Borussia Dortmund failed to cut Bayern Munich’s advantage to two points on Matchday 25 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, drawing 0-0 with the Bavarians on Saturday evening in Signal Iduna Park.
The surprising inclusion of Erik Durm, who got the nod over the likes of Nuri Sahin or Shinji Kagawa, had most onlookers guessing what shape Thomas Tuchel would select for the meeting with the table toppers.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner lined up on the right wing, but not in an advanced role, as he had done a number of times in recent weeks, but as an extra defender whenever Bayern had the ball. Lukasz Piszczek became a third centre-back in a 5-4-1.
Left-Back Marcel Schmelzer also didn’t push quite as high up the pitch, which allowed Dortmund’s “regular” centre-backs Mats Hummels and Sven Bender to push up into the space behind Bayern’s lone striker Robert Lewandowski on a number of occasions.
When Dortmund were on the ball, they tried to bridge deep into Bayern’s half quickly and pushed forward in a 3-4-3 formation.
Both teams created half chances in the early goings: Thomas Müller had Bayern’s first opportunity after five minutes, but couldn’t keep his shot down, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang outsprinted Joshua Kimmich in the 11th minute, only to see Manuel Neuer throw his hat onto his shot from a tight angle.
After a nervous start with some sloppy passing in the buildup, Dortmund got a foot into the game and exerted some control over the visitors, but without getting into dangerous situations themselves.
Douglas Costa had the first really big chance of the game in the 28th minute. After an unsuccessful corner, Bayern broke away with Dortmund undermanned. Arjen Robben found the Brazil international, who had about 45 yards towards the goal all for himself. Luckily for the Black and Yellows, Bürki remained calm and stood his ground, while it looked like Costa was waiting for the Suisse to commit himself. He then tried to go for the nutmeg, but Bürki kept the attempt out with his feet.
Bayern became much more dominant in the final 15 minutes of the first half, with Lewandowski, Robben and Vidal missing chances to open the scoring.
Aubameyang again opened the half for Dortmund with a half chance. Ilkay Gündogan sent him down the pitch after Xabi Alonso lost the ball in midfield, but the Gabonese failed to get a good effort off and barely troubled Neuer in Bayern’s goal.
The visitors were clearly the better the side in the second period and had the best opportunity to score a goal 20 minutes after kick-off: Vidal reacted quicker than anyone else as the ball was bouncing around after a corner and fired away a thunderous effort from 12 yards. Incredibly, Bürki got his hand up in time and tipped the ball onto the crossbar.
Bayern continued to get into the danger area time and time again, but passionate and intelligent defending from Dortmund’s entire back line made real chances a scarce commodity.
The Black and Yellows failed to relief their defence with attacks of their own, however, with Aubameyang and Marco Reus particularly struggling to get much done. To be fair, Bayern pressed Dortmund into a lot of inaccurate passes from their own third.
Both sides seemed content with a point relatively early in the game. The hosts had one last chance to get a golden goal when substitute striker Adrian Ramos got on the end of an Aubameyang cross in the 88th minute, but the Colombian’s header failed to come close to hitting the target.
Even though the game didn’t see many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities for either side, it was quite obviously one of the best matches of the season: It had tempo, brilliant defending from both sides and very strong individual performances – Hummels for Dortmund, Kimmich and Vidal for Bayern.
On balance, the visitors were the better team and would probably have deserved a win, although Bürki’s heroics deserved a clean sheet, too.
With the draw, Bayern keep their five-point cushion in the table. A title race in the Bundesliga seems very unlikely now.
BVB’s focus will presumably shift even more to the cup competitions: Thursday’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Europa League is right around the corner.