A moment of magic from Joshua Kimmich was enough to earn Bayern Munich three vital points in the race to retain their Bundesliga title, beating Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at Signal Iduna Park. On 42 minutes, Kimmich’s looping effort dipped beyond the reach of Roman Bürki, who was powerless to resist what was a truly magnificent lob.
Victory over Dortmund leaves Hansi Flick’s side seven points clear at the summit.
Fresh from their 2-0 win over Wolfsburg at the weekend, Borussia Dortmund manager, Lucien Favre, named an unchanged starting line-up for the visit of the Bundesliga champions. For the third game in succession, Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt were chosen to start ahead of Jadon Sancho for the hosts.
Flick made just the single alteration to his side’s line-up: Serge Gnabry replaced Ivan Perišić on the left flank for Bayern, who were 5-2 winners over Frankfurt at the weekend.
It was the home side that started the brighter of the two Bundesliga title-challenges: Erling Håland forced a goal-line clearance from Jerome Boateng after just 40 seconds of play. 18 minutes later, the hosts were forced into making a goal-line clearance of their own: Dortmund veteran, Łukasz Piszczek’s outstretched right leg was the only thing preventing Gnabry from giving the visitors a first half lead.
On 42 minutes Kimmich sent his Bayern teammates into raptures
The remainder of the first half lived up to its billing: Der Klassiker delivered on an evening when many other derbies would have failed to inspire. On 42 minutes Kimmich sent his Bayern teammates into raptures by chipping Bürki with a delicate effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Kimmich’s strike was eye-wateringly precise. With Bürki on the edge of his six-yard box, the German international chipped his shot perfectly, watching on gleefully as the ball dipped into the Dortmund net at the final moment.
The hosts had been the better side throughout the first half, making inroads into the final third using slick passing plays in transitions, but Dortmund were never able to find the golden touch. Bayern were outclassed in the opening period, but champions find a way to win regardless.
Canadian international, Alphonso Davies was once again instrumental to Bayern’s play on both sides of the halfway line. Converted into a marauding left-back upon his arrival from Vancouver Whitecaps, Davies was a constant thorn in Håland’s side – recovering ground at an unprecedented rate for the visitors.
A bursting run saw Kingsley Coman break beyond Dortmund’s defensive line
Forced to revise his half-time team-talk, Favre made a surprise double substitution at the break: replacing Brandt and Thomas Delaney with Sancho and Emre Can. Dortmund’s changes almost backfired immediately. A bursting run down the right flank saw Kingsley Coman break beyond Dortmund’s defensive line, an attack only thwarted after the Frenchman over-hit his driven cross.
Growing in confidence after their late first half goal, Bayern Munich started the second half the better of the two teams, pressing higher into Dortmund’s zone as they sought to put their title rivals under increased pressure. Just before the hour mark, a scuffed shot from Håland brushed the arm of the sliding Jerome Boateng.
Much to the surprise of German audiences, the decision was not reviewed by the video assistant referee, breaking from the precedent established throughout the Bundesliga season thus far. Penalties have been awarded for less substantial indiscretions: Dortmund should have been awarded a spot-kick.
As the second half wore on, both sides continued to attack and press at a high intensity. After 71 minutes, the pace of the game began to show: Håland was replaced by Giovanni Reyna after pulling-up with a leg injury. A minute later, Coman was replaced by Perišić for the visitors – ending a disappointing afternoon for the France international.
Bayern were able to exploit the growing spaces in the Dortmund defence
With ten minutes remaining, Favre elected to make the final roll of the dice, substituting Piszczek for Mario Götze. The change marked a wholesale shift in Dortmund’s approach: the hosts would revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation, pushing more players into the final third as they attempted to claw their way back into the game.
As the game became increasingly stretched, Bayern were able to exploit the growing spaces in the Dortmund defence. Dortmund, meanwhile, faced an increasingly deep block as Bayern sought to hold their lead. Bayern, who struggled defensively throughout the first half of the season under Niko Kovac, were faultless in the dying embers: preventing Dortmund from creating a gilt-edged opportunity as they pushed for an equaliser.
It is often said that champions find a way to win regardless of the conditions they encounter. Bayern Munich were outplayed for much of the match by their hosts, but it was a consummately professional performance from the Bundesliga champions-elect. Despite being played behind closed-doors, Der Klassiker surpassed expectations.
The Bavarian have edged ever-closer to an eighth consecutive title
In a match of high-intensity, both sides showed why the Bundesliga is thought of as one of the best leagues in the world. Tactically, physically, psychologically: both Dortmund and Bayern are spectacular teams.
In what could transpire to be his final Klassiker, Piszczek was superb for the hosts. Deployed as the right-sided centre back in Dortmund’s 3-4-3 formation, Piszczek was faultless and certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. For the visitors, Kimmich and Davies dazzled from full-back once again. Both will be vital if Bayern are to complete an unexpected treble this August.
Bayern Munich take the points; Borussia Dortmund will look back with genuine regret. With a roar of celebration from Kimmich at full-time, Bayern’s victory is a signal of intent: the Bavarian giants have edged ever-closer to an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title. Dortmund remain the bridesmaid; Bayern the bride.