Bayern and Guardiola lose control after crazy shootout defeat to Dortmund
"It's [like] a final," Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola had said before his side's astonishing semifinal DFB Cup defeat on penalties to rivals Borussia Dortmund.
For BVB, their celebrations after the 2-0 shootout success following a 1-1 draw after extra time mirrored those that usually follow a trophy being won. Dortmund's central Borsigplatz, the birthplace of Borussia Dortmund and traditional location for the expression of communal ecstasy, was overrun with half-naked black-and-yellow supporters after victory was sealed, and it had to be blocked off by the police.
This sort of jubilant scene hadn't been seen since Borussia's double win in 2012. For most of the night, it hadn't looked as if there'd be reason to be merry, either, which made the outbreak of joy after the successful penalty shootout all the more seismic.
A whole season's worth of misery was forgotten, to be replaced by pride and the feverish anticipation for one more party after the final in Berlin at the end of May.
"We got there on one wheel, but we got there," BVB coach Jurgen Klopp said.
He had expressed his hope for one last bus tour around the Borsigplatz when he announced his impending departure from the club two weeks ago.
Even the most die-hard Schalke 04 supporters must find it hard, in their heart of hearts, to begrudge their local rivals one last triumph at the end of an era. A campaign that had teetered on the catastrophic, with Dortmund spending the winter break in the relegation zone, is now on the cusp of glory.
Dortmund will be favourites to win the DFB-Pokal final, irrespective of the opposition (VfL Wolfsburg and third-division Arminia Bielefeld contest the second semifinal on Wednesday night), and success would allow Klopp to say goodbye with a bang after seven eventful years with the club.
And even if Dortmund were to lose the match in Berlin, reaching the minimum target of Europa League qualification has become a whole lot easier. If Wolfsburg are the opponents, seventh place in the Bundesliga will be enough to get into Europe next season. Dortmund, currently in eighth, are only one point behind the spot occupied by Hoffenheim.
The fact that BVB's unexpected happiness came at the expense of their 2013 and 2014 tormentors, Bayern, made the evening all the more sweeter.
Arjen Robben, their chief nemesis in recent games, was injured after a 16-minute cameo as a substitute in the second half and has now been ruled out for the rest of the season. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer missed a penalty and saved only Mats Hummels' effort. Mario Gotze, the former Dortmund hero turned traitor after his defection in 2013, missed his spot kick.
Referee Peter Gagelmann could have given two penalties but gave neither. Klopp didn't see the need to "apologise" for the fortuitous manner of the win, as he said. He and his men hadn't forgotten that Hummels had a perfectly good goal ruled out in the Berlin final that Bayern won 2-0 last season.
It felt as if some historic wrongs were righted on Tuesday night, some checks at the karma bank getting cashed.
This was a victory of football's anarchic, unpredictable unruliness over narrative. Klopp was "spoiling for a fight," he had said before the trip to the Allianz Arena, but his team had appeared remarkably tame for three quarters of the game. The passivity of their lacklustre performance enabled Robert Lewandowski to score the opener after 29 minutes and had the reporters in the press box writing an obituary. Did anybody need any more proof that this team and coach had come to the end of the line?
Somehow, they survived Bayern's dominance to emerge as the winners of the most bizarre penalty shootout in recent memory. They had come alive following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's equaliser after 75 minutes and the introduction of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Klopp said. The hosts had uncharacteristically failed to put them away for good.
For the league champions, not winning a third cup in a row hurts far less than the manner of the defeat and its consequences. Robben, their key player, will miss the semifinal against Barcelona in the Champions League. Lewandowski, who has become the fulcrum of attack in the absence of Robben and Franck Ribery, has broken his nose and jaw and is almost certainly out -- and possibly for the season, too.
The reaction from the club's official Twitter account said it all:
Robert #Lewandowski has broken his upper jaw and his nose. He also has a concussion. It doesn't get much worse than that.- FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 29, 2015
Bayern's conception of themselves as an unstoppable winning machine has been severely dented. The way they failed to put the game to bed and were later punished in the shootout recalled the traumatic Champions League final defeat against Chelsea in 2012. In psychological terms, it was the worst possible dress rehearsal imaginable for Barcelona.
Guardiola immediately tried to pick them up again by declaring himself proud of his team and claimed Bayern had played their best game against Dortmund under his guidance.
Bayern chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Rummenigge talked of "bad luck" and his sadness for a team who had turned in "a fantastic performance."
That wasn't the whole truth, but Rummenigge couldn't speak his mind. Criticising his players for their failure to take care of business was not an option, with Barca looming large on the horizon.
Just when Guardiola thought he had weathered his team's injury crisis, disaster has struck to put all his best-laid plans against his former team in doubt.
For a man obsessed with details and a relentless fight to minimise the impact of fate, the force with which the Dortmund defeat has endangered him achieving the main target of the season has left him bewildered.
It's now up to him to regain the control Bayern had lost on Tuesday night. The next final is just around the corner.
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert and a regular guest on ESPN FC TV. He also writes for the Guardian. Twitter: @honigstein.