That might have been Bayern Munich's most complete team performance of the season as they beat a very tough Borussia Dortmund 1-0 behind a first half Robert Lewandowski goal and a stellar defensive performance the likes of which we haven't ever seen under Pep Guardiola.
The start of the match was a breakneck affair as Dortmund pressed high and fast everywhere, pinning Bayern Munich deep in their own half. It was a strange sight to see Bayern Munich pinned in their own half content to cede possession and hit on the counterattack, but it was an exceptional performance from as they defended as a team and left what little attacking they could do to Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller who showed themselves to be massive threats all evening.
As the first half passed the 15 minute mark Dortmund relaxed their press and dropped into a more conservative strategy allowing Bayern Munich to begin to dictate the zones and the speed of the match. That was to be expected as most teams cannot high press that aggressively or effectively for long periods of time. With Dortmund unable to get the first goal of the match their strategy moved from aggression to containment.
Containing Bayern Munich is always a tricky strategy and it was one that Dortmund struggled with at times. The three man midfield pairing of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, and Alonso gave Bayern the spatial control to swap attacks from side to side dragging the Dortmund press and defense around. However, unlike in matches past Bayern did not overcommit to their attack and risk exposing their defense. The first concern was maintaining structure at the back which has not ever a hallmark of Pep Guardiola's time at Bayern Munich. They respected the Dortmund press and used time and patience to wear them down.
Then Bayern Munich struck. An incisive pass from Jerome Boateng found an open seam in the Dortmund defense direct to Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski turned and hit the sprinting Thomas Müller with the throughball. While Müller's shot was saved dramatically by Roman Weidenfeller, the resulting high ball careened into the box where Robert Lewandowski's aerial prowess gave him the space to launch a header into the open goal.
With Bayern Munich comfortably in charge going into halftime, Borussia Dortmund came out in the second half determined to earn the equalizer. Pushing again with their high press they committed to it for the next 20 minutes straight. It was a titanic push and pull between the teams in the midfield as both sides wrestled for control. This was easily one of the best match ups between the mid-fields form both sides that we've seen since the 2012/2013 Champions League final and it was a lot of fun to watch.
As the Dortmund press tired, they replaced Kevin Kampl and Jakub Blazczykowski with a new striker in Adrian Ramos and Shinji Kagawa, reinforcing their press with fresh legs. Bayern for their part took off Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, replacing them with Sebastian Rode and Thiago. That was a series of substitutions that worked out heavily in Dortmund's favor as their midfield cranked up the pressure and took control of the match away from Bayern.
As the clock wound towards the 90 minutes, it was one-way traffic from the Dortmund end towards the Bayern Munich goal as the home side sought the equalizer. To their massive credit, Bayern Munich's defense held firm repelling Dortmund attacks convincingly and without fuss. Their only moment of exposure came from a set piece and one of the best free kicks you're likely to see this season from Marco Reus. And in that moment, Manuel Neuer created that one moment of pure magic that we all know and love him for, clawing the ball off the line to preserve the 1-0 scoreline.
Minutes later and it was all over as the final whistle gave Bayern Munich a further three points. Bayern Munich's defense was their biggest asset and they used it to take a 1-0 from their visit to the Westfalenstadion. This was the right performance at the right time for a team that is looking at a congested fixture list and some big tactical questions.