RB Leipzig keep the title wolf from the door in Bundesliga for one more week

Bayern’s battle with Dortmund for the title goes into the final day, which would make victory even sweeter for either side

Again, it should have been the week that the Bundesliga title was finally decided and once more, it wasn’t. Borussia Dortmund’s dream has been living on borrowed time since they were soundly thrashed in Der Klassiker more than a month ago and on Saturday, the buzzer sounded to indicate that time was up. Briefly.

The 50th minute of Bayern Munich’s trip to RB Leipzig should have been the minute that won it and it briefly almost was, before the VAR team whispered in referee Manuel Gräfe’s ear and put an untimely end to the party. “It was a Supertor,” defender Niklas Süle later lamented and it had been, thrashed in on the volley by Leon Goretzka, who sprinted away towards the corner flag and into the perfect knee slide to celebrate. “I felt like an idiot afterwards,” he admitted.

The Goretzka goal was ruled out for an offside against Robert Lewandowski, described by coach Niko Kovač as “close but correct” and by president Uli Hoeness as the “joke of the year,” railing against the lack of a clear and obvious nature, despite journalists’ efforts to correct him.

Goretzka described the moment as “an emotional rollercoaster. I thought I’d scored the title-winning goal in my first season.” It was easy to have sympathy with his view. Especially as the second half progressed, with the home side penned in, it felt as if one goalwould always have been enough to decide things in Bayern’s favour, with Ralf Rangnick’s side reduced to sparse counter-attacks.

Leon Goretzka celebrating his disallowed goal.
Leon Goretzka celebrating his disallowed goal. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Neither were Leipzig under siege, though. This young team have the best defence in the division and even if they were happy enough to lean on it for long spells, it was evident why. Rangnick rejected the idea of pointers for the DfB Pokal final, when the two sides will come together in Berlin(his side functioned with “five per cent less adrenaline” than they will for the final, he suggested), but Kovač will surely have his thinking cap on for the week that follows the conclusion of the Bundesliga season to work out some solutions to a tough puzzle. Goalkeeper Peter Gulácsi had his moments but didn’t need too many. Willi Orban and especially the teenage Ibrahima Konaté were simply outstanding.

Bayern have no need to panic, of course. It’s all still in their hands, a position that – as Thomas Müller was keen to point out – “we would have signed up for immediately in winter.” For the fans who will welcome them home next weekend – many of the club’s ultras groups chose to boycott Saturday’s game as a continuation of protests against Red Bull, despite the importance of the game – it could work out perfectly.

The final day scenario alone would make it special for Bayernbut when one bears in mind that not one of the previous nine Bundesliga titles that the club has lifted since moving in 14 years ago has been sealed at the Allianz Arena, putting a full stop to it there would be even more worthy of celebration. There’s been a lot of beer thrown over that pitch since 2005, but it has always felt like being at an organised party context rather than a real football one. Winning it on the same day would be a rare pleasure worth savouring for Bayern.

The closest they have come to a home turf celebration was the 2012 Champions League final, though it would take a defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday for the unthinkable to come to pass for a second time. The Bayern perspective is more of a perfect farewell for the departing, but not retiring, duo of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben, with the Frenchman having the opportunity to advance past a clutch of other Bayern legends, including Oliver Kahn, with his ninth Bundesliga winner’s medal.

Franck Ribery will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
Franck Ribery will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season. Photograph: Felipe Trueba/EPA

Are the set of circumstances that have led us to this point a cause for celebration? Probably not. This was reflected in the amicable but non-committal references to Kovač. “While we can still achieve a lot and win two titles, we would be best advised not to waste our energy on personnel considerations,” sporting director Hasan Salihamidzić told ZDF’s Aktuelle Sportstudio. “We’ll see,” was the even more circumspect summary from CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. One suspects that Kovač’s future hinges as much on the alternatives available in the next few weeks – Salihamidzić denied Spanish reports that he met Julen Lopetegui in Madrid– as on what Bayern can or can’t get done in the next 12 days. Double or quits, perhaps.

Dortmund, anyway, kept up their side of the bargain to keep it going to the final day, which hasn’t been a given in the last few months. Just. After Christian Pulisic, on his final appearance at Westfalen before moving to Chelsea, opened the scoring, they recovered from a Fortuna Düsseldorf equaliser to lead 3-1 in stoppage time, thanks to a sublime finish by Mario Götze. And then the drama, even if it was chillingly familiar to the bulk of the 80,000 fans packed into Signal Iduna Park.

The club’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke spoke about the pressure being on Bayern next week, but it looked like his side were feeling it more as they almost threw it all away in stoppage-time, conceding a 95th-minute goal to Dawid Kownacki and flirting with meltdown thereafter. “We like to do that,” grinned Götze afterwards, knowing full well that the how and why doesn’t even slightly matter at this point. That BVB, improbably, are still in the mix is what counts.

Mario Götze gives a wink after scoring for Borussia Dortmund against Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Mario Götze gives a wink after scoring for Borussia Dortmund against Fortuna Düsseldorf. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

With Bayern and Dortmund’s opponents, Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach, aiming to snatch the final Champions League spot (with Gladbach in pole for now), there are no guarantees for final day. Especially after the season we’ve been having. Don’t ever call Bayern predictable again.

Augsburg 3-4 Hertha Berlin, Dortmund 3-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hannover 3-0 Freiburg, Hoffenheim 0-1 Werder Bremen, Leverkusen 1-1 Schalke, Nurnberg 0-4 M'gladbach, RB Leipzig 0-0 Bayern Munich, Stuttgart 3-0 Wolfsburg 

Talking points


• Leverkusen, on the week in which they agreed to lay out a club record €32 million to bring in Kerem Demirbay from Hoffenheim, fluffed their lines with fourth place finally there for the taking, conceding a second-half equaliser to Schalke and thus needing to win at Hertha next week and for Dortmund to do them a favour against Gladbach. It could have been even worse if Lukas Hradecky hadn’t saved a Daniel Caligiuri penalty. Peter Bosz’s team thus face the possibility of missing out on the Champions League on the final day for the second straight season.

• Also this week, former Huddersfield manager David Wagner agreed a deal to coach Schalke next season, where he previously played, an appointment to excite embittered fans hoping for more of the club’s traditional values.

• Werder Bremen, in ninth, can make the final Europa League place if they beat Leipzig and the two teams above them, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, slip up.

• Finally, Nürnberg and Hannover are confirmed relegated after Stuttgart beat Wolfsburg 3-0, confirming the Swabians in the playoff against one of Paderborn and Union Berlin. That’s right, not Hamburg, who remain in Bundesliga 2 next term after slumping 4-1 at Paderborn.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich 33 52 75
2 Borussia Dortmund 33 35 73
3 RB Leipzig 33 35 66
4 Borussia M'gladbach 33 15 55
5 Bayer Leverkusen 33 13 55
6 Eintracht Frankfurt 33 16 54
7 Wolfsburg 33 5 52
8 Hoffenheim 33 20 51
9 Werder Bremen 33 8 50
10 Hertha Berlin 33 -4 43
11 Fortuna Dusseldorf 33 -17 41
12 Mainz 33 -13 40
13 Freiburg 33 -19 33
14 Augsburg 33 -13 32
15 Schalke 04 33 -18 32
16 Stuttgart 33 -38 27
17 Hannover 96 33 -39 21
18 Nurnberg 33 -38 19