The match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, 6th April was billed as the title decider and for the first six minutes it felt like one - fast, aggressive, and end to end. Then Mahmoud Dahoud hit the post (a shot that he really should have buried), Bayern regrouped, and from there on, Dortmund were decidedly second best.
Time and again, they were cut open by the home side, especially during set pieces. Matt Hummels could have had a hat trick in the first half alone, from three corners! Dan-Axel Zagadou had one of his worst games in a Dortmund shirt, being directly at fault for Bayern's second and fourth goals and was rightly subbed off at half time. Dortmund were set up to counter on the break, but with Jadon Sancho and JB Larsen having ineffective outings, it meant that Reus was left stranded up front, and Borussia offered little to no goal threat.
Yesterday's performance and result could be dismissed as an off day for Dortmund, but the past three months have made one thing clear - this team is yet not ready to win titles. Their recent form of just four wins from nine games has led to a nine point lead becoming a one point deficit. Injuries have played a part, but the best teams find ways to win regardless, and Dortmund have been unable to do just that.
Will Bayern slip up? It's hard to see them do so. They have now won seven of their last eight league fixtures, and 14 of their last 16. Even though they have just a one point lead, and arguably an even tougher fixture list (with matches against third placed RB Leipzig at home and Werder Bremen away still to come), Bayern are slowly becoming the force they used to be over the past 6 years. The players may not yet be on board with Niko Kovac's playing style, but this is a team that knows how to win. It's tough to see Dortmund catching them now. (Not to mention Dortmund too have a derby against Schalke to come and play Borussia Monchengladbach on the last day).
Regardless of what does happen in this title race, Dortmund can still be extremely proud of the way this season has unfolded. They have a young team that will only improve and mature over time. If this group can stay together over the next two or three years (and that's a big if, since Dortmund have historically always been a selling club) they will be a force to be reckoned with, both in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
However, they still have some work to do over summer, most importantly getting new central defenders and making the back a bit more solid and less susceptible to fast breaks and set pieces. But the team and its fans can be extremely happy with this season, even if it ends trophy-less.
As a neutral, I still hope that there are some twists left in this year's title race. But one thing I do know for sure is that next year's race will be even closer, so long as the core of Dortmund's team remain together.Published 07 Apr 2019, 16:11 IST