Lethal Lewandowski settles Klassiker, but Haaland's hot start could hasten Bayern's pursuit

Oleh Nicholas McGee 7 Mac 2021 18
Lethal Lewandowski settles Klassiker, but Haaland's hot start could hasten Bayern's pursuit

Bayern Munich have rarely been shy about coaxing players to cross the divide and make the move from Der Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Their willingness to do so ensured Dortmund's last spell at the top of German football, when a vibrant young side gegenpressed their way to a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in 2011-12 and a Champions League final a year later, was an ephemeral one, Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze each making the move to Bayern in 2013 and experiencing varying degrees of success.

And the build-up to the most famous fixture in Germany was partially defined by Bayern seemingly beginning a charm offensive to attract one of Dortmund's most prized assets, Erling Haaland, to eschew potential moves elsewhere in favour of following Lewandowski's path.

"Haaland is what a centre-forward has to be," Bayern coach Hansi Flick said in his pre-match media conference. "He has an enormous hunger for goals. The future could belong to him because he has everything he needs for it."

The Norway forward's agent, Mino Raiola, has claimed only 10 clubs in the world would be able to afford to sign Haaland, who has a release clause that does not become active until 2022.

But Bayern president Herbert Hainer told Sport1 this week: "We will go even more down our successful path of signing young players with outstanding skills. We are an economically very strong and healthy club.

"Although we're also suffering massively from the pandemic, we can always bring in players when we're convinced about them."

Bayern clearly have no doubts about their financial capability to sign Haaland, and they may be convinced to make a concerted push to do so after his first-half salvo in Saturday's Klassiker, which forced Flick's men to produce a stirring comeback.

Haaland had two games without a goal prior to Dortmund's trip to the Allianz Arena.

He ended that 'drought' in the space of a minute and 14 seconds, taking a few touches to steady himself on the edge of the Bayern box and power an effort that deflected off Jerome Boateng beyond Manuel Neuer and into the bottom-right corner.

Fewer than eight minutes later, he made it 2-0, his goalscorer's instinct again shining through with a much more simple finish as he popped up in the box to turn home Thorgan Hazard's pull-back from point-blank range at the end of a wonderful Dortmund move.

His double took his tally against Bayern for the season to four goals, but he would ultimately be denied the chance to become the first player since Cristiano Ronaldo (5) in 2016-17 to score more than four in a season versus Die Roten.

A second-half ankle injury forced Haaland off, the looming second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Sevilla likely playing a role in his withdrawal on the hour.

That blow followed a first-half fightback from Bayern, which was fuelled by a predictable source in Lewandowski, who diverted a shot-turned-cross from Leroy Sane into the net before rolling home a penalty after Mahmoud Dahoud's foul on the ever influential Kingsley Coman, taking his tally of Bundesliga goals against Dortmund to a league-record 19.

Dortmund's rearguard action in a one-sided second half looked set to frustrate Bayern and keep RB Leipzig top of the Bundesliga.

But their resilience wilted late on, Schalke product Leon Goretzka hitting home on the volley in the 88th minute and Lewandowski making it 20 against his former club by completing his hat-trick with an unerring finish from the edge of the area.

It was the kind of rapid collapse from Dortmund that illustrated why Haaland, having hastily adapted to life in the Bundesliga following his move from Salzburg last year, could be keen to make a swift departure to a team better prepared to compete at the sharp end of European football, even with the highly touted Marco Rose set to take over as coach next season.

Dortmund are four points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in the race for the top four, and have a fight on their hands if they are to secure Champions League qualification for next season.

Haaland appeared set to steal the show 10 minutes into this storied fixture, but his 20-touch contribution was ultimately overshadowed by the man who reigns supreme as the Bundesliga's most potent goalscoring threat.

With Lewandowski maintaining this kind of form, Bayern have no rush to find the successor for a player under contract until 2023.

But after Haaland produced two goals from a game where had four touches in the box, his supporting role in the latest thrilling episode of this classic rivalry could compel Bayern to open the chequebook and add to what is arguably European football's most extensive embarrassment of riches.

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Nicholas McGee

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