Dortmund - Eleven points currently separate Borussia Dortmund and league leaders FC Bayern Munich, but securing a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena was another statement of intent from the reigning title-holders, as they once again went toe-to-toe with German football's most successful side.
"Too much respect"
"A draw was a fair reflection of the game," stated goalscorer Mario Götze. Going five straight matches unbeaten against the 21-time Bundesliga champions is an unprecedented record to hold in the near 50-year history of Germany's top flight, but one that head coach Jürgen Klopp's youngsters have now managed to achieve, setting a new best mark for the club in the process.
Though it wasn't BVB's most convincing performance of the current league campaign, it was certainly their most professional. They displayed levels of maturity unbecoming of a starting line-up with an average age of just over 24 years old, but unlike in their outings in UEFA Champions League, they adopted a more risk-averse approach to proceedings. "We needed time to get into the game and had too much respect for Bayern," conceded Klopp. "We allowed them too much space."
Dortmund seemed content to only employ their impressive pressing game inside their own half, despite Bayern's proven fragility when their backline is put under pressure. "At half-time we showed the squad footage of the space they hadn't used," something which Klopp have been delighted to see his charges make us of after the break. "We played really well, were dominant, had three chances and then took our foot off the pedal for a brief moment," analysed the 45-year-old.
One moment was all it took, though, as Bayern broke the deadlock in the 67th minute, Toni Kroos firing home. Yet while others teams may have let their heads drop, Dortmund hit back within seven minutes with Götze's "fantastic equaliser." An injury to Neven Subotic, who is now doubtful for the upcoming European clash at home to Manchester City, could have proven costly, were it not for the heroics of Roman Weidenfeller, who produced a string of world-class saves to keep the scores level in the dying moments.
"After we made a change in central defence Bayern had three big chances that were all dealt with by Roman. He is a great goalkeeper; now we all know it. Every Bayern player congratulated him on his performance," declared the Borussia boss. Dortmund's No. 1 wasn't as interested in taking the plaudits for his individual display after the match, however. "The point was worth more to us than Bayern. They once again failed to beat us, a result which we can be very proud of," stated Weidenfeller proudly.
All is not lost
In Götze, who put in his best performance of the season so far, and Marco Reus, Dortmund have a midfield partnership capable of beating any side."As a classic duo, there is nobody better than the prolific Reus and Götze," legendary Bayern and Germany defender Franz Beckenbauer had claimed before der Klassiker, which is high praise indeed.
Dortmund were ten points closer to Bayern in the table at this stage last season, but in a Bundesliga campaign that has as many twists as it does turns, there is no reason for the title race to be seen as a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, they will have to match a feat only ever achieved by Wolfsburg (2008/09) in closing an eleven point gap at the top of the table, if they are to retain their title. "It's a tough phase for all of us," admitted Klopp. Still, there are positive omens for the Yellow Blacks. In the second half of last season, Dortmund collected eleven points more than die Münchner. This is by no means an insurmoutable obstacle for one of Europe's most talented football teams.