The first to approach him was Edin Terzić, and neither man attempted to look for the right words. They just saw each other, knew what it meant, and held each other, before the coach whispered a few words of vindication to his player. Teammates had submerged Anthony Modeste instants before at the denouement of this breathless Klassiker and now they followed Terzić, queuing up to congratulate the French striker on his moment of delight and relief.
Youssoufa Moukoko, the effervescent forward half Modeste’s age who had begun the comeback and whose performances in the last week had seemed to start the process of making the older man look obsolete, hugged his senior in a touching moment – pointing to Modeste as they walked towards Signal Iduna Park’s main stand, telling those in it to give it up for the man whose header delivered Borussia Dortmund from yet more disappointment in this fixture.
Further along in that same stand Oliver Kahn had shown what it meant with his reaction to Modeste’s later-than-late equaliser. The Bayern Munich chief’s reaction is destined to be the gif of choice for the rest of this year, as he slumped back in his seat then hit his forearms forward with an “Ah Mann!” summing up the twist, the shock, the exasperation and the celebration.
This was the time for emotion, not analysis. Up until the evening’s incredible climax it was following a familiar, if entertaining, script. Bayern had threatened little in the first half yet taken the lead through Leon Goretzka’s shot from outside the area, their only real effort of note in that first 45 minutes but – thanks to a few Julian Nagelsmann adjustments – had taken a typical grip of things. In spells after Leroy Sané’s second (also from outside the box, and which also you would have expected BVB’s first-choice, Gregor Kobel, rather than current stand-in, Alexander Meyer, to have done better with) it felt as if the champions were toying with their hosts who seemed to be resigned, counting the minutes to their latest loss against Bayern, having been defeated in the last seven against them.
This was the root of Kahn’s explosion. It had seemed so easy, so inevitable that Bayern would put Dortmund down again. “It’s been an amazing season,” he mused afterwards, “where we [frequently] forget to seal the deal and deprive ourselves of what we deserve. They were dead. They had already come to terms with the defeat. But we ourselves brought them back into the game.”
Kingsley Coman’s 90th-minute should-have-been-too-late-to-matter second booking was a window into how Bayern had slid from a position of imperious comfort to indignant holding on. Sané could have followed him seconds later for aiming his studs at Karim Adeyemi after the winger held him back and referee Deniz Aytekin – despite Kahn’s chiding of his lack of “empathy” towards Coman in a Sunday morning tweet – was at his most lenient through most of this, with Jude Bellingham having earlier escaped a second booking for a high foot on Alphonso Davies that compelled the Canadian to be withdrawn.
Nagelsmann was less vocal about Aytekin and more so about his team’s strange lack of intensity in those closing stages. Could Sané or Jamal Musiala have pressured Raphaël Guerreiro more when he repeatedly recycled the ball towards the Bayern goal in the final moments with Meyer up the field and no backpass on? Probably. “In the end it’s quite fair,” he suggested, “even if the 2-2 came late.”
It had been coming, even if it felt like it might elude Dortmund. Terzić – whose pointing to the sky after the equaliser had been a nod to the recent death of his father – had leaned into the emotion of the occasion, throwing on Modeste to join Moukoko in a Hail Mary move. It worked too, with the substitute tidily setting up the starter (“he didn’t score for many games,” noted the coach, “but he didn’t keep hold of his ego”) to rifle in. It also appeared as if Modeste’s own moment had come and gone, as he missed his kick in front of goal after great work by Adeyemi, with a seemingly certain equaliser beckoning.
Not only did Modeste need this – how he needed this – but Der Klassiker needed this too. In the first edition post-Lewandowski and post-Haaland, it showed what it is and what it never was. Superstars are nice to have but this was never a star-led fixture, even branded and distilled for the modern audience, but a rivalry designated by necessity. It was built as a potential beacon of hope – that there can be jeopardy, engaging battle, meaningful competition. Football supporting in the modern age, in other words, in its purest form. Modeste’s last-gasp show gave it succour, little matter if it doesn’t endure.
• Xabi Alonso had a strong debut as Bayer Leverkusen coach, with his side brushing aside Schalke 4-0 following the midweek sacking of Gerardo Seoane. “We didn’t have much time to plan,” Alonso said afterwards, having been appointed on Wednesday, “but the players understood how we wanted to play.” And he understood how they wanted to play, with hints at the attacking power this team possess, albeit against very limited opposition. It’s the return with Porto up next in a far-from-unsalvageable Champions League campaign. Alonso’s opposite number on Saturday, Frank Kramer, might be next out of the Bundesliga door, with former Bochum coach Thomas Reis the heavy favourite to come in.
• Borussia Mönchengladbach took the Rheinderby, Daniel Farke’s team beating Köln 5-2 to recover from their own five-goal hiding in Bremen last week. It all centred around a couple of first-half clashes between Jonas Hofmann and Florian Kainz – the former fouled the latter to allow Kainz to score a Köln equaliser from the penalty spot, before the roles were reversed and Kainz received a second booking for an elbow on the Germany wide man. The always reliable Ramy Bensabaini put Gladbach back in front with his spot kick – the first of the defender’s brace – and it was one-way from there. Marcus Thuram rubbed salt in the wounds, scoring the fifth and continuing his derby teasing by reprising Modeste’s glasses celebration in front of the visiting fans – he later put a photo of him doing so on social media, with the caption “only here for the comments” and a popcorn emoji.
• Speaking of Werder, the neutral’s (OK, this column’s) favourites are in the top five after their win at Hoffenheim on Friday, with their fantastic front two shining again – Marvin Ducksch got a stylish opener before league top scorer Niklas Füllkrug nervelessly netted a late winner from the penalty spot.
• They got there at last – Bochum finally have a win this season and a handsome one at that, turning over Tottenham’s Champions League opponents Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 with a late salvo inspired by Philipp Förster. The former Stuttgart man set up the first two and smashed in the third with his right foot, unbelievably (“I actually only have the right one so I don’t fall over,” he noted afterwards), to seal a long-awaited and rapturously-received win.