Welcome back to the second instalment of Breaking Bayern! Please accept my apologies for the delayed release of part two!
Fresh from defeat in the domestic curtain raiser to our rivals Bayern Munich; there was optimism in the air as we kicked off our Bundesliga campaign.
We welcomed Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening day, a big test. We got off to a great start thanks to Erling Haaland, who lifted the ball over Kevin Trapp in the Frankfurt goal to give us an early lead. From then on, we dominated the game and played some lovely stuff on times. In a game where we should have scored more, I was really impressed with our control we had over Frankfurt; with them rarely threatening our goal. I was very pleased with clean-sheet and the performance.
We travelled to Schwarzwald-Stadion on matchday 2, where we took on Freiburg. Another fantastic performance, this time rewarded with the goals that we deserved. I expected us to take home all three points prior to match; but I was pleasantly surprised with the six goals we scored.
Matchday 3 seen us comfortably pick apart a young Hoffenheim side. I chose to reward Giovanni Reyna with start thanks to his very impressive training ratings, and he undoubtedly delivered. Two well-taken goals and fine assist for Reinier earned him the MOTM reward as we became the early pace-setters at the end of August.
14 goals scored in 3 league games in September, remarkable.
We kicked off the month with a very impressive 3-0 win at Leverkusen; the type of result to put Germany on notice of our title credentials. Union Berlin didn’t know that hit them when we welcomed them to Signal Iduna Park. Haaland netted an 18 minute hat-trick to helped us on our way to a 9 goal victory as we dismantled Union Berlin. Unfortunately, our streak of five wins from five came to an end in Gladbach thank to a late own-goal from James Tarkowski; who was enjoying a streak of games in the starting line-up.
We took full advantage of October gifting us three out of four home games by winning four out of four. Following on from scoring at the wrong end the week before, it was nice to see Tarkowski score in the correct end to round off an impressive performance as we steamrolled Augsburg. Mainz were no match for us either, as we made light-work of brushing them aside and sealing a 3-0 victory.
Arminia Bielefeld proved to be stubborn and well-organised outfit; we struggled during large periods of the match, so it came as a relief to see Donyell Malen open in his account for the season and help us claim all three points on the road.
The month was ended as it started; Erling Haaland taking home the match ball thanks to another hat-trick. Haaland finishing the month with 7 goals in 4 games. Bayern Munich had dropped points thanks to two draws in October; this saw us end the month on top-spot and a two point buffer.
Only the three league fixtures for us in November; but most importantly it resulted three massive victories for us. RB Leipzig is no easy place to go and get three points; but however, we made it look rather easy. An early goal settled us down and from there forward, we made the game our own. The only negative (and this goes for the month as-a-whole) is that we were unable to hold on to a clean sheet.
Not the greatest performance of the month followed, coming from behind to defeat a Stuttgart which was languishing at the foot of the table. I feel like the may look at these games, where we were not our best and say that these games make you champions. We showed character to turn it around, even when were not playing great.
What a game to wrap up November. Unfortunately for Wolfsburg (who had raced into a two goal lead after 10 minutes), Erling Haaland decided to choose violence. A brilliant first half hat-trick was added to deep into injury time at the end of the game, where a brilliant long-range effort ensured we would hold on to top spot. Not only did we hold on to top spot, we managed to extend our lead at the top of the table to 5 points as Bayern lost at struggling Leverkusen. What an upset!
What a vital month this could prove to be in the title race! The two games against Bayern are always the biggest games of the league season. I knew that if we managed to beat them, the momentum would truly be with us heading towards the Winter break.
We were nothing short of sensational against Bayern, we looked like the team which had been running the Bundesliga for recent years, not them. We played a great intensity and tempo that Bayern could not live with. I cannot remember Bayern having a real chance against us as we dominated from start to finish. We had sent a real message to the rest of the country as me moved 8 points clear at the top.
Following such a high from dismantling Bayern, then came the inevitable low. One of the worst games I have seen on this years FM as we drew 0-0 to Bochum. This was a tad frustrating, as I really wanted follow up on the Bayern victory and maintaining the lead which we had now built.
With our lead cut to 6 points, we managed to see out 2021 with two very impressive victories. For the attacking football we have implemented at Dortmund, to see us go through December without conceding was a pleasant surprise. Another pleasant suprise, was that Bayern were held at home by Bielefield (who were enjoying a great start to the season themselves).
We took great pleasure in sitting around the Christmas table knowing that we would be welcoming in the new year, 8 points ahead of Bayern.
As 2022 comes closer, so does the January transfer market with all the big fish circling around Erling Haaland…
UEFA Champions League – Group A
As any second seed in a European competition you are always wary who may come out of the hat in front of you. For us, we would welcome the challenge of the European Champions themselves – Chelsea.
While I was optimistic about our chances of qualification into the knockouts, I knew that we had to at least take 4 points off Atalanta, 6 off Club Brugge and one win against Chelsea should see us through.
Game week 1
We started our European campaign with a 2-0 victory over the Belgian champions Club Brugge at home. I was shocked how well Club Brugge set up, and in fact, played the better football for the majority of the game. I was just happy to kick off with 3 points, but I knew that we would be in for a difficult game in the return fixture.
Game week 2
We then travelled to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea; while I had no real expectations for a result, I wanted to see if we could impose our style of play in a game of this magnitude. The game finished 2-1 to Chelsea, we were not great on the night but in truth, it was a fairly poor match from both teams. Meanwhile, Club Brugge who had impressed me just a two weeks earlier, had beaten Atalanta 3-0 to throw the group wide open after just two games.
Game week 3
A home game against Atalanta followed, second seed against third is always seen as grudge match. But for us, it was another disappointing performance in Europe as we could only manage a 1-1 draw. We fell behind early in this one, and we always struggled to find our way back in to the game. Who else but Erling Haaland late on to the rescue?
Game week 4
Game week 4 seen us return the favour and travel to Atalanta. Following on from the draw we played out roughly two weeks earlier, this had the feeling of a huge game. Which had often happened in our European nights, we never not got going. This cost us, as we lost it late on thanks to Zapata goal to see us lose 1-0.
Game week 5
With two games remaining, these would prove to be must-win games. We welcomed Chelsea to the Signal-Iduna Park. We finally could transfer some our domestic form on the continent, we out-played the European Champions but only managed a 1-0 victory. The shorelines was not important to me, I just wanted three points. The group table now made for very interesting reading, Club Brugge away next while Atalanta had to travel to the Bridge.
Game week 6
The final fixture of Group A, we travelled to Belgium to take on Club Brugge. It had been a below-par performance from us in Europe, but I was keen to avoid the dreaded Europa League schedule as I didn’t want it affect our league form.
Club Brugge impressed me again, we had to come from behind twice for us to claim a 4-2 victory. Erling Haaland claimed the match ball, rounding off his impressive display on the 85th minute. We had done our job…
We waited patiently for the result to come in from London, a late Christian Pulisic goal pinched a point for Chelsea which see us go through! A former Dortmund manager and player helping us out when we needed it the most.
Come back for Breaking Bayern #3 to find out all our January business and whether we would be able to keep hold of Haaland. Also, find out how we got on the in the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
Thank you very much for reading,