After 120 hard-fought minutes on Saturday evening, Bayern Munich took home the DFB Pokal with a 4-3 win on penalties.
Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund side travelled to Berlin hopeful but underdogs and the game played out as expected. Much of the pre-game talk was about Mats Hummels, switching sides this summer, and Pep Guardiola, taking control of Bayern for the last time.
Bürki; Piszczek, Bender, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer; Mkhitaryan, Weigl, Castro; Aubameyang, Reus.
There were few shocks in the team, as Shinji Kagawa had missed training earlier in the week and Dortmund looked to use a five-man defence like the one that stifled Bayern in the league earlier this season.
Though BVB started with five at the back and Reus almost alongside Aubameyang, Tuchel constantly adjusted his setup in the first half. Bender was pushed into midfield for much of the opening 45 minutes, with Castro playing more advanced in turn.
Bayern dominated possession but struggled to forge any opportunities as BVB looked to attack on the break. A rasping effort from Thomas Müller went over Roman Bürki’s bar harmlessly and the Swiss denied Douglas Costa from the edge of the box in an otherwise quiet half on the chances front.
At the other end, BVB’s best opening saw Marco Reus mis-control on the break before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang smashed wide with his weak foot.
The big talking point from the first half is the decision just to book Franck Ribéry. A coming together, shall we say, with Gonzalo Castro led to an exchange of words and the Frenchman decided to make his point a little too forcefully, catching Castro in the eye with a sinister push. Marco Fritz couldn’t have seen in a split-second but his fourth official was incredibly close and the decision to book Ribéry was lenient if we’re being generous.
A Sven Bender volley was less than a half-chance and the 0-0 scoreline was only fair heading into the break.
With both teams tired and eager to win, the game soon opened up. Douglas Costa became more willing to run on the outside and caused Marcel Schmelzer some issues before the defender was substituted with an injury.
Sokratis built on a solid first half to deny Robert Lewandowski on more than one occasion as Bayern had more joy down the wings. Mats Hummels also made an incredible tackle to delay the Pole, who was set to go through on goal.
Counters proved more effective as Bayern opened up, thanks to some improved decision making. Aubameyang struck over and Jerome Boateng was forced to head over for a corner as Dortmund’s frontline received a second wind and a boost in confidence.
That momentum was quickly stopped as Mats Hummels joined Schmelzer in being subbed off: Bayern had more of the ball, more of the chances and now more substitutes. The evening was hard on the legs and it had started to break BVB down.
After ripping Vidal’s shirt and escaping the award of a penalty, Sokratis continued to shine and almost single-handedly produced the biggest chance of the 90 minutes. Driving through from defence, the Greek avoided a number of challenges and released Lukasz Piszczek in space on the right-wing. A ball came in for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but it quickly joined the BVB fans behind the goal at the Marathontor end of the Olympiastadion. The biggest chance of the 90 minutes, one the Gabonese would rue missing.
Tired but unwilling to leave anything on the pitch come the final whistle, BVB pressed on. Erik Durm produced a match-saving challenge to deny Robert Lewandowski inside the box. The versatile defender was intelligent and good on the ball when he came on and he almost certainly kept BVB level as Lewandowski pulled the trigger.
There was another injury scare moments later as Douglas Costa left his mark on Durm’s ankle but the 24-year-old continued unscathed.
A pulled effort from Mkhitaryan went wide but wasn’t poor enough to be tapped in by a clearly exhausted Aubameyang at the back post. Dortmund may have done a lot of defending on Saturday evening, but there were also chances to stun Bayern with the opener.
As it were, the opener never arrived. Shinji Kagawa and Kingsley Coman entered the fray but had little impact; the latter only served to remind us how strong Sokratis was on the night as he hoped to latch onto a ball in behind the imperious Greek defender.
Thomas Tuchel has since admitted he got it wrong. No matter how well he played, Sokratis shouldn’t really be stepping up for the third penalty and Sven Bender certainly shouldn’t be taking the second.
That is, of course, much easier to determine with hindsight. Their two misses handed Bayern the advantage. Goals from Kagawa, Reus, and Aubameyang were futile as every Bayern player to step up bar Joshua Kimmich perfectly swept the ball into a corner and out of Roman Bürki’s reach.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn’t step up, maybe he was too shattered. Reus and Aubameyang could’ve gone sooner but the fourth and fifth efforts could’ve been decisive. It wasn’t to be.
Four final defeats in a row is hard to take and this is hardly the end Thomas Tuchel’s first season Borussia Dortmund deserved.
Football is cruel, we already knew that, but we’ll be back.