Following a shock 2-1 defeat for Borussia Dortmund away to Augsburg on Friday night, the opportunity was there for Bayern to go level on points at the top if they could overcome Borussia Mönchengladbach at Borussia-Park on Saturday evening.
The reverse fixture back in October saw Gladbach pull off a shock 3-0 win at the Allianz, but both sides were in different form back then.
Immediately from the kick-off, Bayern looked sharp, pouncing on a loose ball in the opening minute for Robert Lewandowski to force a good save out of Yann Sommer.
From the resulting corner Javi Martinez was again the man on the spot to head home and survive a VAR review to give Bayern a dream start in their pursuit of Dortmund.
Bayern ahead after just a bit more than a minute. Looked like a foul in all honesty, a slight but clear shove by Javi Martinez before he headed a corner into the top corner. Goal stands despite a review, 1-0 already at Gladbach.
— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) March 2, 2019
For Gladbach and Dieter Hecking it meant the game plan was out of the window before it had a chance to get going. Die Fohlen came into the game low on confidence, and they appeared almost shell-shocked as an aggressive Bayern continued press home their early advantage.
It was little surprise when Thomas Müller added a second in the tenth minute, stabbing home the rebound after Sommer showed good reactions to stop his initial effort.
The next 25 minutes saw Bayern fall back into the well organised defensive unit we saw at Anfield, and Gladbach seemingly had no clue how to prise them apart.
In contrast, Bayern picked apart the hosts with relative ease and only Sommer prevented the game getting further away from them.
Almost out of nowhere, Die Fohlen forced their way back into proceedings as Thorgen Hazard slipped a nice ball in for Lars Stindl to finish smartly.
That goal gave Gladbach the confidence they needed and they put pressure on the champions going into the half-time break.
At the start of the second half, Bayern displayed the same aggression and determination they had done at the beginning of the night, and Gladbach started the second half as haplessly as they did the first.
James Rodriguez failed to make the most of his opportunity, but Gladbach didn’t learn their lesson, or wake up, and Lewandowski made no mistake moments later.
Two minutes into the second half and it was game over. Barring a brief spell of pressure for Gladbach, Bayern were comfortable and in control for the remainder of the game. Serge Gnabry deservedly added a fourth goal on 75 minutes to effectively end the contest.
Further misery was added in injury time for Die Fohlen as the visitors were awarded a soft penalty that was surprisingly not overruled on VAR but was unsurprisingly dispatched by Lewandowski.
A comfortable 5-1 win for Bayern means they now only narrowly trail Dortmund at the top on goal difference.
Thomas Müller: “I cannot remember whether we won with such big result here in Gladbach before. It was an interesting game. We are very happy, the whole matchday was great for us” pic.twitter.com/JwrH9v5r30
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) March 2, 2019
Is the title staying in Bavaria? It was beginning to look that way in January and seems inevitable at this stage.
Bayern are far from vintage, but they are increasing in confidence and fluidity under Kovac and appear to still be good enough to see off any challengers.
It’s not over yet, but Dortmund are going to have to rediscover their Hinrunde form fast if they are to reverse the current trend.
Both Kovac and the Bayern players deserve credit for the recent improvements, and we are about to discover if Favre and his Dortmund team have the credentials required to respond to this test.
Simply put, the Bundesliga needs a different winner to Bayern, it needs someone to break the dominance of Bayern and, in truth, Bayern need it as well.
I understand fans of Bayern and some of Dortmund’s rivals, such as Schalke, will probably disagree with me, such is football rivalry. But Dortmund are currently the best placed club to break the run of consecutive title wins for Bayern.
Ideally, there would be a couple of other teams equally capable of challenging and winning the league; it’s the type of competitiveness the Bundesliga sadly lacks.
December: Dortmund nine points clear of Bayern Munich
March: Bayern can go level on points if they win their game in hand tomorrow
Bayern mood: pic.twitter.com/DyFcU1roAv
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 1, 2019
If Bayern lift the title again this year, despite their troubles and being so far behind in December, it could severely damaging for the league as a product world-wide.
I accept that the fan culture in Germany is strong and commercialism is frowned upon, but marketability of the Bundesliga to world-wide audiences is still important. The predictability of Bayern being perennial champions harms that and ultimately makes it tougher for German teams to compete in European football; Bayern included.
I say it again, the Bundesliga and Bayern need Dortmund, as well as others, to break the monopoly.
The thing is, it feels like it has to be now, it cannot wait to happen. When you factor in that Bayern are a team a year or more behind in transition, just how poor they have been at times this season, and the issues Niko Kovac had establishing himself in charge, there has never been a better opportunity for Dortmund to take advantage.
Considering the amount of business Bayern are expected to do this summer, it’s also an opportunity that might not present itself again for a few more years.
If Dortmund fail to win the Bundesliga this season, the draw away to Nürnberg, throwing away a three-goal lead to draw at home to Hoffenheim and this past weekend’s defeat at Augsburg will probably be the principal games identified as to where they threw it away.
Thus far, the Rückrunde has been a hugely disappointing one for Dortmund and ultimately, it could also be a disappointing one for the Bundesliga itself.