Bayern Munich’s 3-2 victory away to top of the table rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday was decided by a predictable source.
For some, that decisive factor was the fabled ‘Bayern-Dusel’ – Bayern luck – that supposedly smiles favourably on Germany’s most successful club when things aren’t going their way. For others (less bitter or biased), it was Robert Lewandowski.
The former Borussia Dortmund number nine tormented his past employers once again, hauling Bayern level before converting a controversial match-winning penalty five days after missing out on the Ballon d’Or.
With the score locked at 2-2, Borussia Dortmund were on top in the first 20 minutes of the second half. By reintroducing the chaos that Bayern sought to squeeze out of the opening period, the Black and Yellows were creating more chances than their visitors, snapping into challenges high up the pitch to prevent any sequences of possession developing.
After a typically high turnover and some rapid one-touch interplay, Marco Reus seemingly toed the ball ahead of Lucas Hernandez inside Bayern’s area. The frustration Dortmund felt after their penalty appeals were waved away only intensified when – via a trip to the pitch-side monitor – referee Felix Zwayer pointed to their own 18-yard box in the 77th minute.
Lewandowski steadied himself while Dortmund argued against Mats Hummels’ handball in vain, skipping around the 12 yard spot before slotting the winner past Gregor Kobel.
By scoring his 25th and 26th career goals against the Black and Yellows, Lewandowski took his tally to a sickening 75 in just 61 games across all competitions since the start of last season, 19 more than the next most prolific forward in Europe’s top five leagues, the man on the opposite side of Saturday’s striking duel: Erling Haaland.
Having been overlooked for the 2020 Ballon d’Or when France Football scrapped the entire process in wake of the COVID-pandemic – which didn’t stop Lewandowski finishing as top scorer in the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal; three tournaments that Bayern won that season – the Bavarian’s talisman was rebuffed again this year.
BVB’s chief goal-getter was the only other Bundesliga player in the award’s final shortlist. The 11th-placed player drew Dortmund level on Saturday within three minutes of the interval, curling a right-footed shot in off Manuel Neuer’s left-hand post as the hosts began the second half with the same frenzy they imbued in the first.
A pair of misplaced passes from Bayern’s skittish backline set the tone for a particularly breathless opening half. Borussia Dortmund’s exclusively vertical passing range ensured the first ten minutes were perennially played in transition.
Julian Brandt broke the deadlock with a composed finish that was in stark contrast to the mayhem around him. However, just like England at a major tournament, Dortmund scored too early. They have never beaten Bayern after netting in the first five minutes and a familiar foe ensured their lead was quashed before the clock reached double digits.
Thomas Muller charged down a dawdling Hummels, blocking his pass and nodding the dropping ball to the red blur haring around his right hand side. With a deliberately heavy chest control, Lewandowski shimmied the ball into his path inside the box, drilling a low shot into the near post with his second touch to draw Bayern level.
Lewandowski extended his lead as Europe’s top scorer this term in the week he was officially decreed the Striker of the Year as a concocted consolation after Lionel Messi pipped him to the main prize.
Leading the line of Europe’s top scorers this season, Lewandowski is – frighteningly – recording better underlying numbers than he was last term. Afforded a less exhaustive role out of possession, the 33-year-old is not only getting on the end of better chances, but creating clearer openings for his teammates as well.
“Tomorrow’s winner learns from today’s defeats,” Julian Nagelsmann philosophically reflected in the wake of Lewandowski’s individual failings this week.
If Lewandowski continues his almost maniacal strive for perfection – spearheading a superb Bayern side along the way – 2022 may finally prove his year for individual recognition (from France Football, specifically).