Bundesliga title race back on
Allianz Arena, Munich - Borussia Dortmund served notice that they will defend their Bundesliga league title and they are not afraid of the Bayern Munich mystique. Their 1-0 victory in the much anticipated match between the league's top two teams and victories by Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Schalke 04 create a logjam at the top of the table.
The match was expected to be an open match between the high-scoring clubs, both chock full of German internationals. But the players started out without much flow. The atmosphere at the arena by the fans urged on the clubs, but neither could muster a sustained attack.
There were flashes of Dortmund's counter that led them to the title last year, but they could not show the finish. The Bundesliga's top scorer Mario Gomez was not able to find a spot to give the Bavarians a much needed advantage. Munich's best chance came in the 29th minute when Franck Ribéry was able to get a clean shot on goal, but booted it into the crowd.
The first half ended in a goalless draw, as the home fans booed as they voiced their displeasure both at the their club's zero tally and at the referee Peter Gaggelmann, who refused to call fouls for their home side and kept the action going.
The second half started with cooler temperatures but the action heating up. Gomez finally had a chance when he broke free in the 55th minute but his shot was a tad wide. Seconds late, Shinji Kagawa followed a wonder through-ball from Mats Hummels towards the goal. He was turned away by Manuel Neuer but Mario Götze followed with a rebound shot. He was wide. Until the 65th minute.
Dortmund finally got a break, as Götze's attempt for a 1-2 with Kagawa was broken up but the ball was lost by the Bayern defense. The ball fell to Götze and he quickly shot it past his fellow German national teammate. The Bayern fans were shocked but the black-and-yellow clad fans felt at home, letting everyone know their joy.
Bayern picked up their intensity after the goal however their frustrations continued, as passes were broken up and their final attempts were just missed. Missing from the home side was the leadership and contribution from injured star Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will be out till the new year with a broken collarbone.
They recorded their second 1-0 home loss this season. It was their third consecutive loss to their rivals from the Ruhr Region.
"I did not see the intensity that we usually bring to the pitch," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. "We didn't do enough and that's a shame. A draw would have been a fair result."
Team captain Philipp Lahm agreed with his coach. "We didn't move well and were not in top form. We lost a tremendous opportunity today."
"It was a well-earned victory," countered Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp. "If a team wants to win in Munich, they have to give it their all. Today was a perfect day for us."
Only a month ago the team was asked if the league would become boring as they were running away from the competition. But two losses later and ineffective play combined with Dortmund, Bremen and Schalke heating up has the top five teams within... five points of each other.
It's Bremen that sit in that 5th position on the Bundesliga table and they visit Munich in two weeks. Before that, Bayern host Villareal FC in the UEFA Champions League Tuesday night, then travel to take on 1.FSV Mainz 05 on Sunday.