Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich completed their domestic double on Saturday, hoisting the DFB-Pokal just one week after celebrating their Bundesliga title win.
The Bavarians met tough opposition in the form of Borussia Dortmund, and the two sides were deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes. Arjen Robben put the tournament's record champions ahead on 107 minutes, though, and with BVB pressing for a late equalizer deep in stoppage time, Thomas Mueller sealed the result in Bayern's favor with a second goal.
The result saw Bayern lift a fourth out of six possible trophies in what was Pep Guardiola's first season at the helm, while Dortmund ended the season with just one. The match has many take-home messages and long-term implications.
Bayern Had a Good Season
In the a posteriori perspective, Bayern had a good season. Looking back, they won four trophies and played in the Champions League semi-final.
There were trials and tribulations along the way. One of the trophies (the UEFA Superpokal) was a one-off won in penalties, and another (the Club World Cup) was won by beating Guangzhou Evergrande and Raja Casablanca. And the humiliating manner of Bayern's exit from the Champions League, a record 4-0 loss in Munich, will be hard to ignore.
Any devoted fan will expect more, especially from a team that was so comprehensively dominant a year ago and invested significantly in the 2013 summer transfer window.
Still, trophies are the metric by which success is measured, and few teams could hope to match four in a season. Guardiola had his team coasting in the Bundesliga until it was won and despite an overall downturn in form, managed to spur his team on to claim the Pokal as well. Not bad for a first season, although expectations in 2014-15 will be even higher.
Dortmund Had a Disappointing Season
Dortmund started the season in magnificent form, beating Bayern in the DFL-Superpokal and vying for first place in the Bundesliga for most of the fall campaign. And they also had a great run toward the end of the season. But in the end, all they had to show for their efforts was the Superpokal, a trophy awarded from a one-off match at the very beginning of the season.
BVB were out of contention for the Bundesliga title before the winter break and played valiantly but naively in elimination tournaments. They could have advanced past Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals but weren't clinical enough when they could have scored several goals in both legs. And in the Pokal final, they didn't have the lethality, the bite that Bayern had—Robben showing up at the back post to tap in, for example.
It may be true that Dortmund had an extensive list of injuries to cope with. And they may have legitimate grievances over some of the officiating in the Pokal final. But such was the same in last year's Champions League final, and all that is remembered from that day is that Bayern won. Reality is harsh, history is cruel; Dortmund need to remember these truths if they are to become a serious, long-term international power.
Germany Are in Trouble Ahead of the World Cup
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm was forced to withdraw after just 31 minutes, having picked up a foot injury. The 30-year-old was brought into the tunnel immediately for an examination, which is a major concern for Germany as they prepare for the World Cup in Brazil.
Lahm is Germany's only experienced full-back and the only who comes close to being world class. He is a leader for the team and, critically, has the ability to play in defensive midfield—this being an area where Germany are short of fit, in-form staff.
Bastian Schweinsteiger missed the Pokal final with a knee injury, and Sami Khedira only just returned from cruciate ligament surgery. Ilkay Gundogan will miss the World Cup with his perpetual back problems, and at this point, Lahm may be preferred by Joachim Low in a midfield role.
If Lahm and Schweinsteiger are ruled out of the World Cup, Germany will be in serious trouble both in terms of their leadership and quality in the center of the pitch.
Goal-Line Technology Needed in German Football
In the 64th minute, Mats Hummels headed the ball over the goal line. His shot was cleared by Dante and play was allowed to continue, with Bayern beginning to break toward the other end. The play probably should never have gone forward in the first place; Hummels appeared to be marginally offside.
Still, had Hummels not been offside, justice would not have been served. And had the offside not been called and Bayern scored on the counter after relative chaos ensued, that would not have been just either.
Disregarding justice and considering only the goal-line incident, though, Dante's clearance was the next in a growing number of examples of why technology needs to be implemented in determining whether a ball crossed the goal line. Goals are not like decisions for throw-ins or corner-kicks; they directly determine outcome. Everything should be done to ensure that they are awarded when merited and disallowed when not.
The Guardiola/Ribery Vine Will Go Down in the Annals of History
Pep Guardiola and Franck Ribery have generally enjoyed a good relationship since the trainer took his post as head coach. So when the Frenchmen went down apparently injured in front of him on the touchline, the trainer came to his player's aid. Although the way he did so was perhaps a little odd.
With Ribery on his hands and knees, Guardiola bent behind him and gave the attacker a quick and vigorous abdominal rub (see video here) and a couple pats on the his flank. Not typical from the coach, but it seemed to have a positive effect—Ribery was soon on his feet and playing once more.
Bayern Finally Play to Strengths, Finally Succeed
The current Bayern Munich team is one that was built by former coach Jupp Heynckes to be balanced between attack and defense. Pep Guardiola took the helm last summer and changed just about everything, his possession-based style of football effective enough to mask the Bavarians' weaknesses when they took on ordinary opponents but utterly exposed when they took on elite, in-form opposition in the form of Real Madrid.
As such, Bayern won the Bundesliga in record time but were humiliated by Real Madrid in to the tune of a 5-0 aggregate score in the Champions League.
Since the nightmare 4-0 loss in Munich to Real, Guardiola has made many changes to his team and tactics. And on Saturday, he was rewarded. Bayern played an aggressive, almost bullying style of football; in this manner, their style resembled that of Heynckes' team, which won the treble after being the most yellow-carded team in the Champions League by a considerable distance.
Referee Florian Meyer was rather lenient, but Bayern accumulated five yellow cards to Dortmund's zero; they committed professional fouls when needed and left Dortmund frustrated more often than not. As part of a three-center-back defense that allowed him to essentially play as a sweeper (and thus very close to his deep midfield role from the Heynckes era), Javi Martinez was back at his best.
Later, Guardiola brought on Daniel van Buyten to play in central defense, leaving Bayern with, by the trainer's estimation, four center-backs on the pitch. Dortmund didn't have space to counterattack and, when they did, were fouled.
Bayern's strength is not in passing the ball 100 times successively and scoring. It's in using their muscle to intimidate and frustrate their opponents and their individual skill to cut through opponents at the opportune moment. It took exactly one full season, but Guardiola appears to have figured it out at last.
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