‘Der Klassiker’ (The Classic) is by a country mile the Bundesliga’s most high profile game. But rather than some of the flagship matches in other domestic leagues, this rivalry notwithstanding it being a fierce one, is more football-based than the cultural or geographical issues that are more prominent elsewhere. Germany’s two most successful clubs clashed again at Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund were looking to use home advantage to take control of the top of the division. Both sides were locked on 15 points, one point behind Leipzig who had earlier on Saturday beat Freiburg 3-0.
Despite all the usual fanfare, Der Klassiker has in all honesty been a truly one-sided affair in recent times. Dortmund won all four league games against Bayern in their title winning seasons (2010/11 & 2011/12) under Jurgen Klopp, but since then they had only managed 3 wins in 16 league games before this matchup. Bayern had won 10 of those games and there had been 3 draws. This match has seen Dortmund ‘bottle’ it all too often. They lost 1-0 in the corresponding fixture towards the back end of last season in May on matchday 28, when they had the chance to close the gap on Munich to four points, Bayern then powered to the title by some distance. In this seasons’ curtain raiser, the KFB Cup (German Super Cup); Dortmund showed fight to comeback from 2-0 down in a game played at the Bayern Allianz Arena. They were just edged out 3-2 by a Joshua Kimmich goal. Kimmich incidentally also got the winner in the aforementioned 1-0 Bayern league win with a sublime chip.
Both teams came into Saturday’s contest on the back of good away wins in the Champions League. Dortmund finished off Club Brugge 3-0 with all the goals coming in the first half. Bayern won 6-2 away at Salzburg, thanks to four late goals, Salzburg matched Bayern for 75 minutes, but the Champions League holders’ ruthlessness was clearly evident once again.
In terms of the team news; Dortmund Head Coach Lucien Favre made three changes from the team who beat Club Brugge. Mats Hummels came back into the side after returning from injury, at the expense of Mahmoud Dahoud. Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus replaced Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard, as Giovanni Reyna kept his place. In regards to Bayern; Leon Goretzka came in for Corentin Tolisso in central midfield. Also Bouna Sarr came in at right back for Benjamin Pavard.
The game started in a very lively fashion. Munich’s Robert Lewandowski shot into the side netting in the very first minute. At the other end Dortmund were trying to exploit Bayern’s high line. Twice they succeeded in the first five minutes. However, once in behind Erling Haaland and Reyna could not find anyone with their balls into the box. Roman Burki in the Dortmund goal saved a 13th minute header from Goretzka, who really should have done better from six yards out. Dortmund got in behind Bayern again in the 21st minute, when Reyna fed Haaland, but the Norwegian fired wide.
Bayern thought they had taken the lead in the 24thminute when Kingsley Coman produced a superb bit of play near the halfway line before finding Serge Gnabry. Gnabry then crossed for Lewandowski to slide the ball in. Unfortunately for them VAR was to intervene and the goal was disallowed for a borderline offside call. Just afew minutes later, Burki was called into action again as he saved another Goretzka effort. Haaland almost got through the heart of the Bayern defence, as they were caught high once again, but Kimmich cynically fouled him. The foul was so cynical in fact, that Kimmich injured himself and had to be taken off. He did not escape receiving a yellow card however. An end-to-end contest continued and Axel Witsel fired a shot wide after some good work by Sancho.
It looked like it was going to be goalless at the break, when Dortmund struck. Portuguese international Raphael Guerreiro’s cross was smashed into the roof of the net by Dortmund captain Marco Reus for 1-0. It was Dortmund’s first goal against Bayern in the league for four games. Favre probably already knew everything he was going to say in his half-time team talk, but then disaster struck. Thomas Delaney’s callous foul on Gnabry just outside the box was punished as David Alaba scored from the resulting free-kick. It came in the third minute of injury time, Gnabry and Goretzka both touched the ball on the set piece and then Alaba curling shot was deflected in. It was amazingly the first time in eight klassikers that Bayern were not leading at half time. Would Dortmund capitulate in the second half with that momentum boost for Bayern?
Haaland right after half time shot across goal when played in by Sancho. But it only took Bayern three minutes into the restart to go into the lead. Lucas Hernandez’ fine cross was met by an even better header by Lewandowski. Four minutes later it was almost 3-1 when Kingsley Coman’s cross nearly found wrong-footed Burki. Straight from that Haaland got in at the other end but drove well wide again rather than waiting longer for more support.
Dortmund could have been level no less than three times in the space of six minutes, but Reyna, substitute Thorgan Hazard and Reus’ efforts were straight at Manuel Neuer. Gnabry flashed a shot wide in the 73rdminute, but six minutes later nonetheless Bayern put the game to bed. A classic counter attack saw Lewandowski find another substitute Leroy Sane, and he looked like he had overran the ball, but still managed to find the bottom corner for 3-1. Favre’s men went out fighting as Haaland finally found the net in 82nd minute after a clever chip by Guerreiro to feed him. Haaland put a low finish past Neuer. Reus by his standards missed a guilt-edged chance to level things up when he fired over. In the second minute of stoppage time, Lewandowski thought he had his second and Munich’s fourth only to be again denied by VAR for offside.
However it was another victory for Bayern as Hans Flick continues his brilliant start to his management career with the Bavarians. Dortmund need to take a long hard look at their mentality when things to do not go their way. Delaney must have been vilified in the dressing room for his foul at the end of the first half. It is only seven games in, but already the signs look ominous for the rest of the league.