Bayern's treble hopes slip away, keeping Klopp title dream alive
Three observations from Borussia Dortmund's dramatic penalty shootout victory 1-1 (2-0) over Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal semifinals.
1. Treble gone
When entering the month of April, Bayern manager Pep Guardiola was wary of the upcoming challenges. Instead of being able to boast about his full squad, he had to count the players left in the squad. The injuries of David Alaba, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben had especially changed the nature of their game. All of a sudden Bayern were without wings, at least without speed on the wings.
Bayern dragged the injury problems through the month, but got the results. They parked the bus at Dortmund and beat them 1-0 in league play. They survived a penalty shootout at Leverkusen, and their reply to a 3-1 defeat at Porto was one of the best halves of football in Champions League history.
By late April, Bayern have won a third consecutive Bundesliga and have reached the Champions League semifinal, where they have been paired with Barcelona.
Yet despite dominating Borussia Dortmund for nearly 70 minutes, Guardiola's men spectacularly failed at the first hurdle in their bid to reach two finals in Berlin this season. Their dream of winning the Treble died at the penalty spot, when Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso slipped, Mario Gotze saw his effort saved and Manuel Neuer hit the crossbar.
Bayern were in control of the game and wasted chances, so many chances. Robert Lewandowski hit the bar; Bastian Schweinsteiger was denied by Dortmund goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak; then Schweinsteiger over the crossbar and Lewandowski hit by Langerak, with the rebound going wide.
The month of May still has the biggest challenge coming up for Bayern Munich and Guardiola, who was seen furious on the sidelines more than once questioning the referee's decisions. Next week, they play the first leg of the Champions League semifinal at Barcelona. Thiago Alcantara will return home, and so will Guardiola.
To recover from the unexpected defeat against Borussia Dortmund now is Bayern's biggest challenge in recent years. The Bundesliga title was collected in passing at the weekend, but missing out on both Berlin finals could bring new unrest to the club.
2. Dortmund still dream
He wanted his team to run riot at the Allianz Arena, he wanted them to be courageous, to put on one last fight for him. But Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund vanished for the first 70 minutes, only to rise for one last hoorah.
Twenty-nine minutes into the match, Borussia Dortmund broke away on the counter. Shinji Kagawa, the lost son who returned from Manchester United last summer, stormed into the Bayern half and waited, waited. He had options, several options, and chose to award the ball to Bayern with a sloppy pass.
It was only the beginning of a long chain of mistakes with Mats Hummels, Mitch Langerak and Sokratis all at fault for Lewandowski's first goal of the night. Until then, Dortmund were far from being the better side, yet were all set to keep the match goalless at least into the second half. That was the plan for Dortmund, who started in a 4-3-3 formation, and shut the lines, leaving Bayern not much space to cross between.
Once Borussia Dortmund needed to play catch-up, and open up their formation, nothing happened for Dortmund. Only Bayern got into more dangerous positions and controlled things even more. They had chances to punish BVB further, but failed to take advantage. Referee Peter Gagelmann contributed his share, ignoring Marcel Schmelzer's handball in the box
It all changed when Henrikh Mkhitaryan entered for Kagawa. All of a sudden, Dortmund's game had a structure. And they needed it. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted a cross by the Armenian, and while Neuer cleared the ball, referee Gagelmann awarded the goal. He was right, the ball, like in the cup final last year, had crossed the line. This time it was allowed.
For 10 minutes, BVB were close to scoring the deciding goal before extra time. But Neuer denied Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus, and Dortmund were able to hang on to the draw despite being reduced to 10 men, and take the match into penalties, where the drama unfolded.
Langerak, who had an outstanding match, played mind games with Bayern's penalty takers, received one yellow card, parried one penalty, and saw players slip and balls hit the bar. The Australian keeper has played 11 cup games for Borussia Dortmund; he has won 11.
The Klopp reign at the Westfalenstadion is not over yet. BVB's dream to send him off with a parade through the streets of Dortmund is still alive. The victory at the Allianz Arena could not have been more spectacular. A long, slow riot.
3. Robben drama, Lewandowski drama
Sixty-eight minutes into the clash, a loud roar resounded through the Allianz Arena. Five weeks after sustaining an abdominal muscle injury, Netherlands winger Arjen Robben got ready to enter the field. Bayern Munich were leading 1-0, and, given their dominance, were all but through to the cup final in Berlin.
Sixteen minutes later, Robben limped off the pitch injured. He had touched the ball five times, and played three passes. His limited time on the field made him a side note in the drama at the Allianz Arena. But his injury could become crucial in the long run, with the big one against Barcelona now coming up.
Lewandowski will also be a major doubt for the Barcelona match. A reckless but fair challenge by BVB keeper Langerak saw the striker go down to the ground, and while returning to the pitch, he looked disoriented during the final minutes on the pitch. He sat on the bench during the penalty drama, and immediately left for the hospital afterward.
The Poland international would be severely missed by Guardiola. After a difficult first half of the season, Lewandowski's form has peaked in recent weeks. In 2015, he has so far scored 12 goals in all competitive games, with six of them coming in the month of April, when Bayern were without Ribery and Robben.
His last in April, coming on Tuesday night, was his third goal against his former club and was nothing but an attacking masterpiece. When Kagawa broke away on the counterattack, Lewandowski saw the space vacated by right back Erik Durm. He waited for the ball, received it and controlled it. He made a short run toward the goal, lofted a chip over Langerak only to be denied by the post, but picked up the rebound and rolled it toward the far post underneath Sokratis.
It's safe to say his absence would be a big loss against the Catalans.
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.