Arjen Robs Dortmund
Allianz Arena, Munich – Arjen Robben had unfinished business with Borussia Dortmund, and with the FC Bayern Munich supporters in general. He missed a crucial penalty away at “die Schwarzgelben” last season that handed Bayern’s rivals the Bundesliga title, and had been only involved sporadically in the first team this term.
In the absence of suspended winger Franck Ribéry, then, Wednesday evening’s German Cup quarter-final clash with Dortmund was the perfect opportunity for him to stake his claim for regular action. And take it he did, scoring the lone goal in the 1-0 victory against Dortmund.
The 29-year-old provided the standout moment of the game in the Allianz Arena, curling in a sumptuous finish from the edge of the box to book Bayern’s place in the last four of the tournament and seal only their second win in their last eight games against the Westphalian side.
Dortmund had been dealt a major blow before the game in the form of an ill-timed bout of illness suffered by defender Mats Hummels. The 24-year-old, a former player at FC Bayern until his move to Dortmund in 2008, had been withdrawn from the matchday squad at late notice after suffering a bout of flu, meaning Brazilian Felipe Santana stepped in to take his place.
It was a enforced change on the part of Jürgen Klopp, and one that certainly would have given Dortmund fans cause for concern in the heavily partisan Allianz Arena. Hummels has been a colossus for Dortmund this season and also boasted the curious of habit of impressing whenever facing his former club, having scored twice against them in previous visits.
Santana and partner Neven Subotic and have both featured in winning sides against Bayern in recent seasons, but without German international Hummels there was a sense that their defence lacked leadership and direction, and that was the case at various intervals in the first half. The hosts’ Mario Mandzukic sprung the offside trap to fire a drive wide after Robben had tested Roman Weidenfeller with a low strike from an acute angle.
Thereafter the first half was a game of attrition for long periods. Sven Bender was his usual energetic self, putting in tackle after tackle for the away side, but there was little or nothing to be seen from Dortmund in an attacking sense. A slaloming run from Mario Götze and a dangerous cross from Marcel Schmelzer was the best that they could muster.
In truth, Bayern had also looked subdued as the half-hour mark came and went, but they looked by far the more dangerous side. Javi Martinez burst through to poke a shot at goal that Weidenfeller gathered at the second attempt, but there was nothing the keeper could do about Robben’s opener minutes later.
Philipp Lahm looked to have been fouled by Marcel Schmelzer in the box, but the home fans’ clamour for a spot-kick quickly turned to elation as he collected the loose ball and curled a delightful strike into the top corner, a vintage strike from the former Real Madrid and Chelsea man.
It was a perfect time to score because it set the hosts up excellently for a second half response from Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp’s team improved after the break, but the coach waited rather long before introducing Jakub Blaszczykowski, with Kevin Großkreutz utterly ineffective for Dortmund in central midfield.
It was an improvement on their first-half display for Dortmund, but they still lacked any sort of a goal threat. Their play lacked the urgency that we have seen them produce against the big teams this season such as in the Champions League, and it was through a few long-range efforts from Ilkay Gündogan that they really tested Neuer.
Dortmund should have been the team attacking at pace, but it was Bayern that were playing with much more urgency. A wonderful move ended with Weidenfeller making a brilliant save to deny Müller from Mandzukic’s lay-off, before Daniel van Buyten headed a corner over the crossbar from seven yards.
Still one had the feeling that Dortmund were playing within themselves, which was all the more surprising since the Reds’ defence had shown signs of panic in their last game against Bremen when they conceded in extremely sloppy fashion while winning 4-0.
That simply wasn’t the case, however. There was a brief tactical switch where Sven Bender moved deeper to allow Lukasz Piszczek to take up a more advanced role on the right, but his only meaningful contribution was to cross for substitute Julian Schieber to head over the bar in the dying minutes.
When the final whistle sounded, it was greeted with a roar that the Allianz crowd probably hasn’t produced in many a game. This wasn’t Bayern at their best, and they still have two more games to negotiate before they can lift the German Cup in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in May. The reason for this altogether more rapturous reception was that they had finally beaten Dortmund in a game that ‘mattered.’
The Supercup win last August came before the beginning of the season, when the memory of Dortmund’s 5-2 win in last year’s Cup final was still fresh, while their last meeting in the League had been a 1-1 draw, previous to which Dortmund had won on their last two visits to Munich.
Not only are Bayern in pole position to regain their Bundesliga title – with a lead of 17 points – they are also now favourites to lift the cup, with just SCF Freiburg, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg remaining. What this result does is return Bayern to a position of dominance in German football. After two trophyless seasons, that is what will please Uli Hoeneß and Co. the most.