The first meeting of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund this season was the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde performance from die Roten. While the final scoreline suggests that the match was a rout, the impression belies the truth that for the first 45 minutes this team was frail and uncreative. In many ways it was their poorest performance of the season. While in other matches they've been unable to score goals, they've showed no problems creating quality chances. In this match, it took 17 minutes before Bayern registered their first shot on goal. In contrast their second half performance was the very definition of the dominance that we've come to expect from this side.
Guardiola ran out his standard 4-1-4-1 formation but his midfield combination was definitely the most unusual of his choices as he employed Javi Martinez in the classic #10 role, while using Phillip Lahm in the single pivot. It was definitely an odd choice that had bad returns for Bayern Munich in the first half.
The first 15 minutes of this match were the standard hymn that this team sings every weekend. Tons of possession and tons of movement up and down the pitch; but their conversion of possession into even at a minimum some poor chances on goal was non-existent . That was coupled with the ever present threat from Borussia Dortmund whose first chance came mere minutes into the game as Jakub Blazczykowski cut in the on left and hit a perfect threaded pass to Robert Lewandowski's chest. The Polish international should have buried the chance from 6 yards out but scuffed his volley over Manuel Neuer's goal.
Credit goes to Bayern in limiting the impact of both Marco Reus and Henrik Mkhitaryan for the first 10 minutes as Phillip Lahm and Rafinha combined to prevent them from exerting any control over the match. Unfortunately their pre-occupation left Jakub Blazczykowski with tons of space to cut in and romp in the center of the pitch. Ultimately, it required Bayern to address his presence which gave Reus and Mkhitaryan the necessary room to begin their systematic process of attempting to break down the Bayern defense.
Through the 30 minute Borussia Dortmund were firmly in control of the match as they generated attack after attack that left the Bayern midfield and defense in disarray. The men in red frequently only had enough time to attempt last ditch blocks and interceptions to keep die Shwarzgelben from repeatedly assaulting Manuel Neuer's goal.
On the opposite end of the pitch, Bayern Munich were uninspired and uncreative. The main driving force of that problem was the decision from Pep Guardiola to use Javier Martinez as a classic #10 operating off the main striker. Martinez is a static force and this in an offense built on interchanges and zonal overloads allowing individual players to run channels for 1v1's against entrenched opponents keepers. With a static central midfielder, the offense was stuck in their zones, isolated and without support. It isolated Mario Mandzukic, who didn't have his greatest game in a Bayern uniform, and kept Arjen Robben from cutting inside and driving to goal. Without that space moving forward Toni Kroos ultimately had to drop deeper to play off Phillip Lahm which opened large holes in the Bayern offense where Dortmund defenders planted themselves restricting Bayern's attacking avenues.
Bayern Munich's first "quality" change of the half came off a cross that saw Mario Mandzukic hit an awkward side volley that forced Roman Weidenfeller into an even more awkward save of a bouncing squibbler of a ball headed for the corner of the net. A minute later a long kick from Roman Weidenfeller bounced in front of Boateng who misjudged the ball and was forced to haul back on Robert Lewandowski to prevent the striker from surely putting Dortmund on the scoreboard. It ultimately earned him the first yellow card of the match and highlighted the highly physical and chippy play of Jerome Boateng and Dante in responding not only to the danger of Lewandowski but also to the threat posed by Reus and Mkhitaryan.
As Bayern clawed their way back from the Dortmund attacks, their first really truly excellent chance of the half came in the 37' as Arjen Robben got free and unmarked down the left. The Dutch internationals low driven cross was only miliimeters out of the reach of the sliding Mario Mandzukic allowing the Signal Iduna Park to breathe a sigh of relief.
The first half came to a close as Rafinha decided that Marco Reus only really needed one ankle. Of course, he also earned a yellow. That foul was immediately followed by an off the ball encounter between Mario Mandzukic and Kevin Grosskreutz who performed an avian nuzzling ritual that expressed their deep love for each other. Head referee Manuel Grafe gave them both yellow cards because he hates loves, the fascist.
Halftime saw Pep Guardiola shake up his team's midfield by dropping Javi Martinez into the lone holding role while shifting Lahm and Kroos into the central midfield roles. To say that Bayern Munich were instantly better would be false because while they were able to generate more quality in attack, their defensive power was questioned as in the 50' Marco Reus got free down the right. The formerly-well-haired German international drove at the box and managed to find enough space to send a beautiful chip over the Bayern defense. The onrushing Robert Lewandowski arrived only seconds too late to head it home while Manuel Neuer performed his best Monster's University octopus impression.
Bayern Munich well and truly came alive in the 55' as Pep Guardiola substituted Mario Götze on for Mario Mandzukic. In earlier matches, Götze has played as a false 9, but in this match played as an out and out striker who interchanged beautifully with Kroos, Müller and Robben as the Bayern attack hit third gear.
In the 64', Pep Guardiola brought in Thiago Alcantara for Jerome Boateng. It was the young Spaniard first appearance in a competitive match since he went down with a syndesmosis tear 3 months ago. It was an inspired move from Guardiola as he shifted Javier Martinez to partner with Dante at CB, moved Phillip Lahm back into the single pivot and slotted Thiago alongside Kroos. It immediately put Bayern Munich into overdrive as It bore immediate dividends.
The interchanging CMs wreaked havoc for a single minute before the ball was dished out to Thomas Müller whose low driven cross was expertly brought down by the left foot of Mario Götze. The young German hit it first time off the bounce with the outside of his right foot curling the ball around Roman Weidenfeller and into his net. It was poetic justice that the player who was once considered the future of Borussia Dortmund would be the one to score an absolutely brilliant goal on his first return to his old home.
8 minutes later on a Dortmund counterattack, Marco Reus dummied Martinez and Dante and struck an absolutely wonderful strike that forced Manuel Neuer into a truly world class diving save that parried the ball wide. That was Dortmund's only real chance after the 71' though as Jurgen Klopp withdrew both Jakub Blazczykowski and Henrik Mkhitaryan who were definitely the standouts on the Borussia Dortmund squad today. Their withdrawal basically ended any chance for Dortmund as Bayern's pressure was enough isolate both Aubameyang and Hofmann and disjoint the entire Dortmund attack.
As the match wound down, it became more and more evident that Bayern Munich were going to walk away from the Westfalenstadion with all three points. The gegenpress has clearly exhausted Dortmund to the point where they were unable to string together enough high tempo possession to alleviate the constant Bayern forays forward. So naturally, Bayern allowed them one sustained attack and Arjen Robben made them pay on the counter. A chippy tackle from Dante on Marco Reus saw the ball ultimately end up at the feet of Thiago who hit a brilliant ball over the top to Arjen Robben who steamed down the Dortmund left wing and chipped Weidenfeller to put the match result beyond doubt.
Naturally, beyond a doubt wasn't good enough from Thomas Müller who two minutes later after a series of interchanges between Götze and Thiago had the ball put firmly at his feet. Rather than be a gentlemen and give it to Manuel Freidrich, he coolly finished it past Weidenfeller to put the match result truly beyond a shadow of a doubt.