Borussia Dortmund shocked Bayern Munich in front of the German champions' home crowd on Saturday, delivering the Bavarian giants a 3-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena. With the title already decided, the result saw Bayern's incontestable lead in the Bundesliga cut to 17 points with four matches left to be played.
Although the result itself was of little meaning in terms of the Bundesliga table at season's end, it provided a spark of hope for the visitors on a number of levels.
The first and perhaps most important take-home message from the game is that even after Robert Lewandowski leaves for Munich this summer, life will go on. The Poland international was, perhaps surprisingly, spared of a potential conflict of interest as he was omitted from Jurgen Klopp's starting lineup on Saturday.
In the Pole's stead, Marco Reus got the nod in the center of attack, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang used defensively on the wing but as a secondary central player when in attack. The game plan worked brilliantly as BVB's attacking duo, aided by a high-pressing midfield, wreaked havoc on the Bavarians' high offside trap. Lewandowski came on as a substitute for the final half-hour, but BVB were already ahead 3-0 by that point.
As in Tuesday's 2-0 shock win over Real Madrid in the Champions League, Reus played exceptionally well in a central role, one that differs from his typical duties when deployed on the wing. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, used partly as a winger and partly as a deep-playing central midfielder, rebounded brilliantly following an individual nightmare in midweek, scoring the opener and assisting Reus for the second.
Dortmund have so long relied on Lewandowski for moments of magic that there were legitimate concerns over how well they would be able to cope without their prolific striker. The answer was suggested as Reus scored both goals against Real, a fixture in which Lewandowski was often kept quiet. It was confirmed in Saturday's match as Dortmund ran rampant for an hour with Aubameyang and Reus up front.
"If you beat Munich 3-0, you can really speak of a near-perfect game."
- Klopp, via Goal.com
BVB can also use what they learned against Bayern and apply it to the remainder of the season. Both the Ruhr side and Bayern play in the DFB-Pokal semifinals this week, and both are favorites to advance to a meeting in the final in May. After November's 3-0 drubbing by the Bavarians at the Signal-Iduna Park, Dortmund's ability to match that result in Munich will provide a huge boost of confidence ahead of a potential Pokal final meeting—even if Saturday's match was ultimately of little meaning in terms of the points won and lost.
Bayern will have more motivation in the Pokal, but should the two sides meet, Dortmund will have confidence and potentially more first-team staff on hand with Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender likely to return to action before the May 17 final.
Fans can appreciate that November's drubbing was a one-off, that Bayern and Dortmund will remain competitive, at least in head-to-head matches, if not in the context of a general league campaign. And should both sides advance to the Pokal final, all those watching can expect a riveting affair.