We all knew that the game last week in Munich was not going to be an easy one. Bayern needed two more wins going into that game to clinch their twenty-eighth Bundesliga title and it’s fair to say that we have been underwhelming this season, despite our place in the league table. Nobody expected that though. Nobody thought that we would end up being humiliated and embarrassed at the home of our greatest rivals. Nobody thought that we would show such little quality in every area of the pitch. Nobody thought that the chasm was THAT big.
The thing is though, is that it is that big. Not solely because we have been rather inept this season compared to previous campaigns, but because Bayern have also been that good since Jupp Heynckes took charge in October. Yes, we haven’t had the greatest season and the mess that has been the appointments of Peter Bosz and Peter Stoeger – both of which we can now probably say that the club have got completely wrong – and their contrasting playing styles have played havoc with this team. But we were met with a different animal last week. Bayern have performed on another plane this season. It was a perfect storm that BVB walked into, probably unwittingly, last Saturday. Sometimes you have to just hold your hands up and accept how it went down. As we say in Liverpool, this was just one of them lad.
That was no consolation at the time though and is still barely so now. When you suffer a defeat so brutal, so raw, so crushing, you need a reaction. You need to send a message that this was a one-off and will not happen again. You need to show that you care. VfB Stuttgart are a decent side and have had a good first season back in The Bundesliga. With all due respect to Tayfun Korkut and his side though, they were lambs to the slaughter on Sunday afternoon.
You could see it on the faces of these lads. There were nerves and there was always going to be when facing their own fans for the first time since last Saturday. There was also a quiet determination. It was a damaging defeat not just to their season, but to their professional pride too. They wanted to make amends to themselves. They wanted to show that they deserved to wear that shirt and that they deserve to be at this great club. For as much as players come and go, these players understand the club that they are playing for.
The first twenty were nervy and, again, they were always going to be. This is a team of quality, however, and, once the nerves had settled, the domination commenced. Stuttgart couldn’t get near us and we began to see most of the ball. Christian Pulisic’s goal – a blatant cross that sailed over Ron-Robert Zieler – was a fluke but it was luck that was deserved. Dortmund deserved the lead and, any nerves that were lingering before that, quickly dissipated. The burden had been left and you could see the relief on the players’ faces. It was as if the shackles had been taken off. Now we could really express ourselves.
Pulisic was the star of this show. For someone so young (he is still only 18 years-old, don’t forget) he has such a mature head on his shoulders. His pace frightens the opposition defence and his delivery is rarely imperfect, apart from this one that ended up in the back of the net anyway. Of course, the fear with having a player like Christian Pulisic is that the bigger clubs come sniffing around. You could easily see him slotting in at a Real Madrid, a Manchester United, or even, please God no, Bayern Munich. For now, however, let us just revel in this young winger who is destined to become one of the best players in the world when he hits his prime.
Michy Batshuayi and Max Phillipp added two more goals in the second half that were pleasing in themselves. Batshuayi continued his purple patch since coming to the club and Phillipp didn’t look like he had missed a step since returning from his injury. But the most pleasing thing to come out of this game, more pleasing than any individual performance or goal scored, was the clean sheet. This defence has been derided all season, no more so than in the aftermath of the game in Bavaria. They needed a lift and a confidence boost. This was exactly what was needed.
But, of course, this is what everyone needed. We all needed a lift, a reason to cheer again. Peter Stoeger needed a win, the players needed a performance, and we all needed to see goals. We all got what we wanted by the time the game ended. We got a reaction.