Bayern climbs to the top of the table against Paderborn
Bayern had faced Paderborn on five occasions before Saturday’s match, all of which they have comprehensively won. Their last contest ended in a 6-0 victory for Bayern in the DFB Pokal 2018.
Niko Kovač stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation and made only two personell changes to last week’s starting eleven. Thiago and Coman started for Tolisso and Perišić and so Bayern entered the match with the full complement of their creative midfielders of Thiago, Kimmich, and Couthino. This was a repetition of the earlier game against Mainz on matchday three, where the interplay of the trio sometimes suffered from big issues in coordination, however.
Steffen Baumgart opted for a 4-4-2 formation. His intention was to disrupt Bayern’s build-up play early to prevent Thiago and Kimmich from taking control of proceedings in midfield.
Paderborn remained true to their ways and pressed Bayern high and early. Both the midfield and defensive lines were positioned very high up the pitch. As a result, Bayern could not find their rhythm and did not manage to build up in an orderly fashion during the opening minutes.
Bayern’s first real chance of the game came in the 7th minute. And what a chance it was. Manuel Neuer initiated a quick counter attack after a corner from Paderborn. Coutinho took out Paderborn’s entire defense with a deep pass to Gnabry in the penalty area, who rolled the ball across to Lewandowski for him to tap it into the empty net. But the Polish striker missed the goal.
After two more wasted chances by Coutinho and Coman, Bayern finally took the lead in the 15th minute. They broke through Paderborn’s pressing on the left-hand side, which gave Coutinho time and space to run towards Paderborn’s defensive line at pace. Instead of taking on Paderborn’s defenders himself, he played a perfectly timed chipped ball into the path of Gnabry. Paderborn’s goalkeeper was caught in no man’s land and Gnabry only needed to tap the ball in to make it 0-1.
Paderborn’s pressing started to subside at around the 25 minute mark. Bayern now began to have more time on the ball and create more and more chances. They did not score again in the first half, but had an aggregate expected goals (xG) value of 1.77 before the break.
Niko Kovač changed his team in two positions going into the second half. Davies and Martinez came on for Hernández and Thiago, presumably to give the two players a rest before Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with Tottenham.
Bayern continued to enjoy the majority of possession and they used their first notable chance in the second half to extend their lead. Again, Bayern managed to take out Paderborn’s entire defense with a beautiful chipped ball, this time by Kimmich. The ball reached Gnabry who played it across the goal first time to Couthino, who put it into the empty net, making it 0-2 (55th minute).
Paderborn got a goal back in the 68th minute through Kai Pröger. Davies and Gnabry did not go about their defensive duties determinedly enough. Dräger was given sufficient time to play a well-timed high cross to Pröger, who was waiting in the penalty area unmarked. He stopped the ball with his chest and volleyed it past Neuer, who did not have a chance for the 1-2 goal.
The goal gave a huge lift to Paderborn and they suddenly got the upper hand. For the next ten minutes or so, they attacked ferociously, pushing Bayern far back into their own half. Then a long ball by Süle found Lewandowski in space who dinked the ball over the advancing goalkeeper for Bayern’s 1-3 lead. The goal was also Lewandowski’s last action of the game. Thomas Müller came on for him not long thereafter.
But Paderborn did not yield. They scored another goal in the 84th minute after Bayern failed to clear their lines in trying to defend Paderborn’s tenth corner. The ball got to Collins who plucked up his courage and let fly from more than 25 meters out. Neuer did not see much of the ball and was caught cold. The ball landed in his right-hand corner for Paderborn’s second goal. 2-3.
Bayern then focused on defending and attempted to carry their lead over the finish line. Paderborn kept attacking but the final minutes of the game passed by without either team being able to produce anything else worthy of note. In the end, the match really was the complicated away game many had expected before the clash with Tottenham on Tuesday.
Bayern’s initial tactic of waiting and hitting Paderborn on the counter proved a very effective antidote to Paderborn’s aggressive pressing during the opening 20 minutes of the game. Bayern did a lot of things right in their build-up play at this stage. They played mostly through the centre thus foiling Paderborn’s strategy to push them onto the wings. Coutinho was the pivotal player in linking up defense and offense in transition. He repeatedly moved the ball into dangerous areas in front of Paderborn’s goal. Bayern generally was able to develop a lot of depth in their game at this stage. Gnabry, Coman, Lewandowski, and Coutinho himself got a lot of noticeable chances in quick succession. Paderborn, on the other hand, got no more than three chances in the entire first half despite all their pressing.
Niko Kovač proved to be courageous with his early substitutions. He is often accused of waiting to long before he makes changes to his personell. This time, he took an early risk by bringing on the offensive Davies for the more defensive Hernández along with Martinez as a safety measure in the middle. This idea did not pay off. Bayern let their dominance in midfield slip away more with each minute. Baumgart used his substitutions wisely and brought on players who allowed him to shift his offensive play to the side of Coman and Davies. This resulted in Paderborn consistently creating chances. Even worse: Bayern lost control of the game. What should have been a straightforward affair for Bayern sometimes turned into an wild cup game. Fortunately, they managed to hang in to their lead till the end.
When the reporting about Manuel Neuer has not focused on the irritating debate about his role in the national team in recent weeks, the attention has been mostly on his performance in making saves. What tends to be neglected, however, is his skill as an outfield player. In contrast to last season, he ventures out of his goal more often and likes to get involved in his team’s build-up play, just as he did before his almost season long injury in 2018. In doing so, he supports his defenders in building up the game from the back and sometimes adds a different flavour to Bayern’s attack by making the game quick or playing a long ball forward into offense.