While the Premier League race took a minor twist last night, there was a compelling title chase decider going on elsewhere in Europe.
Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich went face to face in a game that was billed as the fixture that would decide who would be meister of this year’s Bundesliga.
It was a game full of action and could have gone either way, but it was the home fans in BVB’s Westfalenstadion that went home happy, as their side were 1-0 victors.
The win meant Jurgen Klopp’s side stretched their lead at the top of the table to six points over their opponents and put them in the driving seat heading into the final four games of the season.
Dortmund’s were dominant in the first half and Bayern could not control possession as they would usually do in the midfield, which meant their wide players, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, could not get in the game.
The two wingers have been devastating in recent weeks and the men in yellow got their game plan just right to starve the pair of possession, as well as Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller further up the pitch.
Dortmund’s dominance should really have been converted into a goal but Manuel Neuer made an astonishing point blank save when Kevin Grosskreutz found himself on the end of a cross in the six-yard boss.
Robert Lewandowski come closest to breaking the deadlock when he leapt high at the back post and powered a header towards goal midway through the second half, only to see it crash against the post.
There was all the drama you could ask for in a title decider and one would hope that the Premier League showdown between the two Manchester sides at Etihad Stadium later this month.
The star for Dortmund was match-winner Lewandowski, who guided the ball past the impressive Neuer on 77 minutes in a second half where the visitors had begun to get a handle on the game.
It was a cute goal, the Polish forward was facing his own goal following a Dortmund corner and a looped clearance fell to Grosskreutz on the edge of the box.
The lifelong BVB fan’s volley was weak and trickling in to Neuer’s arms only for Lewandowski to give it the most delicate of flicks with the inside of his left boot to direct it past the helpless Bayern keeper.
Germany’s No.1 was left resorting to a raised arm calling for offside and Dortmund’s top scorer this season certainly looked to be.
However, replays showed that Robben was slow to come off of his position on the on front post and played his opponent onside – it was not the end of the Holland winger’s performance as villain of the piece.
The introduction of Bastian Schweinsteiger on the hour had helped the Bavarian club to string a few more passes together and, after the goal, they went into overdrive in setting about getting the equaliser.
Jupp Heynckes thought his Dutch flyer had done it with five minutes to go when Ribery played him in behind the home defence and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller appeared to bring him down.
The defence cried dive, and on closer inspection it is difficult to see any real contact, but referee Knut Kircher saw only a foul and pointed to the penalty spot.
Robben has always been a divisive character, so nobody expected him to be affected by the boos ringing around the stadium, especially since he had scored each of his previous eight spot kicks this season.
Grosskreutz said afterwards that he knew Robben was going to miss, so he must have been the only surprised man in the stadium when the winger’s poor kick was smothered by Weidenfeller.
The stadium erupted and Neven Subotic let everyone know what he thought of the Bayern player’s perceived simulation when he went nose-to-nose with him and screamed in his face.
Robben looked devastated and it could have still been on his mind when he gave up another chance to snatch a point to keep the title race alive.
Subotic almost had egg on his face when his stretched attempt to head a cross away only looped back over his ‘keeper’s head and bounced back off the bar straight to Robben.
The former Chelsea man could only sky his half-volley from five yards out and the humiliation was set.
It is a cliché often used for England’s foremost league competition, but it really was a fantastic advert for the Bundesliga.
The German league is ever-gaining a reputation as one of great excitement and surprise, which is illustrated by the recent success of the side from Westphalia.
They were on the brink of bankruptcy in 2005 and stuttered for form until the arrival of Klopp in 2008 coincided with the emergence of a group of talented youngsters.
They won the title last year playing fast technical football and have regained the momentum that took them all the way in the latter part of this season.
Bayern, meanwhile, will be hoping this does not halt the momentum they have been building with their Champions League campaign.
They topped the Bundesliga going into the winter break on a wave of destructive performances, but stumbled on its resumption, giving up ground to Dortmund that is unlikely to be yielded with such a short amount of time left.
This young Dortmund side’s next mission will be to crack the Champions League and European football in general, after a miserable return to the competition this year where they finished bottom of their group.
It is an exciting period in German football and the Bundesliga is continuously delivering the goods for its spectators.
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