What a beautiful sight, isn’t it? The Yellow Wall in the Signal Iduna Park is awash with supporters in brilliant black and yellow harmony, belting out chorus after chorus to the songs of “Heja Heja BvB” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, with little thought about the consequences of consistent tampering of the vocal chords.
Against Bayern Munich, it is easy to lose yourself within the euphoria of Der Klassiker, but never easy to cheer in the midst of total destruction, to challenge when the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels depart for greener pastures, and to win – just to have the bragging rights on their side – when all you are used to is constant disappointment. An inferiority complex had surely been created in this derby, but for once, Borussia Dortmund weren’t the team at the receiving end of a Munich shellacking.
It is usually Bayern supporters rubbing it in the faces of their opponents, but this time around, Dortmund’s young guns – featuring a few familiar faces – shot a lethal bullet wound through the thick flesh of a Bayern side struggling to be their dominant self under Nico Kovac.
Dortmund’s 3-2 success in a pulsating encounter was their first win over Bayern in their last four meetings, which included a 6-0 hammering at the Allianz Arena last season. Only three players that started that game started here – Łukasz Piszczek, Mario Götze and Manuel Akanji.
Marco Reus didn’t play, recovering from another frustrating injury, but here he was back to his very best, captaining a young, vibrant adolescent side that’s leading the chasing Bundesliga pack, a picture of familiarity in an ever-changing outfit.
Two goals in this game, and eight in the league so far, reminds us of the better days when “Rolls Reus” was an exhilarating well-oiled machine – here, there and everywhere, his finishing of the highest quality and acclaim in Jurgen Klopp’s hyper-pressing side that finished second in the league and reached the Champions League final in 2013.
It is wonderful to see that his loyalty and perseverance from injury after injury is being duly rewarded with a consistent run in the side, culminating in a recent call-up to the German national team. In an interview with GQ magazine, Reus once said, “I would give away all the money to be healthy again, to be able to do my job. To do what I love: to play football.”
A tear in your eye? There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Because for Reus, there have been many tears. Playing football is all he has ever wanted to do, this technically gifted, Puma-donning creative hub who has shown us that hard work will always outweigh talent. Adversity, in his eyes, is only a stumbling block, not a lifetime curse: Reus, the Renaissance Man, always re-inventing and reinvigorating a career that has been stop-start.
He missed out on the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016. He was substituted at halftime in the 2017 DFB Pokal Final. One of the most talented individuals of his generation, yet unable to produce on that talent, injuries stealing from him like a thief at night.
Against Bayern, though, he was the one stealing the headlines. He punished Manuel Neuer for his hesitancy in leaving his goal line with a cheekily won – and well-taken – penalty. He drifted into space and attacked Piszczek’s low delivery with a confidently struck right-footed finish.
He raised his arms in celebration, and tracked back, and ran forward, and encouraged the crowd. All of this with a number of players that had never played in this fixture before, this fun-filled nerve-wracking jingle of a team, rock n’ roll fußball at its naively best. They could’ve folded and reined themselves in as Bayern tried to dictate the tempo, scoring twice through Lewandowski who was bullish against Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou.
But they played, pressed, made mistakes, learning on the job. Axel Witsel, like his afro, was a sight to behold and had Thomas Müller firmly in his pocket. Piszczek, Achraf Hakimi and Jadon Sancho were fearless and relentless in the face of an experienced Bayern.
Speaking of renaissances, it is brilliant to see Paco Alcácer continue his great escape from Barcelona mediocrity, his eighth league goal sealing all three precious points. And to see the Reus-Götze combination, although the latter was playing in a false false-nine position before Alcácer came on, was a sign of the familiarity that has been stolen from Dortmund’s supporters for far too long.
Can Reus somehow lead Lucien Favre’s side to a league title? Early days indeed, but Dortmund have always needed him to be their Steven Gerrard, or Paul Scholes, or Philipp Lahm: the local boy who worked through the system to then shepherd his people to the promised land. Wouldn’t that be befitting for a player who has only one professional title to his name?
Franck Ribery’s haircut was significant: the number “7” engraved in his head, 7 points behind Dortmund. Reus would like it to stay that way, too. For him, this result may mean more to him than just the team collective.
An old head, resilient and productive, shining in amongst the bright future at Favre’s disposal.