It's not even halfway through the Bundesliga season, but could the title race already be over? After Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw on Saturday evening, keeping the Bavarians 11 points ahead of the defending champions, it certainly feels like it. Dortmund's surprise home draw with Düsseldorf in midweek meant they travelled to a chilly Munich needing a win to keep their diminishing title hopes alive. With fabled chokers Bayer Leverkusen as their nearest challengers, Bayern simply knew that avoiding defeat would be a significant step towards regaining the Bundesliga crown.
And so it was Bayern who will have been the more satisfied with a first half that saw few chances of note. Fitting the cagey opening was the conspicuous lack of volume coming from a full house at the Allianz Arena. Both sets of fans kept quiet for the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds in protest against the German league's plan to introduce a strict new safety policy to its stadia. They feel they have not been properly consulted in its drafting and that the plans to remove standing sections and slash ticket allocations for away fans will ruin the atmosphere. Why 12:12? Voting on the proposal will take place on 12th December.
As it was, there was little to get excited about anyway. Bayern had conceded just five goals all season going into the game, and they kept Dortmund's dangerous front four quiet with relative ease. The only negative for the hosts came in the 35th minute when Badstuber fell awkwardly on his knee and had to be carried off in some discomfort. Cruciate ligament damage is the diagnosis, meaning the young defender will be out for some time.
Perhaps realising that victory was required, Dortmund upped the tempo a little at the start of the second half and the game began to open up. Götze headed straight at Neuer when well placed, but Bayern's defence, with Boateng on for Badstuber, held firm, allowing nothing more than half chances. And then in the 67th minute, Bayern struck, as Müller passed to Kroos on the edge of the area. The midfielder shimmied and shook his way past two Dortmund defenders and placed a fine left-footed shot low into the corner.
Faced with the prospect of already kissing their title goodbye while the smell of Glühwein still in the air, Dortmund pressed forward and found an equaliser just five minutes later when Reus' corner dropped to Götze, inexplicably unmarked by the penalty spot, who had time to chest the ball down and drive the ball into the bottom corner. Bayern goalscorer Kroos blotting his copybook with some gormless defending.
After a somewhat fruitless evening, Bayern's top scorer Mandzukic was replaced by Bayern's own super Mario and the fit-again Gomez played in Kroos with his first touch, only for Weidenfeller to stand tall and beat out his shot. The Dortmund captain then saved his side twice in quick succession as full time approached, first reacting well to tip over Müller's mishit cross and then plunging to his left to keep out Martinez's header from the resulting corner.
Despite failing to take these late chances, Bayern will be happy to have ended their five-match losing streak against Dortmund and maintained their 11-point cushion with two games left before the winter break. Leverkusen may be closer to Bayern than last season's double winners, but there can be no doubting who the Bavarians see as their main title rivals.
FC Bayern München: Neuer - Lahme, Dante, Badstuber (37' Boateng), Alaba - Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic (86' Gomez)
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic (82' Felipe Santana), Hummels, Schmelzer - Gündogan, S. Bender - Blaszczykowski (74' Perisic), Götze (90' Schieber), Reus - Lewandowski
Goals: 1-0 Kroos (67'), 1-1 Götze (74')
Referee: Peter Gagelmann