Dortmund Bayern Champions League final

Matchday 10 in the Bundesliga saw last season’s top two clash at the Allianz Arena, while second-placed Gladbach took on fourth-placed Hoffenheim.

Borussia Dortmund Push Bayern in “Der Klassiker”

Borussia Dortmund are now in 17th place, 17 points behind Bayern Munich, with 18 fewer points than they had at this point last season (when they were only one point behind the champions). Last time they were this far down in the table at this point, they wound up relegated.

But the team that lost to Bayern on Saturday put on such a classy performance, particularly in the first half, that those statistics are hard to believe. Klopp got his tactics exactly right, deploying Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender together in midfield instead of the newly returned Ilkay Gündogan. These two, more defensively minded than the passmaster, had silenced Xabi Alonso in the Champions League ties against his former club Real Madrid, and they did so again here. Shinji Kagawa had one of his best games since returning to Dortmund, showing the class and creativity of the Shinji of old. Aubameyang, chosen ahead of more traditional forwards Immobile and Ramos, led the line well and combined well with Reus and Mkhitaryan on the flanks.

The first half was one of the most entertaining feasts of football in a long time—open, flowing, and fast. Both sides had enough chances to fill multiple halftime highlights reels. Weidenfeller made save after save. The breakthrough finally came in the 31st minute, when Aubameyang charged down the right to deliver an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Marco Reus. It was only Reus’ second-ever header in 68 Bundesliga goals, but he showed no hesitation. Neuer had not conceded a goal in seven matches, and it was the first goal Bayern let in in the first half this season.

Dortmund went down the tunnel at halftime in a buoyant move, but the second half was all Bayern. Captain Mats Hummels had to go off due to injury, after his best performance this season, to be replaced by Neven Subotic. BVB were no longer able to hold onto the ball, and could only fend off wave after wave of Bayern attack. The decisive substitution came in the 70th minute, when Franck Ribéry replaced Mario Götze. Dortmund couldn’t cope with the Frenchman’s pace, particularly with Arjen Robben threatening on the other flank, but it was Robert Lewandowski—still so familiar to Dortmund fans—who equalized in the 72nd minute. The ball took an unfortunate deflection off Subotic, and Lewandowski made no mistake shooting the ball past his former teammate.

Thirteen minutes later, Subotic was again on the wrong end of an exchange, pulling down Ribéry in the six-yard box. Robben, who has broken BVB hearts so many times in the last few seasons, converted the penalty. Dortmund tried to mount a comeback in the last few minutes of the game, but it was no use.

Still, it was one of the most entertaining matches this season. Despite the chasm of points separating the two sides of the moment, Dortmund pushed Bayern all the way and can be proud of their performance. Things haven’t looked so bad in a long time, but if BVB can build off this match, the Champions League is still possible.

Gladbach Continue to Dazzle Against Hoffenheim

After stumping Bayern last week, Gladbach continue to show that they are a force to be reckoned with this season, defeating fourth-placed Hoffenheim’s with a cracking 3-1 win.

These two teams have both been in fantastic form so far this season. Hoffenheim were unbeaten in nine matches going into this match, while Gladbach came into the match in second place and the second tightest defense in the league. But it was their offense that took center stage in this match, with Patrick Hermann and André Hahn leading the Foals’ flowing football. The first goal, in the 12th minute, was Gladbach’s best, with Hermann rushing past defenders on the left, crossing it to an unmarked Hahn on the right, who ricocheted it past the goalkeeper on his first touch.

Hoffenheim equalized through Modeste 18 minutes later, but the Foals were too strong. Hahn and Hermann again worked together, with Hahn as provider and Hermann as finisher this time just two minutes after the Hoffenheim goal. Then, seven minutes into the second half, they put the game beyond a doubt when Hermann slotted the ball home after it ricocheted off the keeper following a ferocious long-range shot from Nordtveit.

Despite the win, Gladbach slipped to third place, one goal behind Wolfsburg in goal difference. They travel to Dortmund next, hoping to claim another three points and continue their record as the best away team in the league. If this season has seen Borussia Dortmund’s fall from grace, Gladbach are more than ready to take up the Borussen mantle.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga…

Schalke’s 1-0 win over Augsburg brought little cheer, as Julian Draxler collapsed with a serious injury seconds after kickoff and will be out for the rest of 2014. Hannover defeated Frankfurt, 1-0, while Werder Bremen got their first win of the season, 2-1 at Mainz. Wolfsburg thumped VfB Stuttgart, 4-0, to take second from Gladbach by goal difference, and Hamburg conquered mighty Leverkusen, 1-0. Freiburg got their first win of the season, 1-0 over FC Köln, to leave Dortmund in the relegation zone, and finally, minnows Paderborn roared to a 3-1 victory over Hertha Berlin.

Random Five

  • Robert Lewandowski is the only current Bundesliga player who has scored against every single club.
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach are unbeaten in their first 17 matches. The last—and only time—this happened, they went on to win the league.
  • Kevin de Bruyne has scored every time he’s faced VfB Stuttgart.
  • Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking celebrated a century of Bundesliga victories this weekend, which is also the first time he’s won five matches on the bounce.
  • Hamburg-Leverkusen was a testy affair, in part due to Hakan Calhanoglu forcing a transfer away from der Dino to Leverkusen over the summer. There were 50 fouls and nine yellow cards, seven of which came in the first half—the highest tally in 13 years.

Goal of the Week

André Hahn’s opening goal for Gladbach was classy, but Franco di Santo’s strike that clinched a first win for Werder Bremen takes the cake.