Bayern Munich took a huge step towards an eighth straight German Bundesliga on Tuesday as a sublime Joshua Kimmich chip gave them a 1-0 win at nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund, moving them seven points clear at the top with just six games left.
Kimmich’s brilliant goal came just before half-time in this encounter played behind closed doors at the Signal Iduna Park, as Dortmund missed the chance to turn up the heat in the title race without the backing of their huge support.
Bayern had already won 4-0 when the teams met in Munich in November and they kept up their excellent recent record in the ‘Klassiker’, even if this was a much tighter contest.
Dortmund’s star teenage striker, Erling Braut Haaland, who had scored ten goals in as many league games, failed to make an impact against Bayern’s watertight defence before going off injured in the second half.
Jerome Boateng and David Alaba gave him no room, while Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in midfield made sure passes intended for him rarely met their mark. The Norwegian limped off with 20 minutes left after a heavy tackle from Boateng.
The result means that 11 of the 19 games played since the Bundesliga returned behind closed doors following the coronavirus shutdown have been won by the away team.
Things might have been different, with Haaland coming close inside the first minute with an audacious attempt through the legs of Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer which was cleared off the line by Boateng.
At the other end, Lukasz Piszczek cleared a Serge Gnabry shot away from in front of the line, while moments later Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki denied Kingsley Coman.
Bayern were in control, and Kimmich grabbed what proved to be the winner two minutes before half-time when he spotted Buerki off his line and chipped in from 20 yards.
It was the Germany international’s third league goal from outside the box this season.
In an attempt to turn the game around, Dortmund coach Lucien Favre brought on midfield enforcer Emre Can at the start of the second half and added the pace of Jadon Sancho on the wing.
The home side had a shout for a penalty just before the hour mark when a Haaland shot was deflected wide by the arm of Boateng, but nothing was given.
Shortly after, Haaland limped off to be replaced by 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna.
In a last throw of the dice, Favre brought on 2014 World Cup winner Mario Goetze, who is out of contract next month and set to leave, in the dying stages in the vain hope of grabbing an equaliser.
With time running out, Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski hit the post.
The league’s top scorer then had a strong appeal for a late penalty waved away after a push in the area by Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji.
But the roars of celebration at the end came from the Bayern bench and echoed around the near-empty stadium.