Helped by one of Borussia Dortmund’s former idols, Bayern Munich inflicted what may prove to be a knockout blow in the Bundesliga title race with a 3-0 victory at the Westfalenstadion.
Mario Gotze , the man who so embodies the gulf in resources and identities of the two clubs after his move across the divide this summer had his arrival off the bench greeted with an expected chorus of boos and whistles. Just 10 minutes later those same fans were too wounded to make a sound as their former star curled a superb effort into the corner to put Bayern in front. As Dortmund poured forward in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added two more in the final five minutes to move seven points clear of their rivals in the Bundesliga standings and four in front of Bayer Leverkusen.
It may still be November, but such an advantage is cavernous when considering that Pep Guardiola’s side have dropped just four points in their first 13 matches. With Dortmund missing their entire first-choice defense to injury, Bayern knew this was an opportunity to take a major step toward reclaiming their title. And they took it.
Bayern also had players missing, with Franck Ribery having joined Bastian Schweinsteiger on the sidelines. The absentees perhaps contributed to a fairly cagey opening. Certainly that appeared to be true from Dortmund’s point of view. Jurgen Klopp was more cautious than his typical all-out high-pressing approach, likely trying to offer more protection to a makeshift back line that included 34-year-old Manuel Friedrich, only just recruited as a free agent.
Bayern were able to keep possession fairly comfortably for long spells in the opening period, while Dortmund were the more threatening side on the odd occasion when they got their quick incisive vertical passing going. Two of the best openings fell the way of Jakub Blaszczykowski but the midfielder twice made poor decisions when laid in down the right of the box. Marco Reus might have done better too when Jerome Boateng’s slip allowed him through the middle but, moving away from goal, his shot was straight at Manuel Neuer.
Bayern’s possession produced to chances for Mario Mandzukic. First the Croatian striker’s acrobatic volley was kept out by Roman Weidenfeller, before he just failed to get on the end of Robben’s teasing cross.
But Bayern, perhaps sensing that the game was there for the taking, upped the pressure in the second half. Increasingly Dortmund became penned back inside their own half by Bayern’s passing. All the visitors needed was the cutting edge and, with a sense of inevitability, it was Gotze who provided it. From Muller’s crisp low pass to his feet just inside the area, the midfielder took a good first touch and then with little back lift produced a skillful effort with the outside of his right foot that beat his former teammate to the bottom corner.
Dortmund now had no choice but to go for broke. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench and they had a chance to get level too. Once again, though, the home side lacked that killer touch in the opposition box with Henrikh Mkhitaryan this time unable to take a cross first-time when he was unmarked.
In contrast, Bayern were ruthless. First they beat Dortmund at their own game with a quick counter that saw Robben take a long pass down the left of the box before chipping Weidenfeller from the angle and finding the far corner. And the defeat became cruel when Muller swept in a low cross from the superb Philipp Lahm.
Having now lost three matches on the bounce, Dortmund are suddenly in danger of their season falling apart. Bayern, meanwhile, look increasingly imperious.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.