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Three Observations from Borussia Dortmund’s Heartbreaking Loss in Munich

Borussia Dortmund traveled to Munich to face Bayern and lost, yet again

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
Haaland went off early injured
Photo by Günter Schiffmann - Pool/Getty Images

In what was a very entertaining but heartbreaking match, Bayern Munich came out winners on the day against our beloved Borussia Dortmund for the third time this season by the score of 4-2. Having not won in Munich in the Bundesliga since 2014, Dortmund faced the daunting task of trying take down Bayern in what is still considered the Bundesliga’s showcase fixture. Missing several key players due to injury, it was a rare dream start for Die Schwarzgelben as they took the lead after only a minute with a deflected shot from Erling Haaland that beat Manuel Neuer. Minutes later, BVB went up 2-0 thanks to a quick counter attack involving Mahmoud Dahoud, Nico Schulz, and Thorgan Hazard, who set up Haaland nicely for a brace inside ten minutes played. Unfortunately, that would be the last goal for Dortmund, as Bayern would then begin to dominate the match.

Looking very sluggish at the start, the mighty Bayern awakened after the second goal and Dortmund could not hold off the onslaught. Bayern clawed back to within one, when Leroy Sané dribbled past Nico Schulz and picked out Robert Lewandowski with a quick pass. Borussia Dortmund sat deeper and deeper and while Edin Terzic had Emre Can slide into midfield to try and connect the team higher up the pitch, a Mahmoud Dahoud foul on Kingsley Coman gave the hosts a penalty shout shortly before half-time. After a VAR review, Lewandowski finished with his ridiculous looking trademark run-up and jump skip penalty (excuse me while I go throw up), finishing past goal-keeper Marwin Hitz.

Borussia Dortmund looked a little more solid after the break and had a clear shout for a penalty of their own. Marco Reus appeared to have been tripped running into the center of the box, but the referee appeared to have swallowed his whistle. Dortmund were still a threat on the counter with Haaland, but he unfortunately suffered a knock after a foul by Jand the bench quickly took him off as a precaution. Bayern continued to dominate possession, but it was another controversial moment that saw Bayern take a 3-2 lead in the 88th minute off a goal by Leon Goretzka. Emre Can had been taken off the ball by Leroy Sané in what looked like a pretty clear, but the goal ultimately would stand. Lewandowski would add insult to injury making it a 4-2 Bayern win with his hat-trick finish in the 90th minute while Dortmund remained in an argumentative daze from the Goretzka winner.

Here are three observations from the match:

Caught in Two Minds

After a great start in which you would have been confused which team had played the mid-week cup fixture, Dortmund continued to sit back deeper and deeper, which is akin to playing with fire when facing Bayern Munich. Edin Terzic opted for a back three with Emre Can and Dan-Axel Zagadou flanking Mats Hummels, but whenever BVB won the ball they struggled to find options. Too many times Dortmund defended and won the ball only to lump it up the pitch or out of play. We know that the squad is a bit depleted right now, but it is not in Dortmund’s DNA to have to defend that much. Terzic made an adjustment in the first half to put Can back into midfield to push up more, but after half-time the team shape was changed to a 5-4-1 which left Haaland very isolated and Bayern on the front foot.

Being short-handed and having played the extra match on Tuesday, you can forgive Terzic for not wanting to press the ball, but once Dortmund were 2-0 up, they sat way too far back. This was always going to be a difficult fixture whether injuries were an issue or not, but Dortmund really needed to pass the ball better and not try and defend for 90 minutes.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Günter Schiffmann - Pool/Getty Images

Hazard looked lively

Injuries to Giovanni Reyna and star winger Jadon Sancho meant Thorgan Hazard received his first start since his return back from injury, and he looked sharp. Hazard was a constant threat and seemed to be one of the best outlets in the first half of the match when BVB won the ball back. Accelerating past midfielders and taking on defenders, Hazard looked as good as he ever had in the black and yellow kit. His assist in the 9th minute to Haaaland serves as a reminder of how greatly he has been missed this season, having gone down with three long-term injuries this campaign already. With Reyna and Brandt struggling this season, Sancho has been burdened with all of the wing creativity for the club. If Hazard can stay fit for the rest of the season, that will give Dortmund not only more options, but better balance on the pitch while trying to climb back into the top four.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
Hazard assist to Haaland
Photo by Günter Schiffmann - Pool/Getty Images

Another Poor Match for Thomas Meunier

There was a moment in the first half around the 24th minute where Dahoud made a great tackle and sprung a counter-attack. Meunier received the ball from Dahoud in the box with Haaland streaking far post calling for the ball, but it never got there. Instead of whipping the ball towards Haaland, he cut the ball back to a nonexistent runner, and the chance was wasted. In that moment, I wondered what had that would have looked like if Mateu Morey was in that spot versus Meunier. That chance was a golden opportunity to make it 3-0, instead minutes later it would become 2-1. It was typical Dortmund not capitalizing, and vintage Bayern who marched down the pitch and immediately scored. Gutted!

I loved reading the story about how Thomas Meunier wanted to sign for Borussia Dortmund. Having been moved by the wonderful fan culture in Dortmund during the Champions League match last year with his visiting club Paris Saint Germain, Meunier knew he want to play here full-time. The problem is that he is trying to fill some remarkably big shoes left by Achraf Hakimi’s departure to Inter Milan. Never really a big offensive threat, Meunier has struggled to combine with other players on the pitch, in particular Jadon Sancho, and his final delivery leaves a lot to be desired. While Meunier is a better defensive player than Morey, he is far inferior to the Spaniard in vision, passing, and final ball delivery. I would be shocked if Meunier started Tuesday over Morey, I think it is quite clear now that Morey is first choice on the right side moving forward.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
Meunier struggled today
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Final Thoughts

While the loss was heartbreaking, it is not the end of the world. No one goes to Munich expecting to get anything, but it is disappointing given how well BVB started the match. Referee decisions have compounded the frustration but today was a good day when we consider all that happened in the Bundesliga. Dortmund’s main goal is to ensure qualification for next year’s Champions League and while Bayer Leverkusen won, Eintracht Frankfurt dropped two points, and VFL Wolfsburg lost giving Dortmund supporters a glimmer of hope this weekend. Hopefully the Erling Haaland injury is nothing serious and he will be back for Tuesday’s 2nd leg Champions League fixture against Sevilla FC.

Your Thoughts

How much did this loss hurt?