DÜSSELDORF – The raucous home support was silent and the Yellow Wall was invisible, all because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the vastly different atmosphere in the stands, the result on the field followed a familiar pattern.
Borussia Dortmund, which has finished in second place for the last three years, played its quietest ever Bundesliga game against seven-time defending champion Bayern Munich on Tuesday and lost 1-0 in an empty stadium. The Bavarian club, which won after a perfectly weighted lob from Joshua Kimmich, now leads Dortmund by seven points.
“Seven points, six games. It’s brutally hard,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said.
Dortmund last won the Bundesliga title in 2012 and on Tuesday failed to score against Bayern for the third time in a row.
Asked if he was up to the task of winning trophies with Dortmund, Favre skirted around the question.
“I don’t read the newspaper but I know how it goes,” the coach said. “I’ll talk about in a couple of weeks.”
But on Wednesday, Favre gave a more direct answer about his future at the club.
“I’m not thinking at all about giving up,” he said in comments reported by German news agency dpa.
Dortmund has had its share of bad luck this season. Captain Marco Reus has been injured since February, the team could have had a penalty on Tuesday when the ball hit Bayern defender Jerome Boateng’s arm, and striker Erling Haaland limped off the field in the second half.
But there were also questions about Favre’s lineup. Jadon Sancho was only a second-half substitute despite his 14 goals and 17 assists in the league this season. Favre said he wasn’t sure the English winger was ready to play 90 minutes. Holding midfielder Emre Can was also a substitute but said he could have started, something Favre doubted.
Defensively, Dortmund was far more resilient than in its last game against Bayern, a 4-0 loss in Munich in November, but the front three of Haaland, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard failed to make much of an impact. All three were expensive signings for this season as Dortmund sought to finally break Bayern’s hold on the title.
The addition of Can from Juventus in January added steel to a defense which tended to collapse against underdog teams, like in the 3-1 loss to Union Berlin in August and in the exciting but messy 3-3 draw against last-place Paderborn three months later.
Next season may be too late for Dortmund. Sancho is widely expected to leave the club, forcing another reshuffle in attack. Dortmund has done well financially as a finishing school for promising players who are then sold, but it makes each season something of a rebuild.
The season started with Bayern in disarray under former coach Niko Kovac, hitting a low point in a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. However, none of the title challengers could hold on to the advantage as Hansi Flick — originally an interim replacement — set things right.
“Very concentrated, very, very determined, also wide awake and sometimes very brave,” Flick said. “We wanted to take a big step forward today and we’ve done it.”
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