It was Bavarian smiles aplenty in the Bundesliga this weekend as Bayern Munich pulled nine points clear of last season’s champions Borussia Dortmund, with a comfortable 2-0 win over Hoffenheim through two goals from Frank Ribery.
As Bastain Schweinsteiger & co settled down for a pint or two at this year’s Oktoberfest to congratulate themselves on a perfect start to the Bundesliga season, which has seen them become only the third side in German history to win their first seven games of the league calendar, Dortmund laboured over an average Hannover side who would eventually have the last laugh with a deserved late equaliser.
Described as ‘not the best of days for us’ by the increasingly troubled coach, Jurgen Klopp. His side continue to drop points in a fashion that seemed all but impossible last season, with another late opposition goal left to decide just how many points Dortmund would take from the game.
Die Schwarzgelben started the game brightly with forceful, attacking football through the youthful exuberance of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus – two players whose poor start to the season has coincided with Dortmund’s own – while Robert Lewandowski was back to his old ways of harassing defenders both in the air, and on the ground.
The Polish striker, who had only scored one goal in five prior to this weekend, showed glimpses of the talent that left Europe’s top clubs longing for his services in the summer. The Borussian striker’s most notable skill is the unprejudiced manner in which he attacks the ball, but he also showed the instinctual side of his game, when he found himself at the back post for the opening goal despite spending much of the first-half chasing the ball outside the box.
Yet the simple tap in that put Dortmund ahead in the 26th minute was all the champions could muster despite clear and able chances in both halves, and consequently a brief spark of hope in a game that would end in further anguish. Hannover looked rough and unnatural whilst holding off Dortmund, but they did well to attack in short bursts, and as their home record of 21 games unbeaten had suggested, the Reds were sure to get something from the game.
In the 86th minute, former Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf escaped the clutter of a box full of misguided defenders in yellow to net an equalising goal that all but claimed a point for the home side, in a manner that must seem all too familiar for most Dortmund fans. Diouf’s goal was the third late equaliser that Dortmund have conceded in their past four matches, limiting the club’s opening record to a mere four wins in their first nine games.
This isn’t something that’s restricted to the club’s domestic form either. As most Manchester City fans will begrudgingly admit, this Dortmund can pass a ball past most sides, and score for fun, but their inability to finish games off was exactly what rescued a point for the Blues, and nearly led to disaster against Ajax a fortnight before.
In fact, despite scoring more goals and conceding less than they had done at this point last season, the club sit nine points off the top of the table through an inability to kill teams off and pick up maximum points.
The game itself played out in a pattern that has haunted the side throughout the past few months and left them in a position of lacking, in any capable form, the ability to mount a title challenge so far this season.
From the countless chances that were squandered in front of the Hannover goal, the moments of heroic saves from Roman Weidenfeller after each counter-attack, or the last minute strike to scupper any hopes of progression; Sunday offered a microcosm of Dortmund’s season that Klopp will have to ponder over, and address, during the international break, if he hopes to catch Bayern Munich or progress further in Europe.
With injuries to Sven Bender, Mats Hummels and Jakub Blasczczykowski, Dortmund’s season looks as though its about to get a lot trickier before it gets better.