As the final whistle went, the Westfalenstadion broke out into a spontaneous chant. “German champions? Only BVB!” they sang.
Here we go then. Germany has waited long enough. Borussia Dortmund are back and the Bundesliga finally has a title race.
Two goals from Marco Reus and a thoroughly explosive second half on Saturday evening sounded the starting gun on what promises to be a thrilling season. For real, this time.Dortmund twice came from behind to beat Bayern 3-2 on Saturday evening. Their early season performances had earned them comparisons with the Jurgen Klopp era, and Dortmund lived up them against Bayern.
This top of the table six-pointer was football as Klopp would like it. Unpolished but entertaining. A bit of chaos, a bit of quality, and a lot of heart.
Dortmund weren’t at their best, but the win puts them seven points ahead of Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga. At times, Bayern showed that they have the potential quality to close that gap. At times, they looked like a rusty, clunky old team, run ragged by Dortmund’s bright young things.
Having twice taken the lead with brutal efficiency, Bayern were ultimately undone by a team who shook off their nerves to produce a spirited, exhilarating performance and grab a deserved three points.With their backs to the wall ahead of this game, Bayern snarled into action in the opening minutes, pushing Dortmund back into their final third and intimidating them with fierce pressing. Jadon Sancho in particular looked nervy, losing the ball with a couple of heavy touches early on.
If Bayern had come out ready for a dogfight, then Dortmund were cat-like, relying on the sharpness of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus to steal the ball and launch counter-attacks. Ten minutes in, they should have taken the lead, as Reus left Jerome Boateng red-faced but sent a tame shot straight at Neuer.
Neuer was called into action again five minutes later, snatching a low cross away from Sancho at the last minute. For all the heavy touches, the youngster was getting into good positions.Bayern, though, were methodically taking control of the game, and they carved out a deserved opener on 26 minutes. Serge Gnabry sent in a dipping cross from the right and Lewandowski, for some reason unmarked, headed the ball in from close range.
Both in the stands and on the pitch, those in yellow were increasingly frustrated by a game that, for Dortmund, wasn’t going to script. As half-time approached, the Yellow Wall howled in rage at the gamesmanship of Robert Lewandowski and in exasperation at the mistakes of their own team.
Yet Sancho, who had looked positively deflated at the end of the first half, gave them something to cheer directly after the break. His through ball picked out Reus, who reached it just before Neuer and was sent tumbling by the Bayern keeper. Reus then converted the penalty and, as Bayern fans set off flares in the away end, the fireworks on the pitch had begun.A few minutes of attacking fury came to nothing for Dortmund, before Bayern landed a cold blow at the other end.
Joshua Kimmich’s darting run down the right sent Dortmund sprawling, and the full-back chipped a dainty ross to Lewandowski. Once again unmarked, the Pole found the net. Dortmund had been level for all of three minutes.
Favre’s youngsters, though, were unimpressed, and quickly forced two chances from point blank range. First, Neuer denied Jacob Bruun Larsen with a world class save, and a few minutes later, Sancho rounded Neuer and squared to Reus. Only a diving block from Kimmich kept the Dortmund captain from netting a second.Even Kimmich couldn’t stop Reus minutes later, as he sent a sultry volley flying into the bottom corner and Dortmund were level again.
Inspired by half-time substitute Mahmoud Dahoud, Dortmund were suddenly stretching Bayern in midfield and bringing the centre backs out in cold sweats. On 74 minutes, Axel Witsel’s devastating through ball found Paco Alcacer in the middle. The Spaniard, who had also come off the bench, kept his cool and dinked the ball over Neuer. In the space of six minutes, the home side had turned the game on its head.
If Favre’s substitutions had been inspired, Kovac’s decision to bring on Renato Sanches for Serge Gnabry seemed a fittingly mediocre final roll of the die for Bayern. Yet still they came close to a late equaliser, Lewandowski pulled back by the linesman’s flag in the dying seconds. So there they were, and here we go. One, unpolished but explosive young organism against one outdated but effective old machine. It was a thrilling battle on Saturday night. It will be a thrilling battle until May.