The week started with the all too predictable but nevertheless disappoint announcement that Robert Lewandowski was not awarded the Ballon d’Or for 2021. Enough has been said on this topic by now that I think we can skip further comment but no doubt it served as fuel for not only Lewandowski but for the entire team.
Julian Naglesmann lined up the same way he has over recent games with Manuel Neuer in goal, Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernández and Alphonso Davies in defense, Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso in midfield and Kingsley Coman, Thomas Müller and Leroy Sané behind Robert Lewandowski in attack.
The match would start with Dortmund having all the initiative and they would take only six minutes to get on the board through Julian Brandt. However, Bayern would respond almost immediately. Müller would close down the ball quickly and ultimately find Lewandowski for an open shot inside the box to make it 1-1.
The Munich side largely controlled play for the remainder of the first half and in the 44th minute, Coman would find the back of the net after several deflections to give Bayern a 1-2 halftime lead.
The second half started much like the first as BVB scored just three minutes after the restart. Upamecano would fail to clear a ball and instead it found it’s way to Erling Håland who curled it into the far post and made it 2-2. The next 20 minutes would be filled with controversies.
First Lucas Hernández brought down Marco Reus in the box. It was a questionable challenge and certainly all of the BVB side felt that it was an obvious penalty. You can certainly see why they would feel like it was, but the reaction and subsequent mental collapse were all too predictable.
Like so many recent matches between these two sides, it almost seemed as though the schwarzgelb were waiting for something to happen. The first sign of adversity or controversy and they devolved into a hot mess. Marco Rose received a yellow following the perceived foul on Reus and the remonstrations from the entirety of the BVB side signaled to me and presumably many others that BVB were done.
Shortly after, Brandt collided with Upamecano in the air and was eventually stretchered off with a concussion, an unfortunate injury for BVB as he had a very good game up to that point and was arguably their best player on the day. Shortly after the restart, Hernández would go down after he appeared to turn his ankle on a blasted shot from short range leading to Niklas Süle replacing him.
Then in the 77th minute, the match would be decided. Bayern won a corner and as the ball was swung in, Mats Hummels (who had a terrible day) was trying to clear the ball but wound up using his outstretched arm to do so. While I’m not sure there was much he could have done about it and there was almost certainly no intent, it was a hand ball and not unworthy of the penalty that was ultimately awarded.
However, the Westphalian side did not see it that way at all. Their temperament that was hanging on by a thread following the non-penalty snapped. Rose was sent off with a second yellow, though he bizarrely was allowed to remain in view behind the bench for the game. The players spent the better part of five minutes, and really the rest of the half, complaining to Zwayer about the unfairness of the calls.
Nevertheless, Lewandowski stepped up and managed to squeeze it past the keeper who guessed correctly to put Bayern up for good 2-3. The remainder of the match really seemed like a formality and was highlighted by Dortmund player throwing tantrums more than the football.
Perhaps the most memorable of which was Jude Bellingham, who had a very good day overall, blatantly pushed Manuel Neuer to the ground for absolutely no reason after the keeper had dispersed the ball back into play. The final bit of drama followed a Dortmund corner where they had pulled up the keeper. Tolisso found himself on a break towards an empty goal with Alphonso Davies running through the middle, but instead of passing to the fastest man on the pitch to get an easy tap in, he attempted a 60 yard shot that went well wide of the goal.
However, following the ten minutes of additional time, Bayern once again left BVB with three points and a wider gap at the top of the table. Meanwhile the Dortmund players spent the entire post match and will probably spend the next few weeks (months?) complaining about Zwayer.
While we normally focus on the Bayern side of things in this section, Saturday’s match against Dortmund proved once again that the black and yellow have a long ways to go before they will beat Bayern. I’ve spent enough time describing the events yesterday but the bigger concern for them should be the pattern that has evolved in the last five years.
There seems to be no real belief that they can beat Munich. There is no accountability for the losses that they have incurred. They seemingly approach every match assuming that they’ll lose but that the reason for those losses will be some outside factor.
As the saying goes, the constant variable in all of your failures is yourself. BVB need to look in the mirror and figure out what it is that they’re not doing instead of focusing on those factors outside of their control. The talent is there. Yesterday, they really had no great excuse for not at least picking up a draw. Not that this is a bad Bayern side, but without Kimmich in midfield, the Reds are far from invulnerable.
With Håland back and Brandt and Bellingham playing at a high level, they had more than enough to take something out of this match. Yes, the calls didn’t go your way, but at some point you have to overcome that. Obstacles happen and life is never without it’s challenges but the teams who achieve, do so while overcoming those things. Until Dortmund stop seeing themselves as victims, they will never break free of being defeatists.
Given how much focus has been on the left given the excellent play of both Alphonso Davies and Leroy Sane, it was somewhat surprising to see so much of the attack come down the right side and Coman. Maybe it shouldn’t be though. At some point, teams are going to start game planning to attempt to shut down the left for Bayern until the right can prove that they need to be respected.
That burden is going to be on Coman and Gnabry by large as I don’t think we can expect Pavard to suddenly become an offensive powerhouse. Coman by in large stepped up to the challenge against BVB. While some will rightfully point to several missed opportunities from the French winger, he did ultimately score a goal and could have easily had a few more on another day.
While I would agree that Coman still needs to improve upon his decision making and especially his decisiveness at times, the more often he gets himself into those positions, the more chances Bayern will have to score and honestly, I believe that he will start to make those better decisions.
One of the more glaring problems over the last few games has been the errors. Saturday was especially noticeable as the second goal especially was the result of a bad mistake. However the real problem is that these mistakes are spread through out the team and not a few individuals.
The hope would be that the return of Kimmich will help to sort out some of these errors and undoubtedly it will especially in the midfield, however the errors in defense are less likely to be ironed out due to his return. Upamecano and Hernández have been excellent at times but when they have made mistakes, they have been seemingly huge and come in droves.
The good news is that they’ve very rarely paid the ultimate price in terms of results and they have nearly made it to the winter break when Nagelsmann will have some additional time to work out some of these wrinkles. While some mistakes are inevitable, some of the positional and passing errors are very easily avoidable and should be able to be corrected with a little time and focus.