It was a classic Uli Hoeness moment, the kind of full-on verbal assault that gave credence to the self-styled "Attack Department" moniker. "We have to blast them away, we need to mow them down," Hoeness had demanded before the match against the table-toppers. "Once they lose, they'll get nervous." Asked whether Bayern would beat their title rivals 3-1, Hoeness shot back: "Why only 3-1?" Even their more diplomatic manager confidently predicted that a win for the Bavarians would give them "the psychological edge in the title race".
As it turned out, 3-1 proved to be the right prediction, only the other way round. High-flying Werder Bremen were 3-0 up after 30 minutes at the Olympiastadion and never in danger. That was in May 2004. They clinched the championship at the home of the arch enemies, effectively ended the era of the coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld (soon to be replaced by Felix Magath) and exposed Bayern's silly mind games as a desperate attempt to deflect from their own deficiencies.
A little less than seven years later, history repeated itself against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. "It's out of question that we will lose this match," the captain, Philipp Lahm, had predicted beforehand. "It's impossible that we will lose or draw the game," president Hoeness had said. "Dortmund are playing very well, but man for man, we're the better side. We will win by two goals." "I wouldn't mind if we won it by more," added the CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
The day after the 3-1 defeat, Rummenigge did not just look frustrated but genuinely embarrassed. "We wanted to push the team with these statements, unfortunately it didn't work." Lahm and Louis van Gaal were hastily back-tracking, too. "We had actually given up on the championship weeks ago," they insisted. Good for them: the 16-point gap has destroyed the last few remnants of an impossible dream. Fourth-placed Bayern can no longer afford to worry about Dortmund, as their thoughts must turn to third-placed Hannover 96. Van Gaal's men travel to the AWD-Arena next week in the knowledge that Champions League qualification is no longer a given. Another defeat there, and it's Armageddon. (The actual catastrophe, not the film).
For Borussia, though, Saturday was The Graduate (minus the depressing ending): a thrilling, immensely pleasurable and satisfying rite of passage where everything went rather swimmingly. To be sure, Bayern did their bit to make the opening 30 minutes the most compelling Bundesliga game of the season; Dortmund were leading 2-1 after 18 minutes but the home side were looking both dangerous and well up for it. Up front, that is. In defence, however, the out-of-sorts centre-back Holger Badstuber had a nightmare that was compounded by a Bastian Schweinsteiger horror-show (careless in possession before Lucas Barrios's opener) and Bayern's by now traditional inability to close down the opposition after losing the ball.
It was as if the modified German intro to the classic Star Trek series ("Raumschiff Enterprise" to us) was written just for them: instead of "space: the final frontier" we had "the universe: infinite space".
Süddeutsche Zeitung's sports editor, Klaus Hoeltzenbein, felt "Bayern were like driftwood in a sea of yellow and black"; blaming the defeat on individual errors, as Van Gaal did, was problematic: "A holistic system like the one presented by [Jürgen] Klopp takes errors into account and includes safety measures. Van Gaal's purely offensive model is courageous, attractive but also risky and sometimes naive because it doesn't pay enough attention to the opponents' abilities."
One-hundred-and-ninety-eight countries (apparently) tuned in to see Dortmund grow in stature with every passing minute. They were without two of their most important players, the keeper Roman Weidenfeller and the Japanese attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa. Their average age was a tad over 22 years. And they didn't have the record books on their side: the Yellow-Blacks had not won in Munich in 19 years. "Most of my boys were still being breast-fed then," joked Klopp. But they combined high-energy defensive work and constant doubling up on the wings with counter-attacks of sublime speed. It sounds simple but the overall effect was awe-inspiring. "They're swarming out like bees, it's very impressive," the TV pundit Franz Beckenbauer acknowledged at half-time, when a Bayern comeback still seemed feasible.
After the interval, Borussia were mostly content to shut up shop. Bayern had quite literally nowhere to go. "You couldn't give it to Arjen [Robben], you couldn't give it to Franck [Ribéry] and nothing happened in the middle either," said a frustrated Thomas Müller, one of many players who were prevented from playing at their usual level. There were obvious parallels with the Champions League final defeat against Internazionale last year. Bayern's wonderful possession stats (64%) seemed utterly pointless in the face of Dortmund's precise positional shifts at the back. The game was decided when Mats Hummels headed home from a corner on the hour mark. It had to be him, of course: the defender, widely seen as Germany's best at the moment, had been sold to Dortmund by Jürgen Klinsmann in 2008.
Berliner Zeitung noted that the runaway leaders were once and for all proving that experience was vastly over-rated. "Klopp's intensive game needs young players who don't tire easily and regenerate quickly," it wrote. The same is true of Jogi Löw's Germany side, who share another interesting characteristic: casual observers can sometimes mistake them for a counter-attacking side but their true strength lies in their tactical flexibility.
Unlike Van Gaal's Bayern, they do not slavishly stick to Plan A but constantly adjust, in line with the demands of the game and opposition at hand. On Saturday, for example, Borussia swapped their usual high-line pressing for a much deeper centre. Bild speculated that "Borussia can become our Barça" but in truth they could well become something different entirely. After a decade in which having a strong "footballing identity" was seen as a must, Klopp's approach tantalisingly hints at a post-ideological future when there will only be micro-tactics left: big game-plans might be less decisive than the ability to find the best possible solutions in every situation, irrespective of possession.
But that's next year's debate. On Saturday, the win was so emphatic, so definitive, that Bayern officials and players were queuing up to congratulate the visitors for winning the championship 10 weeks early. Klopp lost his glasses and a few drops of blood when the outstanding Nuri Sahin, the Turkish midfield maestro and scorer of Dortmund's second, accidentally smashed them in the jubilant hugs after the final whistle but was just as well prepared as his team: he had a second pair ready. "I've been reading Kicker magazine since I'm six years old, I know what Bayern always say before these games," said the 43-year-old in reply to Hoeness' bullish statements. He didn't sound like Nelson Muntz, but almost understanding.
While the triumphant manager took his we're-only-thinking-about-the-next-game spiel to a new, improbable level – "I couldn't give a s**t about the championship today, I'm too happy with the way we played" – the CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke couldn't help himself. He had to break cover. "We've now come to a point where we can say: we can and want to be champions," said the 51-year-old. The final word on the matter came from the indefatigable Kevin Grosskreutz, the one Dortmund player who had responded in kind to Bayern's digs before the match. "I know I was mouthing off, saying that we were the best team in the Bundesliga," said the 22-year-old. "But today showed that I was right".
• Sometimes you get the sense that Bundesliga supporters don't really appreciate their lot. Cheap tickets, beer, sausages, access to training sessions, the right to elect club presidents and stage sit-in protests in front of team buses ... and still they're not happy. They also dream of players who will happily stick around forever and turn down more lucrative offers. At Kaiserslautern, the Serb striker Srdjan Lakic was subjected to almost constant booing by his own fans in the 1-1 draw with Hamburg on Saturday. Lakic, 27, actually tried hard for the Red Devils, but it didn't matter. Ever since he made the naïve mistake of posing with a shirt of his next employer (VfL Wolfsburg) just before Christmas, he has become a pariah.
"Lakic out!", the shouts went at the Betzenberg. "It's sad that the supporters don't have respect," he said. Even the Hamburg coach Armin Veh was taken aback by the venomous atmosphere: "It's not my business but I can't understand how a player can be jeered by his own fans in the relegation battle, especially since he works so hard." To be fair, there was bit of pro-Lakic shouting, too. But at the moment, the haters have it. As ever, their maths (and arguments) are simplistic: Lakic was the top scorer with 11 goals before the break but he hasn't scored since. Verdict: mercenary. Strange how the charge of disloyalty is only ever directed at the men on the other side of the white line.
• A last-ditch equaliser by Sebastin Prödl saved a point for Werder Bremen and Thomas Schaaf from more bother. Bremen hailed the team's morale after the comeback from two down to Leverkusen, who conversely bemoaned another their own bottling jobs that were supposed to be a thing of the past. "It makes me vomit," said the Bayer keeper Rene Adler. "You'd think some don't want to play in the Champions League next season. Everyone should know how important these games are."
Leverkusen's coach Jupp Heynckes does. The 65-year-old hinted that the extension of his contract might depend on Champions League qualification. Werder can avoid the managerial debate, at least for another week, but they also need to make a decision. Do they seriously believe that Torsten Frings can only get better? The 34-year-old captain is out of contract in the summer and unsure whether to continue – "I don't know if I need that at my age". The club seem undecided, too. His experience and tough-attitude might well be useful attributes in the second division, however.
• If it had not been for Dortmund's stellar evening in Munich, Stuttgart could have claimed the performance of the weekend. The Swabians were a man down after 15 minutes when the Bundesliga's own Joey Barton, the Frankfurt defender Maik Franz, provoked Matthieu Delpierre into a retaliatory push (Franz had, quite deliberately trodden on his toes). The referee, Wolfgang Stark, sent off Khalid Boulahrouz at first but then got his man, eventually. Countless excellent saves from the VfB keeper Sven Ulreich later, the visitors snatched two very good goals and three invaluable points. Eintracht are yet to score a single goal this calendar year.
• Lukas Podolski, though, scored a goal of the month contender with an 88th-minute "Bogenlampe", a fine chip over the Freiburg goalkeeper Oliver Baumann. Poldi's stroke of genius compensated for a bit of dross before, but the ecstatic crowd in Köln didn't care. Like those poor souls who watch televised German carnival events (or those, some might argue, who read these lines), they're obviously happy to endure the whole procedure – provided there is a half-decent decent punch-line at the end.
Results: Wolfsburg 2–1 Gladbach, Kaiserslautern 1–1 Hamburg, Hoffenheim 1–2 Mainz, Köln 1–0 Freiburg, Schalke 1–1 Nürnberg, Bayern 1–3 Dortmund, Frankfurt 0–2 Stuttgart, Bremen 2–2 Leverkusen, St Pauli 0-1 Hannover.