At the end of a hotly contested Der Klassiker – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund battling once more as the two giants of the Bundesliga – Jude Bellingham’s comments went completely against the status quo of sanitised recollections of the match just gone.
Finishing 3-2 in Bayern Munich’s favour, certain referee decisions led the young English talent to question the referee’s credentials. Caught up in a match-fixing scandal all the way back in 2005, Felix Zwayer’s decisions going against Dortmund made it an easy retort for Jude to use.
Was the young English talent correct in calling out these contentious decisions? Or, did the ex Birmingham man lose his cool?
Borussia Dortmund often go into these hotly-contested clashes with more to prove, falling far behind Bayern Munich in terms of silverware. Winning every Bundesliga in their wake since the 2011/12 season – Jurgen Klopp last delivering the Bundesliga title for BVB a decade ago – the Bavarians go into each clash in the driving seat. With the likes of ex Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski in the form of his life, alongside the likes of Thomas Muller still performing, it’s always tough for BVB to challenge.
Managed by Marco Rose, this Borussia Dortmund team is an exciting watch. With Erling Haaland up top, the most talked about striker in world football, you always have a reliable attacking outlet. Moreover, the experience of Marco Reus is still handy in a BVB side getting progressively younger. In Julien Brandt too, you have a hotly-tipped youngster of the past maturing into an excellent performer for Rose’s men.
With one point separating the sides before the clash occurred at The Signal Iduna Park on Saturday, it’s no surprise that emotions came into it.
The contest began with Borussia Dortmund taking an early lead, a ball from Jude Bellingham cutting apart the Bayern defence before Julien Brandt got the better of Alphonso Davies to fire The Black and Yellows in front.
But, as is customary in German football, the Bavarians fought back instantly. Chasing down a ball for his side, Muller cleverly intercepted before heading down. The header put Lewandowski one on one with Gregor Kobel, the Swiss keeper unable to keep the Polish striker out. Low and hard, the former Dortmund hero levelled the contest in Der Klassiker for Nagelsmann’s Bavarians.
The game then became very back and forth, a cat and mouse affair with Dortmund blocking Bayern attempts and Haaland dragging a golden opportunity wide for Rose’s side. Kingsley Coman would make it 2-1 before the break, a mix-up in the Dortmund area finding its way to the Frenchman. His shot would find its way in, courtesy of a Marco Reus deflection and a Mats Hummels attempted header off the line.
The best goal of the contest was left for the second 45 minutes, no real shock to see who scored the exceptional equaliser. An early second half attack saw Dayot Upamecano try to intercept, Bellingham reacting quickest with a lay-off to the Norwegian goal machine. Curling an attempt from outside the area, Manuel Neuer could not stop the ball from hitting off the post and in for Marco Rose’s Dortmund.
The game was now finely-poised, on a knife’s edge. For a game with the energy and quality on display, it would have been disheartening for Bellingham to see the contest become a matter of contentious refereeing decisions towards the end. For that reasoning alone, I understand his uncensored remarks when speaking after the match.
Moments after Haaland had levelled, Marco Reus was clipped by Lucas Hernandez when surging into the Bayern area. Waved away by the referee, contact looked like it had been made. A dubious hand-ball was then given against Borussia Dortmund – Hummels adjudged to have handled from a corner. In reality, it looked as if the German defender got caught in a sea of bodies and wasn’t aware of a supposed hand-ball. A harsh call to say the least, Lewandowski converting the penalty that caused Bellingham’s post-match anger and won Bayern Munich Der Klassiker yet again.
Marco Rose shared Bellingham’s anger, sent off by Zwayer after making his feelings known in his technical area. Aggrieved by the refereeing decisions not going their way, BVB had lost an opportunity to put pressure on a dominant force in Germany. Four points clear, Nagelsmann’s men could now run away with it.
Obviously incensed after the final whistle, was it the wisest decision to allow an 18 year old to give his immediate thoughts in the aftermath of a fierce match? Calling out Zwayer’s match-fixing past – a scandal which led to the German referee being banned for six months due to accepting bribes – Bellingham was correct to question his appointment to such a big match.
Yet, since this bribing scandal almost 16 years ago, Zwayer has gone on to assist with VAR at the last World Cup and referee at the highest stage in Germany. Is it a convenient scapegoat to hide behind when his side have just lost? If Haaland had scored his chance earlier on and changed the complexion of the contest, would this moaning occur?
It’s always great to see impassioned interviews straight after controversial matches, Bellingham wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout. Thankfully, Dortmund are sticking by their golden boy and not punishing him.
Unfortunately, despite Bellingham speaking nothing but concrete fact in his match-fixing comments, the German FA are investigating Jude’s comments about Felix Zwayer. Referees do need protecting, often receiving horrendous abuse after making contentious calls. But, to use the deterrent of punishing Jude sends out the wrong message about what footballers can say after football matches. If the Dortmund midfielder can’t call out a contentious decision, the lines become blurred on what he can comment on without censorship intervening.
The Bayern players and management are not fault, merely benefitting from a refereeing display that favoured the Bavarians. Let’s hope this doesn’t derail Borussia Dortmund from challenging Nagelsmann’s league leaders, they need to dust themselves down and go again.
With another Der Klassiker pencilled in with only three match-days after it, could that end of April clash conjure up more drama and controversy? Or, will it be another way for Bayern to flex their unflagging grip over German football with another title already secured? With the past decade in Bayern Munich’s favour, the latter seems more realistic.