The Bavarian themed basement pub in London last Saturday evening was so packed that people were sitting on the stairs outside the entrance looking through the doorway in order to get a glimpse of the Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich match. Locals said that they had never known the place to be this busy and it’s a measure of how highly anticipated the fixture was that people were prepared to stand cheek by jowl with complete strangers just to watch a game down the pub on German TV. The silly thing was that the game was also on UK TV and there were a couple of nearby sports bars where you could have watched the game in comfort. But then, as my friend said at the time, “Where’s the fun in that?”
The game itself ended 3-0 to Bayern although Dortmund were not as bad as that. Their greatest crime was that they were profligate, something they have been guilty of in their previous defeats this season. In fairness, Bayern keeper, Manuel Neuer, did have some saves to make however Marco Reus and particularly Robert Lewandowski had good chances to score but failed. The opening goal came from the returning villain, Mario Götze who elected not to celebrate in front of his old home crowd, despite the fact that his insides must have been exploding.
Despite going a goal down Dortmund could have equalised but you sensed that another Bayern goal was never far away and Arjen Robben’s, intentional shot across the goalie from an acute angle for the second was the best of the three, not least because of the long pass from substitute, Thiago Alcântara. Thomas Müller rounded off matters with a third just before the end and neither side can have too many complaints. Dortmund’s makeshift defense held up reasonably well but Bayern are most likely the best team in Europe with probably the best coach.
Guardiola’s decision to leave Götze on the bench and bring him on for striker Mario Mandžukić worked a treat. Up until then Bayern had been somewhat circumspect in their approach to this game. This is unsurprising given that they were playing away in a highly charged match against some of the best and quickest attackers in Europe. Götze’s arrival marked a change in the team’s shape by introducing a false nine which gave the already overworked Dortmund midfielders and extra wrinkle.
The change in formation made all the difference and Bayern were a better side for it. That is not to say that Pep should have started with that formation but it was still a calculated risk because Bayern were initially quite vulnerable. That being said, the day belonged to them and there is a seven point gap between the Bavarian club at the top of the Bundesliga table and Dortmund who are now third because Bayer Leverkusen beat Hertha BSC 1-0 earlier in the day and are now second .
Subsequent the to match it transferred that someone leaked advanced team selections to the press. This “mole” has infuriated Guardiola who said that whoever he is, his days at Bayern are numbered. In other news a small brown furry creature was seen trying to leave the training ground but was unable to find the exit. Club officials are baffled.
To use an old cliche, other football matches were available and where better to start than with Dortmund’s great rivals Schalke 04 who roared in to a 2-0 lead at Eintracht Frankfurt only to be pegged back to 3-2. José Joselu scored his first two goals for Frankfurt but the Spaniard wasn’t the only brace bagger in the match. His teammate, Johannes Flum, scored an own goal to put Schalke 1-0 up only to make amends on 56 minutes with another in the right end.
The hi-jinks did not end there though as Benedikt Höwedes took advantage of some unpleasant Eintracht defending to rescue a point for Schalke at the death and make the final score 3-3.From 2-0 up, however, this was game the Gelsenkirchen club should have won and keeps the pressure on their coach Jens Keller who, many critics feel, is not up to the job.
Elsewhere, goal of the weekend goes to Hamburg’s Milan Badelj whose long range volley was a spectacular way to equalise after going a goal down at home to Hannover and proved to be the catalyst in what turned out to be a 3-1 win. Freiburg are not dealing with the extra burden of Europa League football and injuries too well this season but did get a very handy away win at the bottom club, Eintracht Braunschweig. They’re still 3rd from bottom but have two wins from three and the signs are that they are getting it together.
Second from bottom Nuremberg welcome back their old coach, Dieter Hecking who naffed off about a year ago to Wolfsburg. The match between the two ended 1-1. At the start of the season I said, on a podcast, that Augsburg’s attacker Halil Altıntop, signed in the Summer, wasn’t up to much and that his team may struggle yet again this season. He scored two goals on Saturday against Hoffenheim and Augsburg are ninth. Nicolai Müller returned from injury to the Mainz starting line-up against Werder Bremen and needed only seven minutes to score in what turned out to be a ding-dong 3-2 win for his team. The game was highlighted by some unfortunate goalkeeping gaffes from the Bremen ‘keeper, Sebastian Mielitz. Mainz’ Shinji Okazaki bagged a brace in that match.
Finally, Borussia Mönchengladbach have settled into the fourth Champions League spot after a very impressive win at Stuttgart. The goals came from the Brazilian striker Raffael and the Swedish full back Oscar Wendt. However, both goals were laid on by the 22 year old Patrick Herrmann. The German attacking midfielder does not enjoy a great profile away from the Bundesliga but is likely to be a hot property in the coming seasons, especially if he can get a decent run in Europe. He is definitely one to look out for and is part of a fantastic attacking foursome along with Raffael, Juan Arango and German international Max Kruse. ‘Gladbach are great value this season.