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Apr 2012
21:47 Comments (23)

There was a fantastic atmosphere in and around the stadium an hour and a half before the match I attended last night in Dortmund, where Bayern were the visitors for a crucial match in the race for the Bundesliga title. The majority of the fans were, of course, supporters of the home team but the Bayern fans also made a great contribution to the electric atmosphere showing how passionate German fans are for football. With 29 matches of 34 played and the teams first and second in the table with just 3 points separating them, the game was always going to be significant in the final destination of the title. Dortmund’s win has seen them pull 6 points clear with just 4 matches remaining which now makes it extremely difficult for the Bavarian side to get the top spot, so let’s have a look at how the game developed.

Both teams started with their usual system of 1-4-2-3-1 (as shown in the screenshot) with Kagawa playing behind Lewandowski for Dortmund and Muller fulfilling the same role for Bayern behind Mario Gomez.

Borussia Dortmund started the game with a high defensive line and tried to use their usual pattern of their wide players, Grosskreutz and Blaszczykowski, coming inside to receive, then passing almost without looking to midfield players or the forwards. The full backs also were getting forward on both sides and Lewandowski was looking either to pass to supporting midfield players or make runs behind defenders, working the channels. We have seen these automatic movements in many previous matches.
Kagawa was operating well between the lines and his mobility makes him a threat, despite the attentions of Bayern’s Luis Gustavo, who was trying to stay close to him.

As for Bayern, their transitions were not quick enough and this was giving Borussia the time to press the player in possession, especially in the wide areas against Bayern’s players with ability, Robben and Ribery. Dortmund’s wide players were working very hard to support their full backs defensively whenever Bayern got the ball wide, creating 2v1 to counter any threat. Ribery was coming too deep at times to receive the ball and affect the game. Bayern were reliant on the ability of their wide players and in the first half only managed to threaten Dortmund with a counter attack after 19 minutes and a shot from distance by Kroos after 29 minutes when they regained the ball high and countered.

The home team had some clear chances in the first 15 minutes, firstly for Blaszczykowski who put the ball just wide, although Neuer managed to narrow the angle giving little of the goal to aim at, and then Grosskreutz after 5 minutes which forced a good reaction save from the Bayern goalkeeper.

Dortmund were dangerous at set pieces and on 37 minutes, a Lewandowski header from a good delivery in to the box after a corner hit the post. Kagawa also made a run in to the area but was unable to finish with his reverse shot. The home side were better in the first half with Bayern unable to create much with their slower transitions.

In the second half, Bayern came out with a different game plan and this gave them more possession. They were using switch of play to their wide players and long balls behind defenders. This was giving their wide players more time on the ball and it forced the home team deeper. Generally, there was more intensity to their game with the whole unit higher up the pitch. Dortmund became more reliant on regaining deep and counter-attacking whilst still trying to contain any threat from the opposing wide players with 2v1 defending.

After 60 minutes, Bayern introduced Schweinsteiger for Muller, pushing Kroos higher but still played long as they had been doing. Dortmund brought on Leitner and Perisic for Gundogan and Kagawa after 75 minutes but maintained their game plan.

Shortly after, on 76 minutes, the home team went ahead scoring the only goal of the game. It came from a simple short corner where Grosskreutz latched on to a second ball clearance and his shot was back-heeled in to the net from close range by Lewandowski who was onside as Robben had not come out quick enough.

On 84 minutes Bayern were awarded a penalty as Robben played a combination and made a run in to the box. The Borussia goalkeeper went to ground bringing Robben down in the process. The kick, also by Robben, was saved by Weidenfeller and this sent the atmosphere up a few more notches, consequently producing more intensity on the pitch.

In time added on Bayern had a cross turned on to the Dortmund bar and Robben put the rebound over. Lewandowski, for the home team, also hit the bar with a chip after a good run down the side of the central defender but the game was to finish with Dortmund taking the 3 crucial points to put them in the driving seat for the last few games of the season. This makes the title extremely difficult for Bayern to win but they still have their semi-final clash in the Champions League which, if they win, will pave the way for the final in their home stadium.

23 Comments Send us your opinions
13/04/12 at 16:21:20 #11
some positions were filled by players of the second tier, not top tier in terms of quality/consistency. In addition, we didn't have the strength of experienced or highly gifted squad members to call upon - as you said: selling one player to purchase another. If we'd been able to keep the good player and bought a great player, our squad, allied with your superb managerial acument, would have been as good as any team's in Europe. WE could certainly have competed with any team, for any trophy

It makes me soooo mad to think what those Americans did to us and especially to you, how you sacrificed your position at the club to tell everyone exactly what they were like. You didn't deserve such awful mistreatment.

P.S. - One last thing: many Liverpool supporters hate Torres ('he betrayed us', they say). Personally, I think that he was just as much a victim of the previous owners all of us; the way he left was handled poorly, but he merits no blame for his decision

Buena suerte!


Thank you.
13/04/12 at 17:23:03 #12
Hey Rafa, Huge Liverpool fan here who really admired your work. Made some of our best signings. Was wondering weather you are considering the Director of Football role at Liverpool now that it is vacant. This way you have a say over future transfers and are in pole position for the managers job if it becomes available. Also Fenway Sports Group seem willing to invest heavily in the squad.
13/04/12 at 17:40:01 #13
Rafa sir you are most respected managers of all time its my polite request to you to bring back fernando torres to liverpool and sign david villa or jordan rhodes. the other option is to sign ricky van wolfswinkle and luke de jong. Please swap henderson for sebastian larsson. If glen leaves replace him with scott dann. The rest of the team is good
15/04/12 at 10:05:12 #14
Mr Benitez, Just wondering if, and when you'll be coming back to the job you where made for? Regards
15/04/12 at 11:25:43 #15
Wonderful insight Rafa, we're priveleged to have access to your thoughts in this way.

Without trying to drag you into the Liverpool trap, there's been a lot of talk recently regarding D Comollis work at the club. A few of the sharper minds on Tomkins site seem to think the direction and tactics of the club were being steered according to the statistical trends from title winning sides, in terms of: aerial duels won (40+ per game); crosses (30+ per game); and steals (recovery of possession) in the oppositions 1/3rd of the pitch (12 per game). What value, if any, would you put on these statistics? For example, should this determine your buying philosophy or alter the attacking patterns of your play?

Many thanks,

Because football is a very dynamic game with 22 players making individual and team decisions every second, statistics cannot tell you as much as in other sports. As we have always said, statistics depend entirely on the context of the game.
15/04/12 at 15:57:44 #16
Hi Rafa,

As regards the German league, how strong do you think it is compared to La Liga, Premier League, Serie A?

Would you be interested in working in Germany? Obviously Bayern are a very big club like Liverpool and Inter Milan but would you consider any other German club?


Hello Alan, the German League is getting better every year, very interesting for any manager. It seems for me stronger than the Serie A at the moment. Thanks.
16/04/12 at 12:39:29 #17
Hello Mr Benitez,
This is a wonderful analysis, and thanks for sharing your opinion with us. I saw only around 70 minutes of the match and missed the main part towards the end. But I would like to share my views on what I saw till then.
I was wondering, if Schweinsteiger had started in the deep lying playmaker role, and Kroos had filled the hole behind the striker the match might have turned out differently. Muller was very ineffective in the hole, and Kroos is no playmaker like Schweini. In fact, Kroos is better served playing in the hole, the position where he achieved much success in Leverkusen last season (or was it the season before last?).
That said, the Alaba-Ribery combination was quite lively down the left. If Muller had helped them on, they might have caused problems on that side.
16/04/12 at 12:43:46 #18
I think the main difference between Bayern and Dortmund was the differing influences of Muller and Kagawa.. Kagawa always held possesson and passed it on to wingers/ wingbacks making attacking runs more often than passing it back to the holding midfielders, thus advancing play and create more attacking opportunities. While, Muller wasn't quite able to bear such influence in the game.
16/04/12 at 18:42:26 #19
Hi Rafa,
I want to tell you that Liverpool need you ..do everything you can to come home again ;(
Now we have Adam Downing Carroll Henderson for lots of money ..but they arent good like Alonso Benayoun Torres Mascherano etc..
You are my favourite manager and you always be because of the players you bring here :) and the games you played :)

L.F.C. is waiting you :))


Thank you George, you know that it is time to stick together and to support the team.
16/04/12 at 20:57:06 #20
Hi Rafa,

Thanks for your reply. I watch some of the Bundesliga and they have excellent stadiums and crowds. But Serie A still has glamourous clubs like Milan, Juve, Inter, Roma, Lazio. Apart from Bayern and Dortmund I don't think German clubs - Schalke, Hamburg, Leverkusen etc. - are as glamourous.

Anyway, Rafa, I'm a Liverpool fan and think you're an outstanding coach. Very stubborn and sometimes too obsessed with tactics rather than free flowing football, but your results in the Champions League with Liverpool were superb. To beat Mourinho in two European Cup semi finals was a brilliant achievement because Mourinho is a great coach and had a lot more money at Chelsea than you did at Liverpool.

I hope King Kenny wins everything and when he retires you come home to Anfield Rafa. Liverpool is a special club and you'll always be a legend to the Kop. I also hope you don't end up at Chelsea, because with their money you would win a lot!!