Mats Hummels (l.) was the key to Borussia Dortmund downing former side Bayern Munich for the first time in five years. - © IMAGO / RHR-Foto
Mats Hummels (l.) was the key to Borussia Dortmund downing former side Bayern Munich for the first time in five years. - © IMAGO / RHR-Foto

How Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels shut out Bayern Munich's Harry Kane in Der Klassiker


Borussia Dortmund left the Allianz Arena on Matchday 27 with a somewhat shock win over Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. Key to their first league triumph in Munich in almost a decade was a defensive masterclass - particularly from stalwart Mats Hummels. takes a look at how the BVB legend won his battle against Harry Kane, and with it the match…

Edin Terzić decided against a bespoke defensive formation to shut out the record champions, instead he matched them, with one sitting midfielder in Emre Can and two attackers. He did, though, bring Felix Nmecha back in for Marco Reus, with his box-to-box capabilities and defensive-mindedness allowing playmaker Julian Brandt to get to work further forward.

At the back, there was one key change. Niklas Süle, who had enjoyed a fine run of games at centre-back, made way for Nico Schlotterbeck and Mats Hummels, which proved to be a masterclass. Hummels, the 35-year-old Bundesliga veteran, went head-to-head with Kane as a result - and won.


Hummels tasked with stopping Kane

In attack, Bayern set out in a 3-1-4-2, with Kane to the left where he met Hummels. It quickly became clear how much BVB respected the England captain, with their main plan to suffocate him from even touching the ball. It worked, too, with the striker having possession of the ball just 29 times in the match, the lowest number of any player in red and white.

Terzić faced another issue, though - Hummels’ pace. While the five-time Bundesliga winner is still wily enough to face world-class attackers up close, problems arise once they can run at him. To counter that, right-back Julian Ryerson was always close by, while his fellow full-back Ian Maatsen made things even more narrow on the left. When Ryerson did have to attack and press, Manchester United loanee Jadon Sancho was there to put in a shift and stop Alphonso Davies from getting away. Again the move worked, with Ryerson free to secure the three points with his fourth goal of the season in the 83rd minute.

Hummels had Kane by his side as much as he possibly could - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

The Hummels-Schlotterbeck tandem

Unlike Hummels, Schlotterbeck’s biggest strength is his pace, and ability to spring forward and win the ball early. The downside of that is that spaces can open up behind him if he doesn’t execute things perfectly. Fully aware of that opportunity, Bayern tried to exploit it, but they were again met with the masterful Hummels.

The best example of the centre-back pairing’s tandem was displayed in the 26th minute. Schlotterbeck stepped up to try to stop Thomas Müller starting an attack, but was unsuccessful and Müller found Kane who played the ball straight over the top to Leroy Sané in space on the right. Hummels was quick to react, though, falling behind Schlotterbeck and making a diagonal run towards Sané, who he met on the edge of the box and dispossessed, prompting an almighty roar from the away end.

Watch: Hummels and Schlotterbeck shut out Bayern

It was only because of Hummels' intelligence and reading of the game that the tandem worked so well, and allowed Schlotterbeck to defend so aggressively, despite leaving sizable gaps at the back. This was perfectly showcased for Karim Adeyemi’s 10th-minute opener. Müller found the ball in a dangerous space in the BVB half and spotted a run from Jamal Musiala, but Schlotterbeck was there to step up and cut out the pass. That allowed him to quickly shift the ball to Brandt and trigger a counter that led to Adeyemi’s opener. However, despite the move appearing to be high risk from Schlotterbeck, Hummels was already making a diagonal run to cover Musiala. If he hadn’t been, and Schlotterbeck was unsuccessful, it could well have been 1-0 to the home side.

Hummels covering allowed Schlotterbeck to step up and create the opener - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Hummels insurance policy

Ryerson’s positioning also helped Dortmund deal with Kane, as the Norwegian could take over should Hummels have to give up man-marking the Bundesliga’s top scorer in an effort to cover Schlotterbeck. More often than not, though, Hummels didn’t even allow that to happen as he had such a fine game against his old side, and one of the world’s best strikers.

The most impressive example of this came in the 34th minute. Bayern created an overload on Dortmund’s left-hand side and Musiala used it to make some space for Sané to run at the opposition box. Ryerson was left in a tricky position, looking across to see Davies charging in from wide left. It looked like Sané had three options - shoot, try and assist Kane, or try and assist Davies. With Hummels unable to hand Kane off to Ryerson, who had to cover Davies, Hummels stuck on Kane until a pass to him was no longer an option, and then snuck around the striker at the last moment to charge down Sané and successfully block his shot. If Kane had tried to break away from Hummels earlier on, Schlotterbeck could have picked him up, showing that the pair perfectly thwarted a dangerous-looking attack.

Dortmund looked in serious trouble in the 34th minute, but Hummels had them covered - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

An answer for everything

Perhaps admitting defeat when it came to Kane vs. Hummels, Thomas Tuchel made a triple substitution in the 63rd minute, placing the former Tottenham man on the right side to escape Hummels, who was instead given Mathys Tel to deal with. Tuchel likely expected that the more direct and faster 18-year-old striker would be a far more difficult match for Hummels, who would struggle with his quick acceleration and runs in behind.

To Tuchel’s disappointment, Hummels wasn’t deterred. He stayed in the back four and continued to protect Schlotterbeck, who now had Kane to deal with. The pattern of the game certainly helped, too, with Dortmund now protecting a 1-0 lead for the final half hour of the match.

Even with the younger livelier Tel, Hummels still had things covered - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

In his battle with Tel, Hummels showed his supreme patience and timing. He should have been at a huge disadvantage against the rapid and agile forward in more open spaces, but he put on a defensive clinic. When Tel tried to drop back or make an unpredictable run, Hummels always waited for the perfect moment to intercept, tackle or clear the ball.

Hummels is now a record appearance holder in Der Klassiker with 29 appearances coming for both sides, and this was one of his best showings yet. The only blot to his copybook came in the 23rd minute, when he lost Kane for a Joshua Kimmich cross, but the usually clinical striker missed with his header. Despite that moment of panic, Hummels put in some of his best work when he wasn’t occupying Kane, namely his goal-line block on Eric Dier in the 35th minute.

Watch: Bayern Munich 0-2 Borussia Dortmund - highlights

There were further highlights in the 66th minute when he threw himself at a dangerous Serge Gnaby cross, and with the away side still jumping, he put in an epic block on a Kingsley Coman pass that looked destined for a Kane tap-in.

Put simply, Dortmund beating Bayern wasn’t possible without Hummels beating Kane.

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