By CHRISTOPHER GUMINA, Digital Sports Desk Contributor
(Special to Digital Sports Desk) – In the biggest and most anticipated soccer match since the resumption of (German) Bundesliga play two weeks ago, Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund, 1-0. The lone goal was scored by Bayern’s midfield maestro Joshua Kimmich in the 43rd minute. The goal – a gorgeous chip from outside the box that caught Dortmund keeper Roman Bürki napping – was the highlight of an otherwise rather drab match.
Dortmund disappointed from the first whistle to the last. Their best chance came when striker Erling Haaland caught Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer off his line and attempted a shot, but it was blocked by Bayern defender Jérôme Boateng. Dortmund star Jadon Sancho was clearly lacking fitness, and could only manage 45 minutes in what was by far the biggest game of his team’s season. It is fair to question how Sancho could have lost his edge to such a degree when most of his teammates still seemed on the pace.
The 19-year-old Bayern defender Alphonso Davies proved to be a revelation during this match. Davies, who spent his childhood in a Canadian refugee camp, made his first team debut for Bayern earlier this season and has quickly become an instrumental part of the starting 11. Davies had one particularly impressive tackle on Haaland in the first half that decisively stopped a promising Dortmund offensive move.
The win gave Bayern 64 points on the season, and a 7 point advantage over second place Dortmund. A gap that large is likely insurmountable, especially given Bayern’s current run of form and the late stage of the season. If Bayern were to win the Bundesliga it would be their 30th overall and 8th consecutive title, a run of dominance dating back to 2013.
Dortmund meanwhile are left back at square one yet again. The past several seasons have seen Dortmund come closer than ever to finally breaking Bayern’s storied run, but it appears as if they will come up short yet again. This is especially painful given the nature of Dortmund’s team. Sancho is a mercurial player, and one of the best in the world at his position.
Unfortunately, it appears increasingly likely that Sancho will move on from Signal Iduna Park when the transfer window opens this summer. Dortmund, who bought Sancho from Manchester City for $8.6 million in 2017, will make a huge profit on his eventual $100 million plus sale, but it will do little to soothe the sting of losing such a talented player.
When/if Sancho makes his exit, Dortmund will be forced to place even more responsibility on their other young starlets. Haaland will need to step up and develop into a true world talent. Some of Dortmund’s other young talent, such as the prodigiously talented 17-year-old American Gio Reyna, will have more opportunities to break into the starting 11 and gain broader recognition.
Even if the race for the Bundesliga title is likely over, the race for the final Champions league places is not. Only the top four teams in the league get automatic qualification for the Champions league, and the huge financial windfall that comes with it.
The third through fifth spots in the Bundesliga table belong to RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen, who have 54, 53, and 53 points respectively. Only two of these three teams will gain that coveted automatic bid, and it is sure to be an exciting race down the stretch.