Episode 3: Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Bayern Munich
Bundesliga Matchday 28
May 26, 2020
Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
Lineup: Neuer — Pavard, Boateng (Hernandez 85), Alaba, Davies — Goretzka, Kimmich — Gnabry (Martinez 88), Muller, Coman (Perisic 73) — Lewandowski
Goalscorers: None/Kimmich 43’
After a lengthy pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bundesliga became the first big European league to kick off again in mid-May. Bayern Munich returned to action with a routine 2-0 win over Union Berlin, before (sort of) avenging their 1-5 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt with a 5-2 win. Sitting at the top of the Bundesliga with a four point gap between them and second placed Dortmund, Bayern faced a daunting journey to the Westfalenstadion for a crucial fixture in the title race.
Dortmund were also in good form with winter signing Erling Haaland scoring goals left and right, and a win would see them close the gap at the summit to just a point with six more games to go. Bayern, meanwhile, could effectively end the title race with a win away to the Black and Yellows. It was all coming down to this, the most important Klassiker of the season.
Dortmund were the better side in the opening stages, with Haaland forcing a clearance from Jerome Boateng with just seconds gone on the clock. But Bayern grew into the game and started to turn the screw their way. Alphonso Davies was one to watch, as he once dribbled through three defenders before being narrowly shut out by Mats Hummels, and went full hyperdrive to stop a counterattack from reaching Haaland.
Just before halftime, Bayern struck gold. The ball was ping-ponged on the edge of the penalty area before it found Joshua Kimmich. Kimmich didn’t hesitate and chipped the ball from around 20 yards, looping his shot over the wrong-footed Roman Burki.
The second half was an even affair, with both sides having their chances but neither really bearing much fruit. Dortmund went closest when a Mahmoud Dahoud shot was parried by Manuel Neuer, and Bayern almost sealed the deal when Robert Lewandowski hit the post. But no more goals were to come, and Bayern eventually emerged narrow winners.
Why was this match special?
If I had to pick one game from Hansi Flick’s tenure that really defined his style, it would be this one. I had never seen Bayern press the way they did in this game in a very long time; in fact, I don’t think I ever saw it under the likes of Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, and Niko Kovac. Bayern were relentless in their pressing in this game, with the eleven players moving as a cohesive unit in both attack and defense. Every single player from Neuer to Lewandowski had to pitch in no matter where the ball was, and the players never stopped moving for 90 minutes. The stamina levels that the team showed were absolutely astonishing, especially considering this was their second game in the space of four days. Sure, the game wasn’t perfect in every aspect, but it was a fine statement about how Flick wanted to coach his team, and it worked like a charm.
Of course, I can’t mention this game without bringing up the ramifications that it had on the title race. We’ll cover that more in the aftermath, but this was the first time that season that Bayern had such a commanding lead at the top of the table. A lead that Bayern would not relinquish for the remainder of the season, that seven-point gap was a huge step toward the Bundesliga title.
Having taken a giant leap towards the Meisterschale, Bayern returned to business that weekend with a 5-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf. A tough week with Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach followed, but Flick’s men passed that test with flying colors with two wins as well, leaving them just one win away from glory. That win was taken in a rainy Weserstadion with a 1-0 win over lowly Werder Bremen. Two more wins over Freiburg and Wolfsburg later, Bayern hoisted the coveted trophy at the latter’s home ground.
Not only that, but Bayern also reached a third successive DFB-Pokal final with a 2-1 win against Frankfurt, and just a week after that triumph in Wolfsburg, they defeated Leverkusen 4-2 at the Olympiastadion to successfully defend their domestic double. The team then took a month-long break before getting back to business, which we’ll cover in tomorrow’s episode.