Bayern Hold On at Dortmund
The first half was fairly even with chances for both sides. Bayern arguably had the better of the chances and probably could have opened the scoring very early if they had been a little more clinical. However a 36th minute injury to Joshua Kimmich would change the momentum significantly. BVB would steal the ball off a bad pass from Sarr and Kimmich looking to stop Erling Haaland before he could get started lunged in his direction, caught Haaland and immediately rolled in agony in the middle of the pitch. After receiving a yellow card, the training staff had to carry him off and despite his best effort to put weight on the leg on the way, he could not do so and was forced to accept assistance while in obvious pain.
Corentin Tolisso would replace the core of Bayern’s midfield and momentum gradually shifted to the home team. 10 minutes later Marco Reus would make them pay for a defensive lapse that left him free and allowed a quick strike into Neuer’s goal to make it 1-0 BVB. However just as it looked like Bayern would head into the half with a deficit and no momentum, Serge Gnabry was brought down just outside the box. The resulting freekick is clearly one that the Bayern squad has practiced on multiple occasions with several players running over and moving the ball just slightly to allow Alaba to blast it towards goal. A lucky deflection later and Bayern were suddenly even and had stopped that momentum shift in it’s tracks 1-1.
The second half started thick and fast for Bayern and Lewandowski would score three minutes after the start to make it 1-2. Whether it was this goal or Alaba’s, the belief visibly drained out of the Dortmund side. Bayern had several more opportunities to put this match to bed but none of them ended up in the back of the net. In the 80th minute however that would change. Leroy Sane had come on for Coman in the 69th minute and it would be he who scored the eventual match winner. Goretzka stole the ball just outside the Bayern box and found Lewandowski in the middle of the pitch. The striker found Sane streaking down the right side of the pitch and played a perfect pass on to his feet. Sane continued his dribble to just inside the box when a BVB defender stepped into make a tackle but Sane smashed it home with seemingly no room to maneuver and made it 1-3.
BVB would end up getting one back on a very good ball over the defense from Guerreiro onto Haaland who sidestepped Neuer and cooly put the ball home in the 83rd minute to make it 2-3. The remaining ten-ish minutes resulted in a few Dortmund chances and Bayern killing the clock but in the end, Bayern would hang on to collect all 3 points in a huge match for the title race.
This match, especially after the Kimmich injury really offered Dortmund a chance to get over their recent run of bad results against Bayern. Apart from the DFL Supercup last season, Bayern has not lost to Dortmund in a competitive match since November of 2018 and have won nine out of the last eleven meetings against their biggest domestic rival overall. Despite the turnover and many new faces in the BVB squad, you can feel the doubt through the TV every time they face Bayern.
This match really did offer a great chance for this new batch of players to overcome this hurdle. Haaland, Reyna, Sancho and company all have a lot of self belief but when that Alaba goal went in, and especially after the Lewandowski goal right after the half, you could see the Westphalian side deflate. Bayern pressed this advantage and did all they could to keep BVB on their heels throughout the match. This continued dominance will certainly play a major role in the title race. If Borussia wins this match, maybe they go on a run in the league that sees them really pressure Bayern. While that could still happen, this will likely have been a blow to their self esteem yet again. Whether they ultimately pose a credible threat in the Bundesliga title race will likely come down to how they handle yet another defeat to their biggest rival.
Unfortunately for Bayern however, this result is marred by the injuries to Kimmich and possibly Boateng. Davies is out for at least 6-7 more weeks. Pavard missed this match with an injury. Goretzka missed the last match with an injury. Süle is still absent though his COVID test was supposedly another false positive. Sane is just making his way back. The last thing Bayern needed was more injuries. While Boateng being injured, especially if Süle is still unavailable causes some serious issues to an already depleted back line, Kimmich’s injury is borderline disastrous if he is out long term.
As we’ve discussed on this site many times, the sale of Thiago left a very big hole behind Kimmich if anything were to happen to him. While it’s just conjecture at this point, his injury certainly appeared to be very bad and even a hopeful prognosis would likely see him miss a few weeks. The simple truth is, there is no one in the squad currently who can even moderately replace what Josh does on the field. It is also going to force Hansi Flick to speed up the integration of Marc Roca as he was brought in to help fill this gap were it to happen.
For the moment however, we are likely to see a lot of the Tolisso/Goretzka pairing and this match highlighted some of the issues this pairing will cause in the squad. Neither of them is particularly gifted in buildup. Goretzka is certainly the better of the two and will drop into the more defensive/distributor role that Kimmich usually occupies, but he does not have the same presence, calmness or vision on the ball that Kimmich brings. It also limits Goretzka’a ability to use some of his more defining traits offensively in the box as Tolisso will take over that more advanced role. The really concerning thing though is that in this match, you saw Bayern largely bypassing the midfield all together after Kimmich left. Most of Bayern’s attacks either went down the wings or from long balls through the middle to Lewandowski who dropped deeper and deeper to provide an outlet. If Bayern are forced to play a long stretch without their midfield engine, Hansi Flick is going to have to figure out a way to keep his midfield involved and provide a plausible connection between the backline and his attack.
Our player of the match award this week goes to Kingsley Coman. Despite not getting on the score sheet, the French winger had a very good match overall. Coman’s play has noticeably picked up this season. Whether it is the competition with Sane, increased confidence after scoring the Champions League winner or finally feeling comfortable after a long spell of not getting injured (knocking on every piece of wood in my house) he is finally realizing the potential we have all seen glimpses of over the last five seasons.
What stands out to me is his drive right now. He is very active in all facets of the match. His effort to press the opponent is excellent. His movement’s when he gets the ball on the wing are more purposeful. His crosses have more intent and drive. And his willingness to shoot has increased. In other words, the hesitancy that he showed so often seems to have finally vanished. He seems to have a belief in himself and understanding of who he is as a player, what he can bring and what is expected of him.
There are two moments that really stick out in my mind. In the second half Lewandowski played a ball to Coman in the box and the Frenchman looked up, saw Gnabry making a run and immediately blasted a cross towards his fellow winger. Roman Burki made an excellent decision to block this cross because it would no doubt have resulted in the third goal of the match at that time. Shortly after Coman received the ball in the midfield and dribbled up to the box while waiting for support. When that support did not come, he willingly decided to go for goal and instead of a wild effort like we may have expected in the past, he hit a low screamer that beat Burki but went squarely off the post. These types of decisions and efforts show the growth in his decision making and self confidence and while they didn’t ultimately result in goals today, if he keeps playing in this manner, they will eventually see him find the scoresheet more and more often.