munich.
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