The pace is set, the stage is set.
Bayern Munich of course matched Borussia Dortmund’s earlier victory over Wolfsburg to keep their own long winning run going, thrashing a free-falling Eintracht Frankfurt 5-2. It wasn’t actually as completely comfortable as the final scoreline suggested, although that might be even better set-up for the first big title game of football’s new era, as they go the Westfalenstadion on Tuesday. Bayern occasionally looked as vulnerable as they did commanding. They’re still four points clear but the gap in quality doesn’t look quite so big right now.
You might even say Dortmund go into this game in better form, in as much as you can judge anything on the basis of two games after such a long break. That will in turn provoke all manner of discussion about potential reasons for this, from physical sharpness to the absence of fans.
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It didn’t change the final score, but that will hopefully further charge this big showdown, before the final strait.
While any reference to empty stands or coronavirus is going to get increasingly tedious and repetitive as the weeks go by, this did initially feel like one of those title race performances where an excited Allianz Arena crowd would have been electrified by the energy of their team’s performance.
Bayern were just on it.
The thumping first goal from Leon Goretzka came after a punishing spell where Frankfurt were just pummelled back, making it just seem inevitable that they were going to be forced into submission. It was an onslaught.
Lewandowski had already smashed the crossbar, and Benjamin Pavard brought a brilliant save out of Kevin Trapp, before Thomas Muller crossed for Goretza to divert the ball into the roof of the net at driving pace. Moments later, Muller claimed a fine goal of his. Goretzka’s was mostly power, but this was mostly instinct, as the forward supremely adjusted to control Alphonso Davies’s cross and guide the ball in.
Lewandowski of course got his goal, and it was one of almost casual confidence. He so simply headed in Kingsley Coman’s controlled volley of a cross.
They were three high-quality finishes in three highly different ways, only emphasising how empowered this Bayern team feel right now.
This is what Dortmund should be afraid of.
What followed, however, is what Dortmund should be buoyed by. Bayern displayed an almost complacent defensive slackness, that you’d usually tend to associate with Lucien Favre’s side.
Martin Hinteregger twice took advantage, once availing of the space on the floor to eke out a deflected finish, then availing from the total absence of set-piece marking to head past Manuel Neuer.
It was impossible not to feel that this is something Dortmund’s electric forwards can get at. Erling Haaland, who will on Tuesday be playing his first game for the club against Bayern, was surely only watching this and imaging what he can do is such wide open spaces.
It should give Hansi Flick so much to think about.
Dortmund have their own neuroses to go through for this game, mind.
As they know better than anyone, and as Bayern immediately proved, there is no better side at just crushing that space closed just when you think you’re in.
Alphonso Davies made the game safe a mere six minutes after Hinteregger’s second, and that was that Frankfurt. They constantly looked on the brink of collapse thereafter, and caved in altogether on 74 minutes, as Hinteregger – of all people – got his feet wrong for it all to go wrong.
Frankfurt ended up fortunate that the score wasn’t higher.
It means the stakes have rarely been higher, as the Bundesliga gets set for maybe its biggest title showdown since Jurgen Klopp was in charge of Dortmund.
Both teams are on winning runs – but at slightly different paces.