Gladbach celebrate Groundhog Day after upsetting Bayern yet again | Andy Brassell

Die Fohlen appear to have Bayern’s number but the latest shock will not disguise the various demands on a club in transition

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s social media team couldn’t resist it. As the final whistle blew on their result of the season, probably, of most seasons, there was a post to acknowledge the victory over Bayern Munich. Then, straight away, there was a still of Bill Murray’s misanthropic TV reporter Phil Connors, waiting for Punxsutawney Phil to pop his furry head out of the hatch, with no further comment. This was their, and the champions’, Groundhog Day. Because even against Bayern, Die Fohlen have been here before.

Unbeaten in their past five meetings, losing two of the past nine, winning seven of past last 13 – whichever way you frame it, Gladbach know how to get the best of Bayern better than any of their Bundesliga rivals. Last season, the nearest the Rekordmeister has to a bogey team even dumped them out of the DfB Pokal in emphatic style, with Borussia winning 5-0 at Borussia-Park.

But here, now, at this moment, in this shape? After a season that began with promise under Daniel Farke and began to fizzle out in a deluge of inconsistency? After an exodus began to take shape, with Marcus Thuram, accomplished defender Ramy Bensabaïni and veteran striker (and captain) Lars Stindl out of contract at the season’s end? After Farke before the game publicly trashed Gladbach’s hopes of achieving European football this season?

One had already gone, arguably the crown jewel. Yann Sommer grasped his opportunity and even few even of a Borussia persuasion would have begrudged him. The hardcore certainly didn’t. A banner on the Kurve before kick-off thanked him for “eight-and-a-half years of big performances, not big words” as he returned to his old ends for the first time since leaving to replace the injured Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich last month, stepping up to the elite level that his years of excellence deserved.

Thuram, predictably, was clad in Sommer’s green jersey after the final whistle, using his familiar charm to snare the prized swap. What was less predictable was that the France forward would be celebrating victory with his teammates, having craftily placed the winner past Sommer.

— Gladbach (@borussia_en) February 18, 2023

Bayern had extenuating circumstances to reflect on. Dayot Upamecano’s red card after eight minutes would have changed any game, but this one – recalling his difficult debut for Bayern at the same ground – hit the visitors hard. Vindicated and venerated, even more so than Thuram, for a generally excellent World Cup performance, Upamecano has been the industrial sealant smoothing over one of the champions’ previous problem areas. He was peerless in the Champions League in Paris too, suggesting Bayern’s defensive discomforts were behind them.

An incandescent Julian Nagelsmann vociferously complained in the tunnel, on and off camera, that his defender’s contact with Alessane Pléa had been minimal and too harshly punished. “He [the referee Tobias Welz] is a human being,” said Nagelsmann, “and even referees make mistakes. It’s just not a red.” (He apologised on Sunday for having “gone too far”.)

They had started well and were excellent in the circumstances, playing more than 80 minutes with 10 men, and could have won the game. But when you’re Bayern, excuses and reasons are the same thing. It makes no difference.

Yann Sommer was back at Borussia-Park soon after signing for Bayern Munich as cover for Manuel Neuer.
Yann Sommer was back at Borussia-Park soon after signing for Bayern Munich as cover for Manuel Neuer. Photograph: Thilo Schmülgen/Reuters

For all their hegemony, this is the place that always gets them. No matter the venue, though, Gladbach is consistently the fly that sits on Bayern’s nose, but then zips away, that they can’t seem to swat no matter how many swings of the newspaper they have. It was tempting to wonder whether Nagelsmann’s fury was partly fuelled by that, the continuing inability to crack Bayern’s Da Vinci Code.

It is even more perplexing in a time of great uncertainty for Gladbach. After the departure of the long-serving, respected and reliable Max Eberl, Roland Virkus recently celebrated his first anniversary as sporting director, appointed after 30 years of service to the club having started out as a youth coach in 1990. It wasn’t an easy first year and it is only going to get harder.

Thuram will have his pick of a clutch of plum European destinations in the summer (Virkus confirmed on Sunday Gladbach had given up trying to convince him to stay), having so impressed at the World Cup. Bensabaïni is expected to join Borussia Dortmund and Stindl, who got the ball rolling with a typically smart finish in the first half, has been linked with dropping a division and a move home to Karlsruhe.

It will take more than an afternoon of frolic at Bayern’s expense to alter projections of the future, with the gap to the European places expanding from three points to nine since the resumption, a gap that remains even after beating Bayern. “We’re not in a position to finish the season in the top six,” Farke said on Thursday. “That won’t happen.”

He talked more expansively on the reality of a changing of the guard, looking back at the previous week’s loss at Hertha – great start to the match, dreadful end – as symptomatic of future growing pains. “We’re facing a change, that’s for sure,” he said. “The many young players who were on the pitch are flawed to some degree or another, but that’s a path that we have to go down.”

If there is one Farke and Virkus must jealously cling to it is surely Manu Koné, at 21 a ball-winning, possession-retaining, ground-gaining blur of productivity here – and not for the first time against Bayern. With the Frenchman and Jonas Hofmann, scorer of the second goal to put Gladbach back in front and creator of Thuram’s decisive strike, something resembling a core remains. Time will tell whether the last to leave Mönchengladbach should turn out the light or whether there is enough left to satisfy the meter for the medium-term.

Bundesliga results

Augsburg 1-0 Hoffenheim, Bochum 0-2 Freiburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-2 Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Werder Bremen, Suttgart 3-2 Köln, Wolfsburg 0-3 RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 Mainz, Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Hertha Berlin, Union Berlin 0-0 Schalke

Talking points

  • It was all set for Union to complete an extraordinary week, after Thursday’s Europa League draw at Ajax, by beating Schalke before their big game at Bayern Munich next Sunday. It didn’t work out like that with Urs Fischer’s side looking a touch drained from their efforts in Amsterdam. A fourth straight goalless draw for the division’s bottom side as they improve under Thomas Reis – a Bundesliga record and very creditable given their season so far and the resources at their disposal. Whether draws are enough as they sit six points from safety, with Stuttgart and Augsburg winning this weekend, is doubtful.

  • It’s a three-way tie on points at the top; Bayern, Union and second-placed Dortmund are on 43 points after the latter’s flattering 4-1 win over Hertha. Edin Terzic’s changes didn’t stop Karim Adeyemi inspiring BVB in the first half with a goal and an assist (though he pulled a hamstring setting up Donyell Malen) with Marco Reus’s delicious free-kick helping to secure the points. “Let’s not get arrogant now,” said Terzic after an eighth straight win in 2023.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich 21 40 43
2 Borussia Dortmund 21 17 43
3 Union Berlin 21 11 43
4 Freiburg 21 3 40
5 RB Leipzig 21 17 39
6 Eintracht Frankfurt 21 13 38
7 Wolfsburg 21 9 30
8 Borussia M'gladbach 21 3 29
9 Mainz 21 -1 29
10 Bayer Leverkusen 21 0 27
11 Werder Bremen 21 -10 27
12 Cologne 21 -2 26
13 Augsburg 21 -10 24
14 Stuttgart 21 -10 19
15 Hoffenheim 21 -11 19
16 VfL Bochum 21 -27 19
17 Hertha Berlin 21 -15 17
18 Schalke 04 21 -27 13


Andy Brassell

The GuardianTramp

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