Borussia Dortmund's late show gives Bundesliga title race jolt of electricity

Borussia Dortmund scored two goals in stoppage time as Robert Lewandowksi spurned late chances for Bayern Munich to set up an enticing title run-in

All roads lead to Munich. At the end of a week in which it was announced France’s World Cup-winning defender Lucas Hernández would arrive at Bayern in the summer – after the champions paid a fee almost double the Bundesliga’s existing highest for an incoming player – Marco Reus will also head for Bavaria, as a Borussia Dortmund player, of course, but there had been doubt about the captain making the journey. This weekend Reus’s first child, a baby girl, arrived a few days earlier than expected, freeing daddy up to lead his side in what could be the defining game of their season.

A week before Bayern and Dortmund meet in the season’s final Klassiker, at the Allianz Arena next Saturday, the scales of the Bundesliga tipped again during stoppage time on Saturday afternoon as the two played simultaneously, 460km apart. Bayern spurned a couple of more-than-presentable match points at Freiburg, with Robert Lewandowski sending a free header wide from close range, shortly before Leon Goretzka’s header hit the post and the Poland No 9 put the rebound over the top.

Dortmund, however, looked like they would not take advantage of only Bayern’s second failure to win in their last 15 Bundesliga matches. They went past the 90-minute mark at home to Wolfsburg at 0-0, blunted without Reus against a team habitually so dogged away from home. Then came Paco Alcácer, firstly thrashing home a free-kick from just outside the area, and then scuffing in a second after Jadon Sancho played him in at the end of a counter-attack. The goals took Dortmund where few in recent weeks imagined them being – going to Munich next week back at the top of the table, with two points more to their tally than the champions.

Hans-Joachim Watzke commented, with a lorryload of understatement, that going into Der Klassiker in front was “psychologically good,” but the last few games have been just that. BVB have flirted hard with the death of the title dream, going into stoppage time in Berlin a fortnight ago drawing with Hertha before Reus struck the decisive blow, and now this. It’s the best possible habit at the best possible time and the feeling seems to be that it’s more than luck. “If you judge it over the season,” Mario Götze told Sky, “then it’s a quality of ours, that we know we can still make games happen for us.”

Paco Alcácer scored twice after the clock had ticked past 90 minutes.
Paco Alcácer scored twice after the clock had ticked past 90 minutes. Photograph: Osama Faisal/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Der Klassiker could have been a procession but now, it’s an opportunity, even if Bayern – on the back of seven straight Bundesliga home wins – are now the clear favourites. The wobbles that Niko Kovač’s side experienced at the Allianz in autumn, against Augsburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf (not to mention Freiburg, surely now their chief irritant of this far tighter than expected season), seem like a long time ago.

They weren’t their assured selves in the Black Forest, though, going a goal down in three minutes to a clearly pumped-up home side, with Lucas Höler nodding past Sven Ulreich as Manuel Neuer sat out with a sore calf. Lewandowski scored an equaliser but the flow wasn’t quite there, despite Bayern laying siege in the closing stages to the Freiburg goal, in which Alexander Schwolow played a blinder.

Bayern Munich on the attack against Freiburg.
Bayern Munich on the attack against Freiburg. Photograph: Simon Hofmann/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

If luck played a role, especially in those confounding final minutes, it felt like a generational thing as well, with Serge Gnabry continuing his Germany form after replacing a quiet Thomas Müller 10 minutes into the second half (with that said, the rested Javi Martínez was missed in midfield). With Jogi Löw watching from the stands for the first time since he unceremoniously dumped them from the national team, neither Müller, Jérôme Boateng or Mats Hummels – with the latter exposed for Höler’s opener – did much to suggest the coach had been wrong. “The German national coach has made an art form of his own inscrutability,” wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Benedikt Warmbrunn. “On Saturday afternoon, however, everyone could see how Joachim Löw looks at the world.”

The annoyance in the Bayern camp at the slow start that undermined them was evident, both in the post-match words of Kovač and Goretzka. “We were asleep in the first five minutes,” lamented the midfielder, “despite talking about it 700 times in the dressing room.” The start certainly underlined why the club have been so swift to make defensive reinforcements, with the signings of Hernández and Benjamin Pavard likely to be just the start of significant investment.

The question is whether Dortmund can find the spark to take advantage of their current position – a spark which, despite their late flourish, wasn’t always evident on Saturday – or if Bayern’s old guard can summon what might be a last hurrah. With a title race for once still alive and kicking in spring, it promises to be fun finding out.

Robert Lewandowski fails to score.
Robert Lewandowski fails to score. Photograph: Simon Hofmann/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Talking points

• Just off the summit, it was a great weekend for Leipzig. What had looked for months like a side treading water until the arrival of their shiny new coach, Julian Nagelsmann, in the summer is now veering excitedly to a glorious season’s end. They annihilated Hertha 5-0 on Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen scoring a hat-trick and thus surpassing the more celebrated Timo Werner as the club’s top scorer this season so far – no hard feelings, with Werner spurning the opportunity for a shot to lay on an easy opener for Poulsen instead – after Emil Forsberg had opened the floodgates for only the Swede’s second goal of an injury-frustrated season. There is also possible silverware on the horizon, with a very-winnable DfB Pokal quarter-final at Augsburg on Tuesday.

• Borussia Mönchengladbach might well look on in envy after their humbling defeat after the short trip to Fortuna Düsseldorf. They were 3-0 down after 16 minutes, and furious coach Dieter Hecking made his point by substituting the not-injured Thorgan Hazard before half-time. “I think we could have all been taken off in the first half,” sympathised Matthias Ginter but with one win and four defeats in the last seven, Gladbach are in danger of throwing away a campaign of mostly excellent work. To cap it all, Eintracht Frankfurt brushed aside Stuttgart in the late game on Sunday to leapfrog Gladbach into fourth, with Filip Kostić scoring twice.

• Schalke were able to make the most of their fortune – with Stuttgart losing and Augsburg taking a 3-0 hiding at surely-doomed Nürnberg – by winning their first game since the return of Huub Stevens and moving six points clear of the relegation play-off spot. They really had no other option at bottom club Hannover, and €11m signing Suat Serdar got a slick winner, his first goal for the club, entirely out of keeping with a fractious battle. “I wasn’t even looking at the goal,” admitted Serdar. He was probably due the luck, and his team might need some more as they head into a challenging-looking Pokal quarter-final against in-form Werder Bremen.

Hoffenheim 4-1 Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Wolfsburg, Nürnberg 3-0 Augsburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-1 Borusia Mönchengladbach, Freiburg 1-1 Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen 3-1 Mainz, RB Leipzig 5-0 Hertha Berlin, Hannover 96 0-1 Schalke, Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 Stuttgart

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Borussia Dortmund 27 36 63
2 Bayern Munich 27 41 61
3 RB Leipzig 27 29 52
4 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 24 49
5 Borussia M'gladbach 27 12 47
6 Werder Bremen 27 10 42
7 Bayer Leverkusen 27 4 42
8 Wolfsburg 27 3 42
9 Hoffenheim 27 15 41
10 Hertha Berlin 27 -4 35
11 Fortuna Dusseldorf 27 -15 34
12 Freiburg 27 -5 32
13 Mainz 27 -20 30
14 Schalke 04 27 -16 26
15 Augsburg 27 -13 25
16 Stuttgart 27 -33 20
17 Nurnberg 27 -30 16
18 Hannover 96 27 -38 14