Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s Der Klassiker in Bundesliga was a close affair.
It was the first 1-0 win of the season for the free-scoring Bayern. Dortmund, just as dangerous, failed to find the net at home for the first time in 38 matches. Two teams with a total of 155 goals between them this season produced just one goal. The game that was touted as the battle between flamboyant forwards Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski didn’t produce the fireworks.
Although Bayern would happily settle for the outcome despite it not being as emphatic as usual. They would know that in a game of fine margins they could easily have been at the wrong end of the result.
Both teams enjoyed 50 percent possession, both had 13 shots in the game and both teams almost covered the same distance in the game (Dortmund: 121.4 kms to Bayern’s 121.3 kms).
Battle for ascendancy
Lucian Favre switched to a back three for the game as Dortmund lined up in 3-4-3 formation. It was a ploy to not just have an extra man in central defence but also overload the flanks where the Bayern full-backs Alphonse Davies and Benjamin Pavard love to bomb forward in attack.
Placing the attack-minded Raphael Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi in the wing-back roles, Favre’s plan was to give the Bayern full-backs plenty to deal with.
The plan seemed to work in the first twenty minutes as Dortmund were often able to get behind the high Bayern defensive line using the extra men on the wings. Thorgan Hazard and Lucian Bradt who tucked inside and played between the lines combined well with the wing-backs to cause Bayern problems who often lost their form during Dortmund’s transitions.
Dortmund, in the first twenty minutes, were able to beat Bayern’s high press and catch the visitors high up the pitch. Hakimi’s threat down the right-hand side for Dortmund actually kept Davies at bay. In the first half, Pavard was the more advanced full-back for Bayern.
Bayern organised their press better after the first twenty minutes and immediately started causing Dortmund problems. Serge Gnabry’s effort was cleared off the line.
Dortmund were able to create a few openings in the first half once again using their numerical superiority on the flanks, but their pass in the final third often let them down.
Bayern’s opportunities at the other end were more pronounced. In a half with where both teams enjoyed spells of ascendancy, Bayern edged ahead thanks to a delightful chip from Joshua Kimmich that caught goalkeeper Roman Burki slightly off guard.
Questions were asked of the goalkeeper but Kimmich’s finish was as precise as it was cheeky.
“We were told before the game that Bürki often stands off his line. That was the best goal of my career - it was so important!” the German midfielder said after the game.
In the second half, Dortmund started out creating a lot of chances and should have had a penalty in the 59th minute when Haaland’s shot clearly hit Jerome Boateng’s hand. A huge post-match talking point.
Dortmund had the better opportunities in the second half but they faded away as the game progressed and Bayern, who put additional defensive bodies late on in the game, were able to see off the win with relative ease.
Bayern Munich’s class in the big games proved to be the difference as they controlled the decisive parts of the game better.
Kimmich, the unlikely goalscorer
Kimmich is a fine player. He is Bayern’s midfield general and has kept possession of the ball more than any other player in the Bundesliga this season. He has also covered the most distance by a player in the league. He is the one who holds it all together for Bayern Munich, but scoring goals isn’t his forte. The match-winner was just his third goal of the season.
But the lob that sailed over Burki into the Bayern’s net was a goal that the best of the strikers would be proud of. It was a goal of the highest quality that showcased the German’s precision and craft on the ball.
His overall game too as usual was excellent.
It wasn’t a particularly good game for the forwards of either team that were supposed to light up this game. Haaland had five shots in the game but he didn’t seem to have got his scoring boots on. He fluffed a few chances and at times took too many touches inside the box. The other Dortmund attackers couldn’t get into striking positions too often.
As for Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski had a game to forget. The Bundesliga top scorer failed to register a shot on target in the entire game. However, it didn’t come back to haunt Bayern Munich. Dortmund’s wide forwards who often got into great crossing positions wasted a number of golden opportunities to find Haaland inside the box, eventually leading to their 38-game scoring streak at home being snapped.
Did Favre mess up extra substitutions?
Favre used all five substitutes available to him but none of his changes seemed to have any positive impact on the game. He brought on Emre Can and Jadon Sancho at half-time for Thomas Delaney and Julian Brandt. The English prodigy seemed lost for most parts of the second half and didn’t cause Bayern any problems.
Although Haaland’s substitution was forced, the introduction of Giovanni Reyna and Mario Gotze only disrupted Bayern’s attacking rhythm. Without a target man, Dortmund became one-dimensional and Bayern were able to keep them at bay. The technical forwards seemed to lack any kind of cohesion as Dortmund suffered due to extra changes.
The substitutions on the other hand worked well for Bayern who made just three changes. Ivan Perisic added freshness in attack while Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez added solidity at the back.
The VAR once again became a big talking point as it didn’t check Dortmund’s penalty claim that should have resulted in a spot-kick. But in the end Bayern Munich’s big-game expertise served them well as the rather youthful Borussia Dortmund ran out of ideas as the title slipped from their grasp.
With a seven-point lead at the top, Bayern Munich’s habit of scooping one title after another should see them through.