In the first part we have looked at the years 1966, 1981 and 1992. In part two, we focus on Luca Toni’s brace, the national peak of Klopp’s era, and a special story by and with Arjen Robben.
2008: Toni makes the difference
In 2008, the cup final happened early in the season on April the 15th. Before the game, the roles were clearly defined: Borussia Dortmund was way behind in the Bundesliga, which in the end meant only 13th place for Thomas Doll’s team. Via Magdeburg, Frankfurt, Bremen, Hoffenheim, and Jena, however, they managed to get through to the cup final. It was a strange season for FC Bayern, as well, even though it wasn’t comparable to BVB’s situation at all. After a bad previous season, Bayern had only managed to qualify for the UEFA cup.
Yet despite or even because of that, the 2007/08 season was a big step forward for the club; they signed a world champion in Luca Toni, and on top of that a certain Franck Ribéry was brought to Säbener Strasse. Equipped with certain amounts of freedom, the two were responsible for 49 goals and assists in the Bundesliga by the end of the season. 2008 was also special because Oliver Kahn ended his career and Ottmar Hitzfeld left the club again after the end of his second term in charge.
In the cup final, the Bayern coach started his team in a 4-4-2 formation, with Lahm, Lúcio, Demichelis, and Lell playing in front of Kahn, while van Bommel, in a more defensive role, and Zé Roberto, whose task was to bring more momentum to the forward movement, shared the work in front of the defenders. Bastian Schweinsteiger was on the right wing while Franck Ribéry covered the left, and Toni and Miroslav Klose were set as strikers. Dortmund trusted a 4-1-4-1 with Kehl in defensive midfield and Tinga and Kringe in front of him. Frei played centre-forward, supported by Petric and Jakub Błaszczykowski on the wings. In front of goalkeeper Ziegler, Dede, Robert Kovac, Christian Wörns, and Rukavina formed the back four.
Dortmund, very much the underdog in this game, played well, and despite Bayern’s early lead through a Luca Toni goal (11.), it never felt like Dortmund didn’t have a chance. While Bayern was fighting for control, BVB managed to keep the record cup winner away from their goal via a compact, ball-winning midfield.
Only during the second half did the game turn into a more open clash, with chances on both sides. Bayern allowed several shots with easy ball losses and gaps in their formation. In the second minute of stoppage time Petric got his team into extra time with a deflected shot. BVB was now dominant and had several good chances, but again it was Luca Toni who ended Dortmund’s dreams. Subbed-in Podolski managed to break through into the penalty area and found Toni; the Italian wasn’t going to miss that chance and, in minute 103, sealed Bayern’s cup win in classic Toni style. A sending off for Błaszczykowski and a good chance for Podolski were all that was left in the game.
Oliver Kahn and Ottmar Hitzfeld could say their goodbyes with the national double. In the UEFA cup, Bayern exited the competition in the semifinal against St Petersburg only a week after the German cup final. After the win against Dortmund, Rummenigge had announced that it was okay to “go wild” now, but some players may have taken that too far, considering Bayern went down 0:4 in Russia.
2012: Dortmund humiliates Bayern
Four years later, Bayern went down again, but this time it was against Dortmund. It was another cup final clash, but the situation had changed dramatically for both clubs. Borussia Dortmund was reigning Bundesliga champion, having just defended their title to deny Bayern two years in a row. A change of power in German football was on the cards, according to the media, and after this game, it certainly came true, even if only for a while.
Bayern’s style of play was too static, inflexible, and outdated. Critical voices were raised, speaking out against manager Jupp Heynckes, claiming he had left his substitutions until too late, and hadn’t adapted to Dortmund’s way of playing. During the beginning of his tenure, Heynckes couldn’t solve the issues that van Gaal’s possession football had left behind, which made Bayern predictable and incapable of turning all their ball possession into tangible rewards.
Dortmund, on the other hand, were at the peak of Klopp’s “full throttle football”, having decided the league title several weeks before the cup final by winning their home game against Bayern at Signal Iduna Park. In that game, Arjen Robben had missed a penalty that would have meant the equalizer, and in doing so missed the last chance at the title. The Dutchman was on his way to becoming a tragic hero that season, although he scored the temporary equalizer by penalty in the cup final.
Dortmund was superior in every area, and when Philipp Lahm declared after the game that it had been an unlucky loss, he got laughed out of the park. BVB emphasized their standing as Germany’s number one football club with great counter attacking, strong counter pressing, good positioning against the ball, and, with that, many balls won. Klopp and his coaching team were rightly celebrated and caused a footballing change in Germany that would influence the national team as well.
Kagawa, Hummels, and three Lewandowski goals made it 5:2, with Ribéry’s goal and Robben’s penalty little more than cosmetic. This demonstration of power was the pinnacle of a Dortmund era that hurt Bayern so much that they spent big the following summer to plan their counterattack. A week after the DFB Cup, Bayern lost the Champions League final as well, on their home turf against Chelsea. The season ended without a single title for Bayern and, with all its disappointment, would turn into the foundation for later successes.
2013: Arjen Robben rewrites history for himself
Arjen Robben and Bayern are a very special story. In the summer of 2012, nobody could have blamed the winger had he decided to leave the club. After missing decisive penalties against Dortmund in the league and Chelsea in the Champions League, he was booed during a friendly that Bayern played against the Netherlands. It was the disgraceful low point of an incredibly disappointing season. But Arjen Robben wouldn’t be Arjen Robben if he’d left it at that. The now 32-year-old decided to stay and rewrite history in his favor.
Bayern’s sixth clash with Dortmund in the DFB Cup was the beginning of that turnaround, although it would be wrong to attribute the entire story to Arjen Robben; Bayern as a club had made a massive step forward compared to 2012. First and foremost, Jupp Heynckes had learned from the second-place treble of the previous season and changed his tactical system.
Our author Steffen summarized the game like this back then:
It had taken Bayern a considerable amount of time to find measures against Dortmund’s formidable pressing. Heynckes now found the key. From the get-go, Lahm pushed forward fiercely every time Dante or Alaba were in possession. (…) This enabled Bayern to circumvent Dortmund’s pressing by two different means. Firstly, long diagonal balls from Dante to the right wing, where vigorously starting Müller, Mandzukic, and Lahm put Dortmund’s players under extreme pressure. These runs forced Großkreutz or Reus to follow Lahm, which opened up the second opportunity for Dante: passing to van Buyten, who was left without opposing players and could build up play free from Dortmund’s pressure. (…) Also helpful: Schweinsteiger’s incredible resistance to pressing, Martínez’ continuously winning balls in central midfield, and Mandzukic’s pressure on every Dortmund player who came close to him. Steffen in February 2013
Bayern had decoded Klopp’s pressing and found solutions which eventually led to a 1:0 victory through a beautiful Arjen Robben goal. “This is Heynckes’ merit,” Steffen concluded back then and was certainly not wrong about that. Bayern ended the season with the historic treble, and DFB cup quarterfinal goal scorer Robben continued making history with his 2:1 match winner in the Champions League final against Dortmund.
In the third and last part of the series, we will focus on the cup final of 2014 and look back at the more than unlucky penalty shootout of 2015, and we’ll end it with a glance ahead at this year’s final.