A match that was hyped by the English-language media as “der Klassiker” (see this writer’s history lesson here) did not disappoint. The 1-0 win by the Schwarzgelb in the Westfalenstadion was an instant classic reminiscent of the hey-days of the Kloppo era.
In contrast to their previous six or so matches against the Evil Empire, Dortmund put away one of the first chances they had and put the impetus on a faltering Bayern attack to find a way back into the match. Dortmund showed remarkable grit and defensive rigidity.
It is hard to find a negative in such a stalwart team effort, but Dortmund could have put the match to bed had they converted another chance.
From the last match’s ratings: “Tuchel’s choices from start to finish defied conventional wisdom and were gambles. By and large they worked.” Second verse, same as the first. Though playing a back three against Bayern was not a surprise (since the 5-1 thrashing they received last year), the inclusion of Ramos as well as Aubameyang was. Conventional Twitter wisdom bemoaned the lineup prior to the match, but its method of deployment showed Tuchel’s wisdom and match-plan. The 25-minute frenzied opening was vintage Kloppo in its pressing intensity, and putting Ramos and Aubameyang to play dual strikers provided targets to cross to as well as vital pressure outlets later in the match. Durm’s substitution was even more curious, but paid off as well.
In any other match, Roman would be man of the match. Probably his best match for BVB saw him keep Dortmund in the game making some crucial saves throughout. Turned off once with Xabi Alonso’s long-range effort that rattled the bar, but his outstretched, finger-tip intervention tipped a perfect cross off the flight path that would have been a likely nod-in from Lewandowski in the second half.
Ginter kept up his excellent form at center back. At this point, it is hard to keep him out of the lineup at the expense of Bartra. His defensive abilities in the air are outstanding and his tactical awareness is growing every match. It was his quick recognition as the rear-most in the line of three center-backs to step up quickly, trapping Ribéry offside that kept the score-line in Dortmund’s favor in the second half.
Papa put in another outstanding performance. Like Bürki, in most other matches, he would be man of the match. He snuffed out every opportunity Bayern had in the middle and neutralized Lewy all match long. The closest Bayern came to scoring was when he lost Lewy one time and the Pole narrowly sent his header wide of the post. Sokratis is by far the most consistent and most valuable player Dortmund currently have.
Bartra showed his defensive vulnerabilities again, as well as his poor decision-making. While he still performed fairly well, he was lucky to be on the pitch at the end of the match. He was booked early on for a pretty reckless tackle in the 19th minute and was fortunate to not see his second after tugging back Lewandowski only minutes later. Bartra is one of those defenders who does better while tracking back to goal, a situation that is not ideal.
Had a very solid defensive performance and managed to contribute offensively providing the pre-assist to Mario Götze.
I had to check toward the end of the match to figure out if Weigl actually played because he did not stand out at all; for better or for worse. Clearly Bayern marked him out of the match offensively as most of what little build-up play Dortmund had come from Götze and Ramos tracking back and getting open for passes from the defense. The kid did not have a bad performance, but it was rather unremarkable when compared to his teammates.
Having Schmelle back was wonderful. While Sokratis is a perfectly acceptable captain, Schmelle’s on pitch leadership brings such a calming influence when things start to go sideways. He showed a little bit of rust and got skinned by Lewy on the disallowed goal, but made up for it with his hard work. Had to come off late for an unspecified injury.
This was the Mario Götze Dortmund had been waiting for. Man of the match in this writer’s estimation. The entire stadium could tell how much this game meant to him and he left his all on the pitch. Relentless in pressing, constantly positive in possession, he was a fury. Endeared himself for all time to the Gelbewand with not only his Schadenfreudelicious nutmeg of Mats Hummels in his assist to PEA, but wrecked Dortmund’s favorite villain Frank Ribéry with a rightly booked two-kneed challenge. Left the pitch to ovations from the Borussia faithful in the 77th minute after running out of gas. Could have only topped this performance with a goal himself at the away end and knee sliding toward the Bavarian fans. Post-match highlight was hearing FTW writer Sean Keyser relate that a Bayern fan on their site forum had asked where this Mario Götze had been at Bayern; to which our joy-filled journalist replied, “On the bench.”
Andre Schürrle is back, fit, and put in a tireless performance for two-thirds of the match. He did a great job defensively, containing Bayern Wunderkind Joshua Kimmich to a rather pedestrian performance and was always a positive threat going forward. Came off for Durm in the 68th minute.
Adrian Ramos has to be the most professional player in the Schwartzgelb this year. He never looks frustrated with being the back-up, and when he gets his starts, it is evident he does exactly what Tuchel wants. Most BVB fans groaned when the lineups were issued, fearing the Ramos-on-the-wing formation that had previously led to so much frustration, but in this 3-5-2, Ramos played as a target striker and played it fabulously. In a match in which the name of the game was defensive solidity and physicality, the tall, strong Colombian won ball after ball, knocking on headers to a streaking Aubameyang and Schürrle. Ramos kept the Bayern back line honest and Neuer constantly on his toes. He also did a fabulous job checking back to receive passes and press when on defense.
Auba scored one of the oddest strikes of Dortmund’s year, quickly stabbing at Götze’s pass and redirecting it into the ex-Schalke keeper’s net. The mere fact that Auba made Neuer, who was caught on the wrong foot look like an immobile idiot waving frantically (yet again) for some phantom foul or offside, made the goal priceless. His best moment was when he completely blew by Mats Hummels simply using his speed to the delight of the home crowd. Badly missed a glorious chance to ice the game late in the second half.
The most surprising substitution of the match was Erik Durm, who made his season debut coming on for Schürrle. He showed more rust on the ball than a sunken World War II submarine, but at this point of the match, slotting into a virtual sixth defender maximized his speed, height, and defensive strength.
Replaced Götze late in the game. Did not have too much influence on the match.
Even when given only four minutes, the American kid impresses. Came on for Schmelle at full time and had an immediate impact in quickly retrieving the ball and driving toward the corner. Knowing exactly what he was doing, he drew a stupid foul from young and hyped Renato Sanchez, and killed off about a minute of time. Pulisic may not be the flashy, cocky dribbler and goal-scorer, but his decision-making is eons beyond his peers at his age.