Bayern rediscover benchmark with Klassiker destruction of Dortmund

Champions stalked their rivals with intent and entitlement before pinning them into submission as they have done so often

It was an evening when we anticipated finding out how much things had changed. In the end it was an evening when it appeared nothing had changed at all. Borussia Dortmund, after succumbing to heavy defeats on their last three Bundesliga visits to the Allianz Arena (6-0, 4-1 and 5-1), were brushed aside by Bayern Munich in double-quick time, in the manner of a tiger swatting its paw at a fly.

More than 200 countries watched on television and tickets changed hands for upwards of €400 on the walk up the gentle incline to the stadium but we ended up watching a pair of tribute acts. Bayern stalked Dortmund with intent and entitlement before pinning them into premature submission as their great teams have done so many times in their modern bear pit.

Niko Kovac, at least partially vindicated following two games in which Bayern had (temporarily, as it turned out) lost the leadership of the Bundesliga and flirted with DfB Pokal humiliation at home to second-tier Heidenheim, said this “needs to be the benchmark for us”.

For Dortmund it was as if Lucien Favre – his meticulous planning, his eye for detail and his hunger for constant improvement – had never happened. In what had the potential to be this excellent season’s apex, the visiting side mirrored all the shortcomings that recent BVB incarnations had been hindered by. They were defensively loose, physically not strong enough and lacked the personality to impose themselves on an occasion of this magnitude.

Dan-Axel Zagadou, the Borussia Dortmund central defender, was out of his depth against Bayern.
Dan-Axel Zagadou, the Borussia Dortmund central defender, was out of his depth against Bayern. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Favre, the puppet master behind a remarkable progression after last season’s fractious and difficult journey, lacked the right answers when it mattered most. It was tempting to suggest, first off, that the coach should have picked Julian Weigl at centre-back instead of Dan-Axel Zagadou. The French teenager endured as difficult a first half as it was possible to imagine, presenting the pivotal second goal to Robert Lewandowski (his 200th in the Bundesliga) before being spared and replaced by Weigl at half-time with the game over at 4-0 and little more than a glorified kickabout left.

One could also argue the inclusion of Mo Dahoud – who hit the post with a glorious opportunity after a trademark breakaway with the game still goalless – conceded the advantage to Bayern in midfield in trying to stiffen it, with Mario Götze benched and Marco Reus isolated in a lone-striker role.

“Everyone knows I don’t want to play in that position,” Reus told reporters with a captain’s candour (he noted this was a relatively small detail and BVB had played “catastrophically”) as a column of silent, long faces trudged from the dressing room to the Dortmund team bus.

“After the match, it’s easy to say they [my choices] were not a good idea,” said Favre, “But I don’t know if it would have been better with another tactical plan.” That is true, of course. That missed chance – if scored, maybe it would have simply provoked Bayern into an even more explicit flexing of their muscles – was, however, the beginning and end of Dortmund’s meaningful contribution to the evening’s fare. Bayern were as rampant as their visitors were tentative, spurred on by a bellowing Allianz as they made clear from the opening minutes that they would not be resisted.

Their opening goal was as simple as it was emphatic, with Mats Hummels powering home a header from Thiago Alcântara’s corner after coming close with a similar effort in the opening two minutes; Javi Martínez’s blasted sidefoot finish for 3-0 was a black-ink full stop which ended any doubts about the destination of the points.

It has been argued on a multitude of occasions this season that Kovac’s strengths as Eintracht Frankfurt coach were weaknesses at Bayern, with ruggedness obscuring the delicacies of the champions’ palette. Here the coach’s footprint was an asset, with James Rodríguez left on the bench. Martínez, who was sensational, dominated from start to finish, Hummels put in his best display of an uneven season and Lewandowski reminded a global audience of his hunger for a scrap, which is sometimes obscured by his goalscoring feats.

Robert Lewandowski makes it 2-0 to Bayern.
Robert Lewandowski makes it 2-0 to Bayern. Photograph: Pixathlon/REX/Shutterstock

The centre-forward’s appetite meant he boiled over in the second half and flirted with what would have been a ridiculous red card with his team already home and hosed. All of it made clear that, while Bayern may not be at their peak, anything approaching their best is still likely to be enough at home. It is remarkable that Dortmund are still in this race, only one point off the top with six games to go. Many will murmur (and many already have) about collapse, the frittering away of a nine-point lead and psychological baggage, but the fact remains this title race is still alive with Bayern also having the tougher-looking run-in.

They face trips to overachieving Fortuna Düsseldorf and surging Leipzig, plus a last-day meeting with Eintracht, Kovac’s former team, who have grown so much since he left. Goal difference is no longer an issue with Saturday’s 10-goal swing tipping the balance definitively in Bayern’s favour. What the result must give Bayern is a sense of what this team – some of whom are surely playing their final games in the red shirt – can still do when they apply themselves, rather than lull them into any sort of complacency.

“We got schooled in the first half,” Thomas Delaney ruefully told Fox Soccer shortly after the final whistle. Yet the question of whether Bayern have learned their lessons, rather than only Dortmund, is just as likely to decide the destination of this season’s title.

Talking points

• Another tough afternoon for Schalke who were left fuming after having a point snatched from them against Eintracht Frankfurt. The referee, Sascha Stegemann, awarded a penalty – with a VAR assist – to the visitors which was tucked away in exemplary fashion by Luka Jovic in the ninth minute of stoppage time, the latest converted penalty since Bundesliga records began.

• It could have been even worse for Huub Stevens and company had Stuttgart not dropped two points in a frustrating draw at home to Nürnberg, meaning they are still five behind Die Königsblauen. The home fans also made clear their distaste at the prospect of Christoph Metzelder becoming the club’s next sporting director, unwilling to forget his seven-year association with Dortmund as a player.

• Hannover are all but gone at the bottom after losing on the short trip to Wolfsburg, a seventh straight defeat. “I only believe in limited miracles,” said the CEO and recently deposed president, Martin Kind. Leipzig – unbeaten in 12 and looking ever more secure in the top four - twice came from behind to win 4-2 at Bayer Leverkusen in a match stuffed with spectacular finishes. The clincher by Matheus Cunha, though, was something else.

Augsburg 0 Hoffenheim 4; Bayer Leverkusen 2 RB Leipzig 4;
Bayern Munich 5 Borussia Dortmund 0; Borussia M’gladbach 1 Werder Bremen 1; H Berlin 1 Fortuna Düsseldorf 2; Schalke 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 2; VfB Stuttgart 1 Nürnberg 1; Wolfsburg 3 Hannover 1 Friday Mainz 5 Freiburg 0

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich 28 46 64
2 Borussia Dortmund 28 31 63
3 RB Leipzig 28 31 55
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 28 25 52
5 Borussia M'gladbach 28 12 48
6 Wolfsburg 28 5 45
7 Hoffenheim 28 19 44
8 Werder Bremen 28 10 43
9 Bayer Leverkusen 28 2 42
10 Fortuna Dusseldorf 28 -14 37
11 Hertha Berlin 28 -5 35
12 Mainz 28 -15 33
13 Freiburg 28 -10 32
14 Schalke 04 28 -17 26
15 Augsburg 28 -17 25
16 Stuttgart 28 -33 21
17 Nurnberg 28 -30 17
18 Hannover 96 28 -40 14


Andy Brassell

The GuardianTramp

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