Joshua Kimmich insisted faltering Bayern Munich “can deal with the pressure” after a 3-2 defeat at Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on Saturday left them seven points off the top and coach Niko Kovac under increasing scrutiny.
“If there’s anyone who doesn’t get what is at stake here, then they’ll never get it,” said defender Kimmich.
“The thing that we absolutely wanted to avoid has happened.”
Paco Alcacer scored Dortmund’s winner 17 minutes from time as they twice came from behind to move further clear of Bayern, who remain third in the table.
The result piled the pressure on Kovac whose side’s chances of winning a seventh straight title in his first season in charge suffered another blow.
Bayern could even drop to fourth on Sunday if RB Leipzig win at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
“We need to make sure we don’t completely lose touch with the top,” added Kimmich.
“We are seven points behind Dortmund and Leipzig can still overtake us. The pressure is on us, but we can deal with it.”
The Bavarian giants have now lost three of their last six Bundesliga games after defeats by Hertha Berlin and Borussia Moenchengladbach, and managed just eight points from the last 21 available.
“We allowed ourselves to be beaten twice on the counter, that shouldn’t have happened,” fumed Kovac.
“We should have been more compact and unfortunately we lost a game which should have been a draw. We invited Dortmund to come and press us.”
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund remain unbeaten and four points clear of second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“Only we will be German champions,” sang Dortmund fans at the final whistle.
However, Favre dismissed any notions of winning the league in his first season in charge and warned that Bayern should not be written off.
“We are very happy to have 27 points after 11 games — but no more than that,” said the Swiss coach.
“There is still a lot of work to do, the level is very high this year in the Bundesliga, with a lot of teams playing well.
“We’re working under the motto ‘one game at a time’.
“We have a lot of things to correct in defence and attack, these are just small details, but they are all important.”
Favre warned not to rule out Bayern making a charge up the table when the Bundesliga resumes after next week’s international break.
“We’re first, Gladbach are second and Bayern are third, when they keep playing like they did in the first half – oh boy, look out.”
– ‘Crazy game’ –
After Robert Lewandowski twice gave Bayern the lead at Signal Iduna Park against his former club, Dortmund captain Marco Reus hit two equalisers before substitute Alcacer struck in the 73rd minute.
Lewandowski had two goals disallowed in the second half — including one in added time — to the delight of the home crowd.
Favre admitted he was relieved to go into the break only 1-0 down after Bayern dominated the first half.
“We couldn’t keep the ball, it was very intensive and I have rarely seen Bayern so strong in the first 30 minutes, it was hard for us,” said Favre.
“I was happy to only go in 1-0 in the break, as I knew it would be impossible for them to maintain that tempo. It was a crazy game and a super advert for the Bundesliga.”