Despite a goal in each half from the clinical Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich twice let slip a lead against unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund losing a thriller 3-2 in the Westfalenstadion on Saturday.
Bayern produced an impressive first-half performance to almost silence the Yellow Wall, with six shots to Dortmund’s solitary effort as Lewandowski grabbed his obligatory goals against his former club.
Bayern twice failed to hold onto their lead in the proverbial game of two halves as Dortmund ran Bayern ragged after the interval, firing eight attempts on goal with only Lewandowski’s sole effort to show for their efforts.
Chasing their seventh title on the trot, Bayern slip to third in the Bundesliga — seven points behind Lucien Favre’s domineering Dortmund side. Leipzig will move above the record German champions with a point against Leverkusen on Sunday.
While Bayern clearly raised their game for the biggest match in German football, the real test lies ahead after the international break. Can this ageing squad play with the same intensity against the likes of Dusseldorf, Bremen and Nuremberg to keep rampant Dortmund in their sights until the winter break?
Manager rating out of 10
4 — Despite his side’s “best performance since Schalke,” Niko Kovac is surely feeling the heat early in his tenure with just two wins in his previous seven Bundesliga games. To add insult to injury following another defeat, the ex-Frankfurt boss will have upset super-agent Jorge Mendes by letting Colombia superstar James Rodriguez languish on the bench for 90 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Manuel Neuer, 5 — Made a fantastic save to deny Marco Reus the opening goal inside the opening 10 minutes. However, his rash challenge shortly after half-time allowed his Germany teammate to gain revenge with the equalising penalty.
DF David Alaba, 6 — Rampaging first half in tandem with Franck Ribery down the left but faded as the game progressed as Dortmund came on strong after the break.
DF Jerome Boateng, 6 — “Rested” from the Germany squad to concentrate on improving his fitness, Boateng caught the eye with a fantastic last-ditch challenge to deny Paco Alcacer a goal.
DF Mats Hummels, 4 — Told reporters that he felt sick ahead of the game, which explains why the normally classy Hummels almost gifted Reus a goal and was constantly given the run around by the marauding Jadon Sancho. Surely, he should not have played if not feeling well, no matter how desperate he was to play against his former club?
DF Joshua Kimmich, 8 — Brilliant going forward as ever, playing his part in the opening goal and providing the cross for Lewandowski’s second. There was even a dramatic last-ditch goal-line clearance from Bruun Larsen in the second half. Bayern’s next captain.
MF Javi Martinez, 6 — A solid and reassuring presence in defensive midfield in the first half, but overwhelmed in the second like the rest of his colleagues.
MF Leon Goretzka, 6 — The ex-Schalke man produced an impressive first 45, but wasn’t a factor in the second period as Bayern chased shadows.
MF Franck Ribery, 6 — Far and away his best game of the season, which sums up the enfant terrible’s alarming drop in standards in recent months if not years.
MF Serge Gnabry, 7 — The former Arsenal winger was one of Bayern’s brightest sparks, providing an inch-perfect cross for Lewandowski’s opener. It was a surprise that he was sacrificed for Renato Sanches with 16 minutes remaining as there were certainly more deserving candidates.
MF Thomas Muller, 5 — Largely ineffective and his wife Lisa can have no complaints on Instagram this week as doubting Thomas was spared more misery and substituted with eight minutes remaining.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 8 — Upset the Dortmund fans with some minor theatrics on his return to his old stomping ground. The best free transfer in the business always scores against his former club, heading home in each half from a combined total of two yards. Cruelly denied a last-gasp equaliser by an offside flag in the fifth minute of added time. Will not be returning to Dortmund on a free transfer when his time is up in Munich.
DF Niklas Sule, 6 — Replaced the ailing Hummels after 64 minutes with his side leading 2-1. The rest is history as Bayern soon conceded twice, showing his frustration by wrestling Alcacer to the ground.
MF Renato Sanches, N/R — Hardly got a kick after coming on for Gnabry immediately after Bayern fell behind for the first and only time.
FW Sandro Wagner, N/R — Never a factor after replacing the ineffective Muller in a final, desperate throw of the dice from Kovac.