In a tempestuous Bundesliga affair, Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 with Bayern München in a result that leaves the Champions League final all the more of a mouth-watering prospecting. Kevin Großkreutz fired Dortmund ahead but Mario Gomez's header levelled the scores. The second half saw no goals but plenty of action as Robert Lewandowski's penalty was saved and Rafinha saw a red card for an unnecessary elbow on Jakub Blaszczykowski.
The main course is the first thing you decide on. It is something you look forward to as your starter gets irrelevantly digested. But every appetiser sets the tone for the course to follow, irrespective of whether you want it to or not. It settles your anticipation, albeit temporarily, and undoubtedly leaves a taste in your mouth.
The sensation that is this year's all-German Champions League final has been the dish many ordered but first, there is a course to digest and enjoy beforehand. It's a game that means nothing for either side statistically and as much as the psychological slant has its inevitable intrigue about it, there can be no comparison between this game and the one in three weeks.
Ever since Arjen Robben saw off a disappointing Dortmund in the German Cup, the mental niggle that Bayern have always had against Klopp's men has disappeared into the midst of a rampant season. Despite Uli Hoeness watching the bouncing ball sport variety of Bayern München, the attendance still reached an incredible 80,000 in the ever-remarkable Westfalen stadium.
The first bite came when the normally unselfish Xherdan Shaqiri opted to go alone instead of pass. It proved to be nothing more than a fleeting taste but the first filling morsel soon followed. Nuri Sahin's deep ball onto the foot of Jakub Blaszczykowski was the start of a fantastic counter attack, one that boyhood Dortmund fan Kevin Großkreutz finished off with a warming, back-post, side-footed volley. Dortmund's customary bright opening had been rewarded as Bayern, with more notable changes in their line-up, struggled to find their rhythm. Ilkay Gündogan's early withdrawal was a precautionary move. Needless to say, there's another game he's needed for.
The lack of defensive-midfield control for Bayern highlighted the importance of the Schweinsteiger-Martinez partnership. Nevertheless, Neven Subotic's lapse in concentration allowed Mario Gomez an unmarked header and Bayern were level before much could be said about the home side's lead. Rafinha, provider for Gomez's header, was providing a focal point for Bayern's attack, whilst proving that he was more than capable of standing in for captain Lahm. The game had a leisurely feel to it and there weren't many tactical nuisances to take, apart from maybe Marcel Schmelzer's inconsistency at left-back. It is sure to be an area Bayern will look to exploit in three weeks, particularly in the light of both Rafinha's joy down the right-hand side and Kevin Grosskreutz's impressive play in another of his variable positions.
Robert Lewandowski weaved his way through a defence he is speculated soon to be playing with, but was denied a goal by a good save from Manuel Neuer. The importance of the so called "irrelevant game" was becoming clear. As much as Bayern didn't need a win, they certainly didn't need a defeat. Dortmund were in the fortuitous position of having nothing to lose whereas Bayern's records where starting to matter more and more. This season has fast become about the manner of victory for Bayern, especially since the victory has long been confirmed. Losing that supremacy, that rampant form would most likely have no effect at all but it's not an acid test Heynckes wants his side to experiment with.
Jerome Boateng's dubious handball gave Lewandowski the chance to put Bayern exactly where they didn't want to be. This season though, Bayern are writing their own scripts and Manuel Neuer's superb, low save to keep out Lewandowski's penalty made sure the scores stayed level as yet another remarkable moment in this Bayern season was etched into the history books.
Like every stomach grumbles in anticipation of the main course, this game started to whinge as the last few scraps were chewed over. Rafinha spoiled his first-half display with two quick and unnecessary yellow cards. The decisive second added a new fire to the game as Rafinha protested his elbow with a prolonged departure that resulted in Klopp and Matthias Sammer trading verbal blows on the sideline.
Klopp's rueful smile was followed by an attacking substitution (Marco Reus arriving for Sebastian Kehl). It was clear now, if not before, that Klopp felt winning this game would make a difference, perhaps even the difference. In a season where they have only picked up 12 yellow cards, Bayern had picked up five. Dortmund pressed but Julian Schieber's terrible first touched denied him a chance at making the headlines.
Klopp won't have wanted a draw but he can be contended with it. It leaves the media free to speculate about the importance of the coveted Champions League final but most importantly, like any good starter, it leaves you talking about it long after you've finished eating.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Schmelzer, Santana, Subotic, Großkreutz - Sahin, Kehl (71' Reus) - Blaszczykowski (84' Bender), Lewandowski, Gündogan (14' Leitner) - Schieber
FC Bayern München: Neuer - Alaba (90+2 Höjbjerg), Boateng, van Buyten, Rafinha - Luiz Gustavo, Tymoshchuk - Contento, Pizarro (76' Müller), Shaqiri - Gomez (67' Can)
Goals: 1-0 Großkreutz (11'), 1-1 Gomez (23')
Yellow cards: Blaszczykowski - Tymoshchuk, Gustavo, Boateng, Rafinha, Can
Red cards: Rafinha
Referee: Peter Gagelmann