90 minutes for the ages - Bayern vs. Dortmund
On Saturday, FC Bayern (currently third in the table) travel to Borussia Dortmund (fourth) for the Bundesliga's standout fixture. In the past, the battle for the German championship has often been decided in the clash that never gets old between the Reds and the Black and Yellows.
On 4 December 2021 Leon Goretzka was standing in the players' tunnel after a long 90 minutes against Borussia Dortmund. He'd pulled on his thick winter jacket straight after the final whistle, as the risk of catching a cold shortly before the winter break was too great. How important was this win, he was asked. "Today," he answered, "it was also about supremacy in Germany."
A few minutes later, his coach Julian Nagelsmann was in front of the TV camera, saying: "Of course nothing has been decided, but they were important points."
Both the midfielder and the coach expressed themselves in diplomatic terms. Because the 2021/22 season was all but over after that winter game. A narrow one-point lead at the top of the table had turned into a comfortable four-point cushion. For the remainder of the season, no other club topped the table. Done and dusted, as Felix Magath would have said.
On 23 April, FCB clinched their 10th straight league title at home against Dortmund, of all teams - it was the ninth win in the last ten encounters.
More than just a game
A Bundesliga season consists of 34 matches. 34 times 90 minutes makes 3060 minutes. Especially in those instances when things aren't going well on the pitch, that's a good thing. Then you say to yourself: there' s still a long season ahead, we'll manage to turn our form around.
And yet, more often than you might think, campaigns are decided by a single match. Because the clash between the league leaders and the runners-up takes place on the penultimate matchday; Because champions and challengers have to lay down a marker in the first game of the Rückrunde; Because a win against your closest rivals can turn the momentum in your favour as early as February.
This is especially true for the FCB vs. BVB fixture. The two German superclubs have the highest spectator average in Europe and together have won 24 of the last 28 championships (19 of which went to Munich).
A game lasts 90 minutes, Sepp Herberger once said. And in no German football rivalry have 90 minutes been more decisive for the outcome of the championship than between FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund (even if they're not currently in first and second place for a change).
2019: The game following the slip-up
Bayern's dominance over the past Bundesliga decade is the stuff of legend. Never before has a team in Europe's top five leagues won ten consecutive championships. It's easy to forget that one or two of those titles were hanging by a thread. In April 2019, Dortmund could have rewritten history.
The 2018/19 season was a neck-and-neck race from start to finish, with the teams rarely separated by more than three points. They won in step, they slipped up in step. Until Matchday 27: Bayern only managed a draw against Freiburg, Dortmund won simultaneously at Wolfsburg - and moved to the top of the table. A week later they met in a head-to-head. A win for the Black and Yellows and the championship race would probably be over.
But Dortmund failed to capitalise on the momentum and were steamrollered at the Allianz Arena. In the end, Bayern ran out 5-0 winners and returned to the top of the table. After the game, however, no one wanted to talk about having won the championship. Robert Lewandowski said: "We're just one point ahead of Dortmund, it'll be a difficult journey." Coach Niko Kovac added: "Both teams still have very difficult games, so I don't want to talk about everything being wrapped up already."
But the defeat took the fight out of Dortmund, and Bayern went on to win their seventh straight championship.
A few years earlier, the title race was at least as exciting. Only that Bayern were in the unfamiliar position of challengers. After Dortmund won the championship in 2011, the men from Munich did everything they could to bring back the trophy. In the spring of 2012 it became clear: It would all come down to those 90 minutes at Signal Iduna Park.
2012: The beginning of the end
You could tell right from the first minute there was a lot at stake. A hesitant game played with little risk and no real scoring opportunities. Dortmund knew that Bayern had to take risks, but the Bavarians were afraid of being caught on the break by the fast-paced Dortmund players like Shinji Kagawa.
In the 77th minute, a first big step: Lewandowski, then still playing in black and yellow, put Dortmund ahead. Many teams would have given up, thrown in the towel. But Bayern still fought, showed character - and were awarded a penalty. Arjen Robben had to score to keep the season alive and Bayern in the race. But Robben missed. The football publication Kicker asked: "Was that the decider?" It was. Dortmund pulled clear in the table and were indeed crowned champions, for the second time in a row.
For Bayern, it was the start of five weeks of pain and proof of how 90 minutes can stick in the minds of the players. Of how a match can not only influence the championship, but also the momentum in other competitions. A month after Robben's missed penalty, Dortmund thrashed Bayern 5-2 in the cup final. Just a week later, Chelsea broke our hearts in the Finale Dahoam. Who knows what else might have been possible that season with the confidence of having won the top game?
After the wild 90s in the Bundesliga, the beginning of the new millennium saw the first signs of a new era of Bayern dominance. It meant seven championships in ten years between 1999 and 2008, but it could have been eight - if it hadn't been for those confounded 90 minutes on Matchday 22 of the 2001/02 season.
2002: The missed opportunity
After an extremely poor start to the Rückrunde , Bayern were trailing league leaders Dortmund by nine points after 21 games. But because BVB were battling Leverkusen at the top, slip-ups were quite conceivable. And what better way to start a pursuit than with a win against the title favourites?
A goal from Giovane Élber in the Olympiastadion, however, was not enough. The Bavarians couldn't manage more than a draw. And German football officially bid farewell to FCB in the championship race.
A mistake, as it turned out at the end of the season. In one of the most exciting campaigns in the history of the Bundesliga, Dortmund and Leverkusen both went on losing streaks, while Bayern's form suddenly skyrocketed.
In the end, only two points separated Bayern from champions Dortmund. The two points dropped in the draw against BVB?
90 minutes between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund can decide the championship. Sometimes 90 minutes break a team's belief that they can still come back. Sometimes 90 minutes are the incentive needed for a strong finish to the season. Sometimes a good 90 minutes is the switch that needs to be flipped to kick-start the season. Ahead of the next edition of this clash on Matchday 9, Dortmund and FC Bayern are level on points behind the surprise teams from Freiburg and Berlin. At the end of the 90 minutes, the season will not have been decided. But who knows?
Perhaps Bayern will put their inconsistent start to the season behind them with a win and embark on a winning streak until Christmas.
Perhaps Dortmund, after an October defeat, will suddenly be two points short of the championship in May.
90 minutes can be an eternity. And at some point they're over. And you have to live with the result.
The facts on the clash with BVB: