Bayern Munich ended a six-game winless streak against Borussia Dortmund to move into the DFB-Pokal semifinals with a commanding victory that belied the narrow 1-0 scoreline.
It was the perfect way for Bayern to celebrate their 113th birthday and both the performance and the result will keep hopes firmly alive that they could be set for an incredible clean sweep of silverware both at home and abroad this season.
Arjen Robben got the only goal at the Allianz Arena with a delightful strike just before half-time, but Bayern had almost all of the game’s chances and could have won the match far more comfortably.
While Dortmund have dominated the clashes between the sides in the previous two campaigns, including a 5-2 victory in the competition's final last season, Bayern immediately set about showing why they are a different animal this season.
The home side began at a thunderous pace and could have been two-goals up inside 15 minutes. First Robben, in the lineup in place of the suspended Franck Ribery, perhaps gave a glimpse of why he hasn’t been a regular this season as he selfishly elected to shoot when played in by Toni Kroos with Mario Mandzukic waiting in the middle. Roman Weidenfeller made a fairly comfortable save at his near post.
Just a few minutes later an even better opportunity fell Bayern’s way. From a deflected cross from the right, Weidenfeller could only palm the ball up into Kroos’s path at the back post but the midfielder failed to adjust quickly enough and fluffed a shot wide of the target.
The immediate pressure relented for a time, with Dortmund largely sitting back as Kevin Grosskreutz provided them with an extra man in the middle to try and limit Bayern’s phenomenal midfield trio.
But not even that tactical switch by Jurgen Klopp was enough to prevent Bayern’s dominance. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Bayern’s pressure was relentless.
Bastian Schweinsteiger chipped a delightful ball over the top to Javi Martinez whose well-taken first-time volley was parried away by Weidenfeller before Robben shot poorly over the bar after beating Nevan Subotic to a cross-field ball on the edge of the area.
With Bayern refusing to let their opponents settle, they got their reward with two minutes left on the first-half clock.
Marcel Schmelzer was caught dawdling on the ball in his own box and Philipp Lahm embodied the desire in his side by charging in and knicking the ball back to the edge of the area for Robben. From there the Dutchman picked his spot and made up for his earlier misses with a pinpoint curling effort over Weidenfeller and into the top corner of the net.
After being given a chasing for much of the first half, Dortmund had to improve to stand any chance of maintaining their status in the DFB-Pokal. To their credit, the visitors came out after the break with a greater preparedness to match Bayern’s desire off the ball.
But Dortmund’s attacking play still lacked the clinical nature to which fans have been so accustomed to in recent times. The best they could muster early on were efforts from distance from Ilkay Gundogan and Marcos Reus that never looked like beating Manuel Neuer.
The difference was marked whenever Bayern went forward and they could have extended their lead on the hour mark.
Thomas Muller produced a clever flick at the near post into the path of Kroos, but, on the stretch, he could only poke the ball toward goal and Weidenfeller parried away. Moments later the Dortmund keeper again denied Kroos with a diving save from a powerful 20-yard effort.
It continued to be Bayern that created the better chances and Daniel van Buyten will still be wondering how he failed to score as he got up completely unmarked right in front of goal from six yards out but headed Kroos’s corner over the bar.
Even with time expiring, Dortmund failed to make any inroads, with Robert Lewandowski, reportedly being courted by Bayern, an anonymous figure in attack. Dante and Mandzukic were both denied with headers in the closing stages, but it was not to matter as substitute Julian Schieber headed over Dortmund's last chance of an equalizer deep into injury time.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.