Munich - It may not have been the result FC Bayern Munich were hoping for in front of home support, but in a hotly-contested 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund, the record titleholders took an undeniably crucial step forward in their pursuit of reclaiming the Bundesliga title.
Two modern greats
The match was screened live in 203 different countries, and Bayern claimed that they could have sold out the Allianz Arena seven times over. It therefore came as no surprise that the most anticipated fixture of the season delivered everything a football fan could ask for, whether it was a first-time viewer enjoying a fast paced, end-to-end display, or a seasoned German football expert delighting in a high-quality tactical battle. For everybody, it had it all.
"It was an intense encounter, it was dramatic, there were goalscoring chances, but above all there were two teams, who play a modern style of football," declared Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes, who was "very satisfied" with his side's performance as their composed approach put an end to a run of four straight league defeats against the reigning champions on Saturday.
"Smart tactics and quick transitions" were the order of the day in der Klassiker and, although an injury to Holger Badstuber shortly before half-time threatened to disrupt Bayern's game, die Münchner demonstrated great character as the second half progressed. "We weren't all there after the break. We lost control of the game. It took us 15 minutes to get back into our rhythm," explained Heynckes as he cast a critical eye over a match he knew would be decided by "fine margins".
The 67-year-old will now be without Badstuber for around five months after it was confirmed the centre-back had torn his cruciate ligament and will undergo an operation on Monday. However, once Bayern had recovered from the unexpected change, they soon began demonstrating the verve and ruthlessness that has been paramount to their pulsating performances in the current campaign. "There was more attacking play in the second half with better chances for both teams," confirmed Thomas Müller.
Toni Kroos broke the deadlock with a fine solo effort in the 67th minute, but despite Mario Götze equalising soon after, the feeling amongst the players was that more could have been yearned from the encounter. "My goal was certainly crucial, but I'd have happily exchanged it for a win," explained Bayern's rising star. "It was evenly-matched for a long time, but it was much more open at the end when we had the advantage. It just wasn't quite enough."
The record titleholders maintained their status quo at the Bundesliga summit, but had Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller to blame for not taking all three points. "At the end of the day, it's a result we can live with, but there's an element of frustration, because we came close at the very end," summed up Müller, while Heynckes was quick to praise BVB's No 1: "Weidenfeller made some superb saves."
In the end, the result leaves a lot of questions unanswered in terms of how the Bundesliga title race is set to pan out. Though Leverkusen have narrowed the gap at the top of the table to eight points, putting an end to a four-game losing streak against BVB will have done wonders for the confidence of the Bayern players who have, in the past, been accused of being mentally fragile. "We need to concentrate and stay focused, because we were also significantly ahead last season and we can't have a repeat of what happened then!" concluded Kroos.