Borussia Dortmund landed the first blow of the 2013/14 campaign with a 4-2 victory over rivals Bayern Munich that saw new manager Pep Guardiola lose his first competitive game in charge.
All eyes were on the Signal Iduna Park – including many more than usual as fans tuned in worldwide to see Guardiola’s first real test as Bayern boss in a repeat of May’s Champions League final – and the fans lucky enough to have a ticket were out of their seats within five minutes. At least the majority of the ground were anyway.
Dortmund started without any of their new signings, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan out injured and Sokratis Papasthatopoulos sat on the bench alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but the ‘old guard’ proved they were more than up to the task when they went in front thanks to a glaring error from Bayern keeper Tom Starke.
Deputising for the injured Manuel Neuer, Starke’s face was left as red as his teammates’ shirts when Sven Bender headed goalwards from Robert Lewandowski’s cross, and the giant German could only fumble into Marco Reus’ path for the forward to nod home one of the easier goals he’ll ever score.
Starke was then picking the ball out his net for a second time shortly after, when Lewandowski did the honours after Ilkay Gündogan had sliced open the Bayern backline, but the Pole was denied by the offside flag.
Bayern, without the latter of marquee signings Thiago Alcântara and Mario Götze through injury, set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with the former playing in a deep-lying position and Xherdan Shaqiri given a start out wide.
And it was the Swiss winger who had his side’s first real opportunity after ten minutes when he drilled goalwards from the edge of the box and forced Roman Weidenfeller to tip wide for a corner. Shaqiri and Weidenfeller squared off again not five minutes later when Thomas Müller knocked back for his teammate to be denied once more by the Dortmund stopper.
It had been a rip-roaring game that surged from end to end in the sweltering Dortmund heat, and before a drinks break with 25 minutes on the clock, there was still time for Starke to go about redeeming his earlier mistake.
The ever-impressive Gündogan and Reus combined well to set up a fine move which culminated in a brilliant chance for Lewandowski, only for Starke’s outstretched leg to somehow deny what looked a certain goal.
The intensity showed no signs of halting as the half progressed, and Bayern should have drawn level when David Alaba sent an inviting ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, but Mario Mandzukic was little more than inches away from connecting with the Austrian’s delivery.
If fans were judging what to expect from this season’s Bundesliga campaign based on the night’s evidence, then a manic spell at the beginning of the second half is sure to send viewing figures through the roof.
In came Dortmund skipper Sebastian Kehl for Bender before all hell let loose at the Westfalenstadion. 54 minutes were on the clock when Philipp Lahm sent a delicious ball to the back post for Arjen Robben to capitalise on poor defending to head home a deserved equaliser. That was just the start.
A minute later, and the European champions were behind once more. Dortmund pressed upon the restart and when Gündogan curled in a hopeful cross no one in the ground was expecting Daniel van Buyten to send a diving header spinning past his own goalkeeper.
And Dortmund weren’t satisfied there as they extraordinarily increased their lead a minute later. Winning back possession from Bayern’s kick-off and starting a quick counter saw Gündogan in acres of space, and the midfielder charged forward with purpose before evading Müller and van Buyten to curl a sweet finish into the far corner.
Three goals in three minutes – two of them in the hosts’ favour – meant Dortmund now had a two goal advantage, but Bayern cut that down to one when they made it four goals in ten minutes.
Thiago clipped a fine ball out to Shaqiri, who sent his skipper Lahm racing beyond him. Lahm and Robben had combined well for the first goal, and the duo linked up once more when the captain drilled in a low ball which Robben did well to control, before turning Subotic and firing low past Weidenfeller.
Bayern were buoyed by their second goal and were already dominating again when Müller almost scored a spectacular equaliser with ten minutes remaining. Thiago scooped over Dortmund’s defence with a perfect lob but Müller could only send his left-footed volley against Weidenfeller’s crossbar.
Aubameyang was introduced as a substitute late on, and when a loose ball from Thiago was cut out by Nuri Sahin, the Gabonese international was sent galloping down the right and no one was going to catch him. The forward squared for Reus – seemingly in an offside position – to tap in his second and Dortmund’s fourth to put the game to bed with 86 minutes on the clock.
Dortmund will be delighted to get one over their conquerors on all fronts last season, and fans can expect an interesting battle between the two giants of German football again this season.