Rafa Benítez Blog
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.
I like many LFC fans, was there in istanbul and athens, my father and i didnt get a ticket for either but watched both games in local bars. Lets not talk about athens! i would just like to thank you for the best night of my life on the 25th of may 2005. nights like that are why we love football, and why you will always be remembered as an anfield legend. i hope one day we can have a face to face discussion about the football we love so much. You gave me memories that will last a lifetime rafa, may god bless your soul. RA FA RAFAEL, RA FA RAFAEL RA FA RAFAEL RAFEL BE NI TEZ!