Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have experienced very different seasons. The two German Giants have, at times, been split by as many as 16 spots in the table. Bayern have dominated the Bundesliga from the start of the campaign and held a 10-point lead over Wolfsburg going into their visit to the Signal Iduna Park Saturday night to take on Dortmund. The hosts were in unfamiliar territory for much of the year as a sluggish start to league play had them sitting in the relegation zone as recently as February, but a strong run of form has elevated them to 10th in the table, but still 31 points behind their visitors.
Despite the large gap between the two sides, the atmosphere at the Signal Iduna rivaled that of a cup final. Over 80,000 fans packed the park to watch arguably the biggest game in German soccer. The two sides seemed to cancel each other out for most of the first half, as possession was evenly split and the chances were equal…at zero a piece.
A Dortmund legend finally gave the fans a goal to celebrate in the 36th minute. Unfortunately for the BvB, that legend was wearing a red and blue shirt. After Roman Weidenfeller did well to deny Thomas Müller from inside the penalty area, Robert Lewandowski was able to power the rebound into an empty net with his head. This was the Polish forward’s second goal against his former club since leaving them for Bayern in the summer, and both of these goals were missing one thing, a celebration. This headed effort was the solo tally in the first 45 minutes, and the two sides went into the dressing rooms with Bayern up 1-0.
Dortmund started the second half brightly, and their efforts were nearly rewarded on the hour mark. The host’s biggest star, Marco Reus, found himself on the edge of the 18-yard-box with only Manuel Neuer to beat. Ten minutes later, Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara finally returned to action after nearly a year absence from injury. The former Barcelona midfielder could do little to impact the match, however, as Reus and Co., as well as the home fans, seemed to be inspired to find an equalizer.
In the final minutes of the match, Marco Reus again found himself with a glorious chance to equalize. A foul gave the German sensation a free kick opportunity from just over 20 yards near the middle of the park. Reus hit a world-class hipping shot up and over the wall aimed at the Neuer’s bottom corner, but the World Cup-winning keeper showed the world why he is considered the best in his position with an unbelievable one arm save on the goal line to keep his side ahead.
This would prove to be the last threat on either goal for the night, and Bayern Munich left the industrial German city with a hard fought 1-0 victory. The victory maintained Pep Guardiola’s side’s 10-point stranglehold on the league’s pole position, while Dortmund still sat in the middle of the table. However, this strong performance from the men in yellow shows how much they have improved in recent months. Even though their usual Champions League berth is out of the question, fans will be buoyed by the fact that their team is once again playing like they deserve to be included with Europe’s elite.