It's recently become known as 'Der Klassiker'. But the gulf between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund meant that Saturday's edition of the German clash was anything but a classic — much to the chagrin of BVB fans.
If anyone had any doubts about how hotly-anticipated this sold-out clash was, you only had to observe all those trying to get last-minute tickets in the hours before kickoff to dispel them.
As you got off the underground train at Fröttmanning station to make the 10-minute walk to the Allianz Arena, you were repeatedly approached by fans looking for somebody with a ticket to sell.
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The reason is simple. For years, this has been the fixture that Bundesliga fans circle on their calendar, the one everybody wants to see. It's often provided high-class, highly competitive and even heated contests.
Not just that, but as some of the Bayern supporters arrived early, they would have still harbored hopes of celebrating the title tonight. However, a 2-0 win for Schalke in one of the earlier kickoffs changed all of that. By the time they got to their seats, everybody knew the title wouldn't be official for at least another week. Now everybody was just hoping for — and anticipating — a "Klassiker" worthy of the description.
After all, even though Bayern have manhandled the rest of the league more brutally than usual this season, at times BVB have looked capable of rising to the occasion. You would have thought that if Peter Stöger's men were ever going to do it, it would be on this night.
Alas, you would have been wrong.
Dortmund looked nervous from the get go. It took just five minutes for former Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski to put the home side up 1-0. The Bayern fans roared. But the few thousand Dortmund fans soon responded, urging their team forward.
A ninth-minute Franck Ribery goal that was called back for offside after a VAR review seemed to stun the Dortmund supporters, but their Bayern counterparts took it in their stride. Not only does their club have the title all but in the bag, but you had the sense that their next goal — like the title — was just a matter of time. It was. James Rodriguez put it away five minutes later.
By the time Thomas Müller made it three in the 23rd minute, the few thousand BVB fans in one corner of the upper tier in the Allianz Arena were silenced — like the collective deer in the headlights that their team on the pitch so closely resembled.
The rest of the fans — the Bayern supporters — just carried on celebrating, ecstatic not just about how dominant a performance their team were putting on this evening, but about another very early Bundesliga title.
After that third goal, Jupp Heynckes' men seemed to shift down a gear, but you always had the sense that they could turn it on again anytime they wanted. Dortmund remained pitiful throughout the first half. Symptomatic of their display was that on one of their rare forays near the Bayern area, Andre Schürrle played a pass at an on-running Mario Götze but, instead of playing it into his run, the ball went sailing behind his teammate's head. No, it just wasn't happening for Dortmund.
With Bayern up 5-0, Heynckes actually did tell his men to ease up in the second half — after all, they have a Champions League quarterfinal match against Sevilla to look forward to in the next few days.
Not to be silenced completely, the BVB fans kept singing even through to the final whistle. But after that third goal it was a subdued sort of singing, almost as if they'd been reduced to going through the motions — much like their team on the pitch. As if to reward the Bayern fans for sitting through an up-until-then scoreless second half, Lewandowski put away Bayern's sixth, his third on the night, to round off the scoring in the 87th minute.
While the Bayern players were predictably greeted by wildly enthusiastic cheers as they saluted their fans after the final whistle on the 6-0 rout, which referee Bastian Dankert mercifully blew after virtually no injury time. Their Dortmund counterparts couldn't have been too surprised when they were met with jeers.
What a long time it seems since late September, when Jupp Heynckes took over a faltering Bayern from Carlo Ancelotti — with Dortmund, under Stöger's predecessor, Peter Bosz, five points clear at the top of the table!
And after this Klassiker that was anything but a classic, how long will that six-hour drive north on the autobahn feel for all of those Dortmund fans?