FC Bayern win, but so does German football. The 1:0 win against Borussia Dortmund was just what the Bundesliga needed to demonstrate its quality as it’s the only major European league that fans can watch.
Four talking points on this fascinating match.
A fine spectacle
Whether you love or hate the result, you have to admit that the Bundesliga had the opportunity to demonstrate its worth to a worldwide audience, and it did so through the two clubs that are iconic in German football.
There was quality on both sides. Stressful moments for the two teams. Good tactics and pure talent on offer. The match was not as intense as the 2013 Champions League final, but it was a fine display and I hope that observers will take notice across the planet.
Bend but don’t break
The first half of this match showed us the importance of resilience in sports. The Bees have played well, only to find their efforts cancelled by a moment of brilliance. The Reds pressed well in the first 15 minutes, with enough cohesion for BVB to struggle to find their way out of their own zone.
However, lack of piloting by Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka from central positions prevented the creation of major scoring chances. The hosts regrouped, won many individual battles and found spaces between Bayern’s central midfield and back line. That pressure by a well-drilled Ruhr side was complemented by some inspired passing, and it took fine defensive work by Alphonso Davies and Jérôme Boateng to kill a few good opportunities.
Late in the half, the Bavarians were passing in tight space in the final third before Kimmich found just enough to his right for a golf chip that surprised Roman Bürki. A shot so accurate that it would have required anticipation of the move to save it. He didn’t have that.
Bend but don’t break. That’s how it works in sports, even though it may create the appearance of unfairness.
Another matchday, another glowing comment on Davies. Had it not been for him, Bayern could have gone down by a goal or two in the first half.
Luckily for Bayern, the Canadian may have been the most composed player on the pitch. He schooled Erling Haaland by catching up with him with pure foot speed and technique, taking the ball away with apparent ease. He also found his way out of sticky situations on the ball.
The prodigy made one of the most brilliant moves in the 33th minute, saving the day as Haaland went past a slide tackling David Alaba. The young striker was slated for a one-on-one with Manuel Neuer until Davies sped up and broke up the play. Oof.
No service for long spells
Players such as Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry were quiet for long spells. Haaland struggled for BVB. The teams had to fight for every chance, at least until end-to-end action started after 75 minutes. Why?
There are two reasons to explain it. First, the amount of service was scarce. Second, both teams had limited penetration in the final third, as illustrated by the following screenshot.
Bayern and BVB both showed that despite imperfections, they were generally disciplined off the ball for most of the match. Thus, Neuer and Bürki were largely protected from clear-cut short and mid-range chances, which are far more dangerous than long attempts.
Structure ultimately restricted creativity on the day.