Ostensibly there had been a lot riding on this match. Bayern Munich had lost their last five encounters to Borussia Dortmund, defeats including a 5-2 humbling in the German Cup final in May; for Matthias Sammer and Michael Zorc, former teammates at Dortmund, with Sammer now installed as Bayern's Director of Sport, this was a clash against old friends; and it was the first piece of silverware up for grabs this season. Despite all this, and the competitive streak displayed by both teams, there always remained the feeling that this was just an unimportant, glorified friendly match, albeit a very entertaining one.
Munich's Allianz Arena was encouragingly filled to the brim for this game, mostly down to tickets being reduced to EUR15, meaning many of the 69,000 supporters were families with young children sporting Bayern and Dortmund attire alike. Inside the stadium, pockets of yellow were dotted around the place, with the main Dortmund fan block in the southeast corner of the stadium. They were there in numbers but rarely swung into full voice; one suspects that the true hardcore faithful are waiting for the 'season' to begin.
On the pitch, however, there were many 50/50 challenges that belied the friendly tag. After a barrage of full-blooded challenges from both sides, referee Michael Weiner's patience finally ended when he cautioned Bayern's Luis Gustavo, the first booking long overdue. Mario Mandzukic and Arjen Robben were also booked, while18-year-old Turkish-German utility man Emre Can was extremely lucky not to be sent off after a wild lunge on Jakub Blaszczykowski. This was all after Bayern had gone 2-0 up inside the first ten minutes, however, and so they could afford to slow things down.
Dortmund had been poor defensively in their pre-season friendlies, losing 4-2 in Nuremberg and relinquishing the LIGA total! Cup to Werder Bremen last weekend. And their defensive sloppiness was in evidence again yesterday, particularly in a calamitous opening period. Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels were comfortable on an individual level, but they were curiously lacking in organisation. Franck Ribéry's hopeful cross from the left exposed a hesitant Subotic and Mandzukic, signed in the summer from Wolfsburg, took one touch before holding off Hummels to poke home for the opening goal.
The second goal arrived minutes later, but this time the danger came through the middle. Mandzukic's pass released Dutchman Arjen Robben and, after his shot hit the woodwork, Thomas Müller slammed in the rebound. A subdued Robert Lewandowski pulled one back for Dortmund with 15 minutes to go, and Dortmund did come close to forcing an equaliser. By then, however, a Dante-inspired Bayern rearguard were in the groove and saw out a deserved victory.
What was more interesting than the result was the performances of each side's new recruits. Mandzukic looked particularly at ease up front for Bayern and combined extremely well with Müller and Robben. And at the back, Dante, signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach, had an excellent game. On yesterday's evidence, he looks every inch a player good enough to lead the Bayern defence. Can also started the game for Bayern after having been promoted from the club's reserve side and, his one reckless challenge aside, had a solid game at left-back. Swiss talent Xherdan Shaqiri, purchased from FC Basel, also featured but had too little game time to really impress.
On the opposite team, Marco Reus, soundly booed by the Bayern crowd after his decision to reject Bayern in favour of a move to his hometown club in the summer, was very subdued. The game passed him by for the most part, save for one or two reasonably well struck set pieces in the second half and one senses that he needs time to settle into the role vacated by Shinji Kagawa, who departed the club for Manchester United in June.
But if the disappointing Reus was a concern for coach Jürgen Klopp, then it will have been offset by the performance of substitute Mario Götze. The German international star, missing for large parts of last season and coming into this game off the back of an eye injury, was sharp, direct and comfortable in possession when he came on, and Dortmund looked a different side after his introduction. If Dortmund can successfully defend their domestic double from last season, Götze will likely have a very important role to play.
The final whistle prompted a roar from the Bayern crowd and there were scenes of appropriate celebration when the trophy was presented to captain Philipp Lahm, the Dortmund players having left the pitch rather hurriedly. The question will be how much of a difference this made to the league and cup champions, if any. The answer is most likely 'not much.' After having lost this fixture five times in a row, there was a sense that a victory was more important for Bayern than their opponents. Klopp's men, although a young team, will be able to brush this defeat off quickly. The win will do Bayern far more good since it will also have massaged the egos in their side, particularly Robben and Mandzukic, who both turned in good displays.
Not too much can be read into this result, even it did have the first piece of silverware of the season riding on it. Dortmund's season preparations won't be too badly affected by it losing, nor will Bayern now be in prime condition after winning. The 'important' competitions begin with the opening round of the German Cup this weekend and the commencement of the new Bundesliga campaign on August 24th.
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