Allianz Arena – The stage was set in the showdown between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund Saturday evening.
Bayern had already clinched the title as “Herbstmeister” – literally translated as “Fall champions”, leaders of the league table at the first half of the season. But a win would increase their lead over Dortmund to 14 points, virtually making a three-peat impossible for Jürgen Klopp’s side.
A win by Borussia would extend their reign over Munich, both mentally and on record. Despite their lead, Bayern knew if Dortmund are lurking, any slip up during the season would bring Dortmund back into the title picture. And Bayern had also lost four matches in a row to their rivals during BVB’s championship run.
The match began with both clubs carefully controlling the action, playing more defensively and physical, preventing any flow for their opponents. However, looking at it in a positive light, it was like a chess match – each taking a shot, trying to see if the other would bite.
Bayern fans were hoping the potent offense of their team would return from the last home match, as their team scored with ease and artistry, demolishing Hannover 5-0. Despite similar domestic and European schedules, Dortmund is deeper and better fit than Hannover and would not bow down.
Dortmund had returned to their expected talent level on the pitch over the past weeks, but a draw against promoted side Fortuna Dusseldorf during the week slowed them down a bit, perhaps a case of looking ahead.
In the second half, Bayern were the first to adjust and started pushing the action towards the Dortmund goal. Franck Ribéry is the engine of this offense and he was revving up the action. It was the Frenchman’s long pass to Thomas Müller, who would set up a nice ball for Kroos, who then proceeded to make a move worthy of something from a video game.
Dortmund defender Mats Hummels attempted a tackle, but Kroos made a smooth move to his left, avoiding both the attacking Hummels and Neven Subotic, created enough space to get off a shot towards the far post. The ball was past the diving Roman Weidenfeller and stopped safely in the back of the goal.
It was Bayern’s first goal against Dortmund in the Bundesliga since their matchup on February 26, 2011 – that was three matches ago. The manner in which Bayern celebrated, one could not criticize, as it was of relief and the way these teams played, one goal would be enough.
Ribéry could have taken it up to 2-0 but was unable to convert and he probably would like to have another chance.
Minutes later, the defending league champs got their chance. Off a corner, Kroos lost Götze who was able to sit in the area unmarked and gathered in the free ball, and hammered a shot to the post. It got by the Bayern defense and Neuer and the game was tied.
Ribéry continued to find the winner, and he almost did again, finding Mario Mandzukic who sat in a wonderful position up front, but the offsides flag was up. Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes did his best to get that final score, subbing in Mario Gomez who had one week earlier scored less than 27 seconds after entering the pitch. And lighting almost struck twice.
This time, Gomez set up Kroos with a wonderful through ball but Weidenfeller made the first of saves that would decide the draw. The Dortmund goalkeeper is in top form, stopping Müller and then smacking a Javi Martínez header away before Gomez could pounce on it. This chapter of the showdown was over.
At the end, both coaches commented on Weidenfeller’s stellar play and the well-deserved draw by their respective teams.
“We started well and dominated the first twenty minutes,” said Heynckes. “Then we lost control of the match. It was an intense match match between two clubs that play modern football. In the end, we had our chances at goal, but Weidenfeller brilliantly stopped the shots. I don’t know what it will take for him to play internationally.”
“That was a great and intense football match where two clubs gave it their all. We are satisfied with the draw, Roman helped us earn that point.”
Editor’s Note: Listen to “Talking Fussball” the podcast on the Bundesliga, recapping this match and all action from Germany. A new episode comes every Tuesday!
If there was a loser in this draw, Bayern’s expected title celebration will be on hold until, well, the end of the sason. They still lead Dortmund by 11 points, but now Bayer Leverkusen, who handed Munich their only loss of the season back on October 28th, are only 8 points behind. Bayern will have to travel to both Leverkusen and Dortmund in the second half of the season.
Dortmund will host Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday and then return to league play, welcoming Wolfsburg on Saturday to Signal Iduna Park. Meanwhile Bayern will try to win their Champions League group, hosting FC BATE Borisov Wednesday night, and then on Saturday travel less than an hour west to take on struggling FC Augsburg at SGL Arena on Saturday.
Editor’s Note: Follow Salman Mitha live from SGL Arena, tweeting the action between FC Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich.
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