Bayern München 1 – 1 Borussia Dortmund – Bayern and Dortmund neutralize each other

 Borussia Dortmund came from behind to salvage a point in München in the most anticipated match of the season. Toni Kroos gave Bayern the lead with a brilliantly taken goal before Mario Götze scored again at the Allianz Arena to level the game. Even though Bayern let their lead slip this is a point won for the league leaders after struggling against Dortmund in the last two years. They maintain a commanding eleven point lead over the defending champions and played arguably their best game against Jürgen Klopp’s team who will also be satisfied with a point in a game they could just as easily have lost were it not for Roman Weidenfeller’s goalkeeping heroics in the second half.

Lineups and Tactics

Why change a winning formula? With Bayern’s blistering form this season Heynckes has had little reason to alter his lineups apart from timely rotation. After starting in his first match since May during the week Mario Gomez expectedly made way for Mandzukic and Schweinsteiger too was back after being rested against Freiburg.  The rest stayed the same. For Dortmund, Grosskreutz sat this one out and Kehl missed out due to injury, replaced by Bender.  Götze, Gündogan and Hummels all regained fitness just in time, a relief to Dortmund supporters considering the two have played so well against Bayern in the past.

In the last five meetings Bayern struggled to deal with Dortmund’s blistering counter attacking and pressing game. The most important task facing Jupp Heynckes was how to avoid getting caught on the break all while remaining in their comfort zone enough to play the game at their own comfort and pace.

Tight in the center and reserved in attack

The first half was the tactical stalemate that many expected with very few real chances and both sides hesitant to commit too many numbers forward. The game was characterized by a congestion in the center of the pitch with forced the majority of attacks out wide to either Ribery on the left or Götze on Dortmund’s right.  Last year Bayern were forced into making many individual errors when Dortmund pressed them in their own half so this time they started more restrained than usual. Their backline was not pushed up as high and they seemed to focus more on keeping the ball which turned out to be the ideal answer against a team so good on the counter as Dortmund.

Apart from a few half chances from Ribery and Müller early on the caution made for a very methodical and eventless first half. The most notable thing in the first 45 minutes in fact had nothing to do with the match but with the unfortunate injury picked up by Badstuber in the 35th minute. Later diagnosis revealed a cruciate ligament tear which most likely spells the end of the season for the defender. He was replaced by Boateng.

Dortmund tried to press early as they typically do and forced Neuer into an error early but Bayern recovered well and did a good job of keeping the ball away from Dortmund until the break. As a result, Dortmund had at best 30-40% possession and was rarely able to get enough players forward when they broke with only Lewandowski in Bayern’s half most of the time.  Ribery was lively in the first half hour and was Bayern’s biggest danger and at times difficult to track for the Dortmund defenders but Hummels was alert on the other side and cleared or intercepted everything thrown his way.

One thing became certain throughout this match. Bayern is becoming increasingly more difficult to exploit on the break this season. But they weren’t the only ones who played more reserved. Although Reus had Dortmund’s best chance in the 44th minute when he latched onto a long ball and forced a great reaction save from Neuer Dortmund were for the most part more reactive than they’ve ever been in the Bundesliga under Klopp in this game.  Uncharacteristically and similar to their gameplan in the Champions League this year, Dortmund’s backline did not venture outside their own defensive third much and Kuba often slotted in alongside Bender and Gündogan in central midfield. The result was effectively two sets of players bouncing off each other and neither making much of an advance but both Heynckes and Klopp were probably happy to take a 0-0 into the locker room.

Game opens up in the second half

The second half was a much more open affair and understandably so. Bayern wanted desperately to break their duck and extend their lead further while Dortmund needed to make up ground. In past meetings Dortmund made it a contest of endurance and ran at Bayern until they just couldn’t keep up anymore and at the beginning of the second half it seemed like history repeated itself.  The visitors were the more dangerous side after the restart.  Rather than picking up and trying to build attacks from inside their own box Dortmund stepped up the tempo and 5-10 meters higher up the pitch than in the first half.

Average positioning of Dortmund’s backline in the first half
Average positioning of Dortmund’s backline in the second, noticeably higher

Dortmund won a free kick in the 52nd minute and Schmelzer took advantage before Bayern could react and lobbed the ball to an open Hummels but his attempt was saved just in the knick of time by Neuer. Four minutes later Götze found himself open in the box and latched onto a Reus cross but his header was too tame and Neuer made an easy save.  It was a big wake up call for Bayern as they were dangerously close to falling into old habits against their re-energized rivals. Perhaps Bayern were shaken by Badstuber’s injury but either way, they needed to pick up their game or lose their sixth straight against Dortmund.  

Luckily Bayern reacted and in the 67th minute took advantage of Dortmund’s first defensive error.  With Dortmund’s backline pressing high again Bayern lobbed a ball over to Müller who controlled it superbly and laid it off to Kroos.  The attacking midfielder’s sublime first touch took it around two Dortmund defenders before perfectly placing it into the far right corner. The lead gave Bayern supporters something to cheer about because they had won every single home game they led going back all the way to April, 2010.

Just when it looked as though Bayern were finally going to break their duck though Götze struck at the Allianz Arena for the second consecutive year. Dortmund won a corner in the 72nd minute.  Schmelzer’s cross was flicked on in the box and fell to an open Götze who controlled it with his first touch and volleyed it into the bottom left corner with his second. Kroos missed his marker and Martinez’s stretched out leg was a split second late.  Klopp realized that he needed to play his natural game if he was going to get a result and abandoning all caution paid off once again but just as it made them better offensively, it left them extremely vulnerable at the back and it nearly cost them dearly.

Frenzied finish

The match really went into a frenzy after Götze’s equalizer.  To their credit, both teams went for the winner in the final 15 minutes but it was Bayern who should by all accounts have won it. Roman Weidenfeller was forced into three incredible saves in a span of three minutes.  With his first touch after coming on in the 86th minute, Mario Gomez played Kroos through one-on-one with the Dortmund keeper but Weidenfeller’s extended right arm kept the ball out of the net. Two minutes later Müller picked up the ball on the right and chipped in a deceiving shot that almost caught Weidenfeller off his line but the goalkeeper retreated just in time to tip it over the bar.  The ensuing corner forced his third world class save after Martinez connected with Kroos’s cross and for a second it looked as though the Spaniard had the match winner but Weidenfeller again denied Bayern with a superb reflex save.

Final Verdict

This is the 27th draw between the two sides so the result was not all that surprising in the end.  Most notably though is the ground Bayern have made up on Dortmund.  Whereas they were largely outplayed by Klopp’s men in the last two years this time around they looked more comfortable and assured of themselves, in control for good portions of the game and most importantly, were able to get a result.

The draw means that despite the chasm developing between the two sides in the standings, Dortmund remain unbeaten against Bayern in six consecutive matches (discounting the SuperCup). Klopp will have to admit that eleven points might be a task too tall for them this season. Either way, they came back in a stadium where teams seldom do and still managed a result against a Bayern side that could go down as one of the best in league history by the end of the season.

Reactions

Jupp Heynckes: “It was an intense contest between two teams playing modern football, with very smart tactics and good transitions from defence to attack. We started very well and dominated the first 20 minutes, but we rather lost control of the game after that. After the break, we needed 15 minutes to recover our rhythm. We had the more clear-cut chances at the end, but Weidenfeller made some superb saves. I’m very satisfied with my team, especially after the extremely tough game in Freiburg last Wednesday. The return journey was really taxing.”

Toni Kroos: “We have to live with the result, and we will. My goal was certainly important, but I’d have gladly exchanged it for a win. It was evenly-matched for a long time, but it was much more open at the end with the advantage to us. It just wasn’t quite enough. We need to concentrate and stay focused, because we were also significantly ahead last season – and we can’t have a repeat of what happened then!”

Thomas Müller: “We started well in the first ten minutes to quarter of an hour. But we lost some of our control after that and it was a bit scrappy. There was more attacking play in the second half with better chances for both teams. We opened the scoring, but unfortunately, we immediately conceded the equaliser. At the end of the day, it’s a result we can live with, but it’s a bit frustrating, because we came close at the very end. Weidenfeller did a good job.”

Jürgen Klopp: “It was a magnificent and intense game of football. The teams pushed each other all the way to the limit. Given the closing stages, we’re very pleased with the draw. Roman Weidenfeller salvaged a point for us, but it’s definitely the right result.”

Roman Weidenfeller: “We’re satisfied with the draw. We need to make up points in our forthcoming matches. The title’s not been decided here today. We showed we can match them. Bayern have a fantastic squad, but we have a good team too.”

Mats Hummels:“At the end of the day, the draw was the right result. Nothing’s changed in the title race. Leverkusen have made up two points on Bayern, and we’re three behind Leverkusen. That’s obviously not great. We want to make up ground before the winter break.”

Header courtesy of AP

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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