Borussia Dortmund suffered only their second Bundesliga defeat of 2017 on Saturday evening, losing 4-1 away to Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena. Odd as it may sound, the scoreline was actually one of the better things about the game.
Dortmund’s personnel woes were apparent before the game, as Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa had not made the trip to Munich on Friday. Lukasz Piszczek was available but only on the bench. Head coach Thomas Tuchel opted for a 3-4-2-1 system that often turned into a 5-3-2 with Ousmane Dembele joining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top. The young Frenchman had the first chance of the game after a nice run on the ball, but was seemingly caught in two minds between shooting and setting up the Gabonese, ending up with a halfway house.
It only took Bayern 188 seconds to score the opener, with Franck Ribery connecting well with a Philipp Lahm cross. Arjen Robben not only obstructed Roman Burki’s view but also got a slight touch on the ball, making it an awkward-looking yet unsavable ball for Dortmund’s goalkeeper.
Six minutes later, the game was seemingly in the books already. Former Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski scored a direct free-kick, albeit with a lot of help from Dembele, who actually ducked away in the defensive wall. Had the 19-year-old just stood his ground, he could probably have nodded the ball away.
Bayern were now running rampant and right over Dortmund’s midfield, with Gonzalo Castro and Raphael Guerreiro unable to find answers against Thiago Alcantara and wing-backs Marcel Schmelzer, who had a torrid time with Robben all day, and Felix Passlack too often isolated in their one-on-one matchups. Robben could have added third and fourth goals with his trademark inside-cutting move but the Dutchman whisked shots just wide of the post.
Dortmund got back into the game out of the blue when, on one of the very few occasions they got out from Bayern’s stranglehold, Arturo Vidal failed to clear a Passlack cross, teeing up Guerreiro. The Euro 2016 winner let fly and scored an absolute banger from outside the box.
The goal settled Dortmund’s nerves a bit for the final 25 minutes of the first half, Bayern didn’t create more than a few half-chances until intermission.
In a puzzling move, Sebastian Rode replaced Castro at half-time. Even if Castro was injured, it boggles the mind why Rode would be preferred to Nuri Sahin or Mikel Merino in that situation.
Sadly, the Black and Yellows again conceded early in the second period, with Robben finally pulling his move off after Marc Bartra had stepped up at the wrong moment and lost an aerial duel in midfield. The left of Dortmund’s defence exposed, Robben ran at and past Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Schmelzer with ease and slotted home.
Dortmund had one chance to get back into the game yet again, but Jerome Boateng cleared an Aubameyang attempt off the line. In the counter-attacking move, Lewandowski evaded Passlack’s marking and won a penalty off Burki. Replay showed he actually stepped on the Switzerland international’s foot, but it looked a stonewall penalty in real time.
Luckily for Dortmund, referee Marco Fritz did not listen to Ribery, who sprinted towards him yelling for Bürki to be sent off like the charming and even-keeled sportsman he is. At any rate, Lewandowski converted and put the final nail in the coffin of a game that, really, had been decided after four minutes in the second half.
Dortmund were clearly trying to save some energy for AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, with Dembele and Guerreiro getting subbed and rested early. Bayern had a few chances to score more goals but were largely content with enjoying their possession.
Apart from a harsh Vidal challenge on Schmelzer that should have earned the Chilean a second booking, the game fizzled out without much to report. Bayern were thoroughly deserved winners who could’ve battered Dortmund even more ruthlessly, while the visitors were always going to struggle without perhaps their most important player in Weigl and their in-form midfielder in Kagawa.
With 1899 Hoffenheim also losing on Saturday, 2-1 at Hamburger SV, the defeat at Munich will likely have little bearing on the Bundesliga run-in this season, while Tuchel will know how to pick up his team’s moral ahead of the Monaco game.