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FEATURE | Bundesliga Review – Week 14: VAR drama takes centre stage in Klassiker thriller

The most anticipated game of the season in German football did not disappoint this weekend and has possibly left more questions unanswered.

The match in the Signal Iduna Park got off to a flying start when Julian Brandt cleverly turned Alphonso Davies and fired home the first goal of the night with five minutes on the clock. Brandt showcased an excellent run from deep in the build-up to this goal which can be hard to defend unless your midfielder sees the danger beforehand.

Borussia Dortmund seemed to be in control after the goal but not for the first time this season, they were to be the masters of their own downfall. Mats Hummels received the ball just inside the Bayern half and looked casual as he sought to clip the ball to the right-wing. Thomas Müller charged down his well-known German counterpart and blocked the pass which spun the ball back towards the Dortmund goal. Müller, once again the quicker of the two, headed the ball sideways to Robert Lewandowski who took one touch before slotting the ball beyond Gregor Kobel. Müller stand-alone celebration in the Dortmund box is probably the most Müller thing he could have done and is worth a watch on the highlights reel.

Ten minutes later and Dortmund very nearly gave Bayern another goal. This time Emre Can with the loose pass across his box found the feet of Kingsley Coman whose shot was blocked by Hummels. Unfortunately for Die Schwarzgelben, this was to become a common mistake throughout the game.

On the half-hour mark, Dortmund gave Bayern a scare from a lighting counter-attack. The ball was cleared up to Erling Haaland who played a clever Doppel pass with Reus, who released the Norwegian forward. Clear through on goal, Haaland placed the ball just wide of Neuer’s far post. It was desperately unlucky from the young striker who reminded Bayern that Dortmund weren’t going away.

Just before the half-time whistle and Dortmund once again shot themselves in the foot. A deflected cross from Leroy Sané fell to the feet of Dortmund’s Guerreiro who had plenty of time to compose himself before clearing the ball. Instead, the Portuguese international fired the ball against Hummels before rolling into the path of Coman. The Bayern forward wasn’t going to let this chance slide. His shot found its way into the roof of the net and gave Bayern a 2-1 lead heading into the break. Dortmund fans must have been tearing their hair out just about then. So many times this season their silly defensive mistakes has cost them. If Dortmund aren’t going to win anything this year, it’ll be completely down to themselves.

Whatever Marco Rose said at half-time, it must have worked. Dortmund came out with intent and soon found themselves level. A cross from the right-hand side found its way to Bellingham who had the awareness to tee the ball left for Haaland. Without taking a touch, the forward superbly curled the ball into the far corner and past Neuer. Queue elation from the home fans!

As both team’s pushed for a third, this is where the controversy begins to unravel. On the 52nd minute, Dortmund’s high press enabled them to win the ball and quickly play through the lines. A clever one-two between Reus and Haaland put the German through on goal who was surely about to make it 3-2! However, a challenge from behind hurled the Dortmund marksmen to the ground. Many were waiting for the referee to point to the spot. But the strong appeals were to be in vain. Upon review, Hernandez looked to have clearly made contact with Reus’s boot and back. How VAR did not intervene is anyone’s guess. However, it would interject very soon….

With just under 20 minutes remaining, Dortmund defended a Bayern corner before the loose ball was blasted way over the bar. As the players seemingly made their way back into position for the following goal kick, the referee was in conversation with the folks in the VAR room. Not one Bayern player had appealed for a penalty during the last phase. The referee, Felix Zwayer, then made his way to the monitor on the side of the pitch. Replays show Hummels trying to get in between two players before the ball hits him close to the elbow. It’s important to note that Hummels’ arm was close to his chest as he tried to head the ball whilst stumbling towards the ground.

Zwayer’s mind was made and he pointed to the spot. When it comes to dubious VAR decision’s this is up there. Especially when just 20 minutes before the referee looked to have missed a clear and obvious foul. As a football fan, I do find it irritating when VAR doesn’t seem to intervene for blatant fouls but picks something up as minuscule as this. I can only imagine that Marco Rose feels the same as his outrage earned him a red card during the Dortmund protests. Up stepped Lewandowski who got the better of Kobel despite the keeper getting half a glove on the ball. The game ended 2-3 to Bayern and leaves them top of the Bundesliga by four points. The drama didn’t end there, however.

Question’s Raised

During a post-match interview, Jude Bellingham was clearly emotional by the outcome. When asked how he saw the penalty that settled the fixture, the Englishmen responded “You can look at a lot of other decisions in the game. But you give a referee that has, you know, match fixed before, the biggest game in Germany. What do you expect?”

Jude’s comments in regards to match-fixing elude to Felix Zwayer accepting money to fix a match in 2005. Felix was actually one of four officials who blew the whistle on up and coming referee, Robert Hoyzer, who himself was match-fixing. Some years later, it was discovered that Felix himself had accepted a bribe of 300 euros to fix a match in the lower leagues. The DFB then looked into the case after it was brought to their attention. By then, Felix was a member of FIFA’s referring officials and went unpunished as no major fault could be found.

Regardless of your beliefs about the decisions, this doesn’t paint the DFB in a good light. Many fans across Germany and indeed the world will be questioning why this referee is still allowed to officiate a game, let alone a top Bundesliga match. It’s a topic that may have overshadowed a fabulous advert for the Bundesliga and one that may not disappear right away.

 

1 | It’s been a week to forget for Borussia Mönchengladbach as they conceded six goals against high-flying Freiburg, just eight days after losing the Rheinderby 4-1 to neighbours FC Koln. It puts Adi Hutter under further pressure with Die Fohlen languishing down in 13th and seven points behind a Champions League spot, a competition that fans expect a return to. But don’t take anything away from Freiburg. They occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot and they are deserving of it. Starting their Bundesliga campaign with 10 games unbeaten, Freiburg ended their three game losing streak with an emphatic 6-0 win against Gladbach.

2 | The Bundesliga saw yet another coaching casualty this season as Jesse Marsch and RB Leipzig parted ways. The Saxony club have lost three consecutive games and their 2-1 defeat at Union Berlin on Friday evening was the final straw. A poor performance, RB Leipzig look a shadow of their former selves. Speaking on Sport1’s Dopa, RB Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff revealed that there was two occasions that Marsch came to them and perhaps suggested that he wasn’t the right fit. PSV head coach Roger Schmidt is an early favourite to take charge at the Bundesliga club from assistant Achim Beierlorzer will be in the dugout for the Champions League game against Manchester City.

3 | Bayer Leverkusen showcased that they’re one of Europe’s most exciting teams to watch. With Amine Adli (21), Florian Wirtz (18) & Moussa Diaby (22) behind Patrik Schick, the Werkself boasts one of the league’s best attacks with 35 goals after 14 games. B04 dispatched bottom side Greuther Furth with ease on Saturday after putting seven past them but it was against another masterclass from a quartet that are establish an excellent understanding. Schick scored four goals in 27 minutes and is the league’s second top scorer behind Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski whilst Florian Wirtz continues to shine.

Jamie Allen & Daniel Pinder

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