Dortmund 1-0 Bayern: six point lead

April 12, 2012

The starting line-ups

Robert Lewandowski’s clever flick put Dortmund six points clear of Bayern – probably a decisive lead at the summit of the Bundesliga table.

Dortmund were still missing Mario Gotze, who got the winner in the reverse fixture between the sides, and Sven Bender – but there was no surprise team news from Jurgen Klopp

Jupp Heynckes was without Bastian Schweinsteiger, so Luis Gustavo partnered Toni Kroos. In defence, Philipp Lahm was over on the right, with David Alaba at left-back.

Dortmund dominated the first half but didn’t score – then looked nervous in the second and did score.

Opening stages

The first six or seven minutes were played at a very high tempo, with both sides excitedly closing down and getting the ball forward quickly.

When the game settled down, it turned out that Dortmund weren’t going to press particularly heavily from the front – they tended to close down with one attacker at a time, force Bayern to switch the ball to the opposite full-back position, and then drop into shape.

Bayern’s approach was largely the same – they tried to remain compact, as both Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller dropped off when out of possession, getting into a position between the Dortmund centre-backs and holding midfielders. Both centre-backs had plenty of time on the ball, and though both sides tended to play short passes, Dortmund hit a couple of longer balls to Robert Lewandowski, who nodded down to Shinji Kagawa.

Kagawa was probably the key player in the first half, the most intelligent with his movement and appreciation of space. He tended to play to the right of the pitch, exploiting a little pocket of space when Kroos moved higher up than Gustavo. He picked up the ball in that zone and looked dangerous.

Dortmund also did well to bring their wide players inside and make runs from the channels in behind the defence. With Lewandowski often coming deep and pulling the centre-backs out of position, there were opportunities to get the wide players into good situations. Jakub Blaszczykowski found himself with a good early chance from a narrow angle wide on the left, having made an excellent diagonal run. That summed up the movement inside, and the full-backs motored on down the flanks well.

Bayern struggled for sources of creativity early on. Franck Ribery was often intelligent with his movement, drawing Lukasz Piszczek up the pitch and creating opportunities for movement and variation of positions elsewhere, but when Dortmund got men behind the ball, Bayern looked slow in possession. Things got better when Kroos moved forward into the final third to create a little more, but their most promising move of the first half came from a direct break after Piszczek conceded possession cheaply on the right wing, with Ilkay Gundogan ahead of the ball and in no position to cover.

That almost got Mario Gomez in, but overall he Gomez a poor game, and both he and Muller were substituted in the second half. In fact, Gomez came off very badly from the direct comparison to Lewandowski. He didn’t hold the ball up as effectively, he did work the channels as frequently, and he didn’t win as many aerial duels. Mats Hummels was a key reason for that, and was probably the man of the match.

A comparison of Gomez and Lewandowski's runs - even considering that Gomez played only 75 minutes, Lewandowski's runs are much more varied

Second half

The strange this about this match was the timing of the goal. Dortmund had been by far the better side in the first half but failed to take the lead – then Bayern were marginally better in the second half, but Dortmund got their winner while looking more likely to concede.

There was no obvious reason why Bayern stepped it up after the break. Dortmund became a little more cautious – although whether this caused, or was a result of, Bayern’s good spell is questionable. Kagawa was certainly less of a force and seemed to tire quickly; he played much deeper and was given some level of responsibility for picking up Kroos. This isolated Lewandowski, although he moved over to the left and still tried to bring the centre-backs out of position.

Jupp Heynckes chose to introduce Schweinsteiger after an hour, with Muller departing and Kroos moving into the attacking midfield position. He sent a great ball in behind the defence for Ribery, and Bayern looked stronger after the change, even though Schweinsteiger didn’t look 100% fit. The other substitutions all seemed to be about fitness rather than to change things tactically, although Ivica Olic on for Gomez showed how disappointing the latter had been.

Dortmund didn’t do anything special in the second half to merit their victory tactically. Indeed, it was Bayern who created more promising situations in the box, and missed a penalty after Robben was brought down. One feature of the second half was how much more Robben looked to come into central positions – where he was more dangerous than Muller or Gomez.


This wasn’t an especially tactical game. 4-2-3-1 v 4-2-3-1, no real surprises nor dramatic changes from the coaches, and basically a game where Klopp and Heynckes believed their side could outplay the other. In a very open, pure game of football, there were no yellow cards, and a positive feel about the contest.

But it was Dortmund who produced more good moments – they were more cohesive and able to attack in a variety of situations. Bayern actually dominated possession quite clearly (58%), but in Lewandowki and Hummels, Dortmund had the two star performers at either end.

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