James Rodriguez (c.) scored one and created two more in Bayern Munich's first-half demolition of Borussia Dortmund. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA
James Rodriguez (c.) scored one and created two more in Bayern Munich's first-half demolition of Borussia Dortmund. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

James Rodriguez: Bayern's Klassiker star and MD28's Man of the Matchday


If, as the old footballing adage goes, happiness off the field is reflected on the field, then it's safe to assume that Bayern Munich's James Rodriguez is on top of the world at the moment.

After recently reaffirming his contentment in Bavaria since swapping Real Madrid for Munich last summer, the Colombian playmaker produced a performance to underline just that in Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund.

During the first half particularly, James was majestic, scoring once and setting up a further two goals. Only three other Bundesliga players have managed to replicate such a return in one 45-minute spell so far this season.

Watch: The James Rodriguez show against Dortmund

It is worth recalling those goals: after Robert Lewandowski (himself the scorer of a hat-trick) had opened the scoring in typically clinical fashion, James joined the Allianz Arena fiesta in style. Arriving late into the box from midfield in the 14th minute, the Colombian crisply met David Alaba's low, left-wing cross, diverting it past a helpless Roman Bürki to double the league leaders' advantage

That James was arriving late into the box was an indication of one of the more subtle, decisive tactical decisions that defined the latest Klassiker; shorn of the injured Arturo Vidal, Jupp Heynckes opted to field one holding midfielder, Javi Martinez, and asked James to drop deeper alongside the Spaniard when out of possession.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner recently discussed his adaption to a deeper midfield role in an interview with UEFA: "When you play in that role a bit deeper, you have to run a bit more, and you're further away from goal. You create more, but score less – you make your team-mates play, basically."

Watch: James eyes Champions League success after Dortmund thrashing

Bayern's third and next goal was testament to how handsomely Heynckes' decision paid off because of how well James has interpreted his deeper role

Finding himself in the holding midfield position, inside his own half, but pressing high, James forced his Dortmund counterpart, Gonzalo Castro, who had a torrid afternoon before his early withdrawal, into a mistake. As Castro attempted to nutmeg the Colombian, James was waiting, immediately winning the ball and launching a swift transition through midfield.

A one-two with Lewandowski later and James was wide on the left, sending in an inch-perfect cross for Thomas Müller, whose name might have gone on the scoresheet but who owed his 103rd goal for Bayern in the Bundesliga to James' hard work and creative genius.

The best and final act of a virtuoso first-half performance was still to come: with the score at 4-0 after Lewandowski had bundled into the net from close range, James delivered his piece de resistance. A quite sublime through-ball on the stroke of half-time released Franck Ribery, whose trademark chip provided the finish that the Cucuta native's pass deserved.

The game effectively over by half-time, James could have added to his personal tally in the 62nd minute, but fired powerfully straight at Bürki from a narrow angle. His withdrawal moments later – with one eye on Tuesday's UEFA Champions League meeting with Sevilla – was met with a deserved standing ovation; James had touched the ball more times (89) than any other player during his 65 minutes, underlining his overall influence.

The display against Dortmund was merely the latest in a long line of big-game performances from James, whose happy knack of turning in decisive displays has already helped Bayern to beat RB Leipzig, Schalke and Dortmund (at the Signal Iduna Park) this term.

Perhaps the only thing missing from an already-impressive debut season at Bayern is making a real mark in the Champions League – fortunately this week's meeting with Sevilla, against whom James has won eight times in nine competitive meetings, offers a chance to brush away that minor blemish and keep the Bavarians' treble dreams alive.

Watch: Full Klassiker highlights

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