In a big week for the Bundesliga’s top two, it’s been a tale of mixed fortunes.
It started with Borussia Dortmund continuing their stuttering recent form with a damaging 3-0 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their Champions League tie.
A positive and promising opening half was quickly forgotten as Dortmund’s old nemesis, Son Heung-min, scored for the home side. The fact they went on to concede two more means the tie is likely out of their grasp now, but that might prove to be a blessing in disguise during the title run-in.
It was nevertheless a further dent to BVB’s confidence after what has been a largely disappointing run since the turn of the year. More on Dortmund to come later…
The weekend’s Bundesliga action kicked on Friday night with Bayern making the short trip to struggling Augsburg for what was expected to be a straightforward victory. Unfortunately for Bayern, Augsburg hadn’t read the script.
A Leon Goretzka own goal in the opening minute shook everyone within the stadium.
Although Bayern took control of the game and equalised, they often looked vulnerable to Augsburg counter-attacks and were sloppy in possession. Incredibly, the hosts re-took the lead, but Kingsley Coman was the star performer for the champions and it was very much down to him that Bayern eventually ran out 3-2 winners.
A win is a win you might say, but this was a hugely unconvincing performance against a very poor side. Augsburg should be thankful for how bad Hannover and Nürnberg have been this season, because they look a relegation team. Despite this, they still caused Bayern problems but lacked the necessary quality to take advantage.
Had Bayern played like this against one of the teams in the top half of the league, or even against Düsselfdorf, they’d have gone home with another defeat.
Bayern will look at the positives though, namely that they did win and cut the gap to Dortmund at the top. The other positive being the individual performance of Coman.
Kingsley Coman Opta’s MOTM against Augsburg. pic.twitter.com/VwJtRpmuMG
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) February 16, 2019
On to Monday night, Dortmund made the long journey south looking to re-establish their lead at the summit.
Monday night football is not popular with German supporters and the Nürnberg fans certainly let their feelings be known by displaying large middle finger placards and throwing black tennis balls onto the pitch; which held up play a few times.
The match itself was a pretty dour affair. Dortmund probed and pressed for the majority of the game against a compact defensive unit which sat deep and rarely allowed any space.
The home side did have brief spells of pressure themselves, and even created a few opportunities which goalkeeper Roman Bürki had to deal with. However, the majority of the game was Dortmund enjoying possession, but frustrated at being unable to break down their dogged opponents.
They should have had a penalty for a foul on Jadon Sancho which was, oddly, not reviewed by VAR, but they can have little complaint with the result because they simply didn’t do enough to win.
A goalless draw was not the result anyone expected as top played bottom, but this downturn in form is quickly becoming a real concern for Lucien Favre. Their lead has been cut to just three points and this weekend take on a resurgent Bayer Leverkusen, under the tutelage of former Dortmund boss Peter Bosz.
That’s 2 massively disappointing points dropped for Dortmund.
They are desperately out of form and their lead at the top is eroding.
Bayern may not be convincing themselves, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see them return to the top in the coming weeks.
— Bundesliga Zeitung (@BuLiZeitung) February 18, 2019
Leverkusen have been flying of late and dispatched Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-0. The only negative was an injury to Karim Bellarabi, and with them facing Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday, perhaps that might play into the hands of Dortmund.
It will be an intriguing game and the pressure could be ramped up further with Bayern taking on Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
With things closing up at the top of the Bundesliga, focus switched to the Champions League for Bayern.
A trip to Liverpool to face old foe Jürgen Klopp brought a hard-fought and credible draw for Niko Kovac in the first leg.
The full-backs playing less adventurously was a smart move from Kovac and although there’s plenty to play for in the return leg at the Allianz, the loss of Kimmich to suspension will make things more difficult.
Thought that was a fair result. Hummels and Kimmich outstanding for Bayern. Defensive discipline from their full backs today meant much more compact defensive shape. Martinez right in front too
— keith costigan (@KeithCostigan) February 19, 2019
Any Liverpool goal will mean Bayern have to score more, so it will be interesting to see how Kovac approaches the second leg tactically.
It’s clear that the Champions League is vital to everyone within Bayern and the competition could yet distract their thoughts over the next couple of weeks in the league.
All in all, we have a title race that is far from clear cut in either direction which is very refreshing for the Bundesliga.