Bayern hold on to power despite Dortmund test

The breathless speed of the game tended to suit Dortmund until the German champions gained a solid foothold on the game in the second-half

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Borussia Dortmund finished the 10th Matchday in the Bundesliga in the relegation positions after Bayern Munich took the points in the first meeting between the sides this season.

A first-half goal from Marco Reus was cancelled out by Robert Lewandowski after the interval before Arjen Robben slotted home from the penalty spot late in the game.

The breathless speed of the game tended to suit Dortmund until the German champions gained a solid foothold on the game in the second-half. But for a side languishing in the bottom-three, Dortmund’s approach-play was outstanding and the attacking talents of Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus combined to great effect.

Kagawa crucial in the first-half

The mystery remains unanswered: why didn’t Kagawa earn more game-time at Manchester United? The answer of him not being good enough is falling by the minute when he dawns the yellow and black of Borussia Dortmund.

The Japanese attacking-midfielder played a similar role to that of Jonas Hofmann, now on loan at Mainz, in the German Super Cup final. Hofmann’s role was to act as a deep-lying forward, pressing high up the pitch when Bayern’s defenders were in possession, but willing to drop deep back into the structure of the team.

Kagawa’s work was almost the same: he was a pest for Bayern in their slow build-up play, focused around short-passes from the back-three into the midfield four. Xabi Alonso’s room to operate was limited, as was the freedom for Philipp Lahm to gain more control in the game.

But the midfielder’s innate game intelligence was central to his role in the Dortmund system. Several players were congested in a small part of the pitch, leaving little room between the lines to create passing opportunities. Thus, Kagawa’s anticipation, his ability to be two steps ahead and maneuver himself into the right position proved important.

He steered the ball wide to Aubameyang to spark the devastatingly sharp transition from defense to attack and his positioning on the shoulder of his Bayern opponent couldn’t have been better.

Pep reacts, Klopp doesn’t

But the game potentially hinged later on a change from Pep Guardiola. The introduction of Franck Ribery added sharpness to Bayern’s attacks; the change seeing Mario Götze replaced after a fairly ineffective time on the pitch.

He dropped from the left-hand side into the space behind the fatigued midfield pairing of Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender. Either one of the two should have been replaced in the second half, but Jürgen Klopp decided not to make the changes.

Ribery was one player identified by Guardiola as a potential candidate to play in the “False Nine” slot last season and the substitute was influential in securing the three points that established Bayern’s four-point lead at the top of the table.

The Frenchman accelerated clear of Dortmund’s Neven Subotic until the defender brought him to the ground, according to the referee, who awarded a penalty. Robben dispatched with ease and secured a hard-fought, but ultimately, deserved three points for the German champions.