Safe, solid, far from spectacular: three observations from FC Bayern v AEK Athens
Combined with Benfica’s 1:1 draw with Ajax, the 2:0 win at the Allianz Arena puts the Bavarians into the last sixteen.
Ahead of the big weekend fixture against Borussia Dortmund (please do not call it “Der Klassiker”), Bayern did what they needed to do. They bossed the game and played their opponents off the park in statistical terms. They scored twice. But that was about it.
In truth, Niko Kovač’s side really did not have to do much. Apart from the occasional foray into the Bayern half, the Greek champions never looked like threatening Manuel Neuer.
The two goals that decided the game came either side of the half-time break, both scored by Robert Lewandowski. The Pole earned the first-half penalty after an early shirt-swap attempt by AEK defender Uroš Ćosić, and then executed the perfect poacher’s finish after 71 minutes to make the game safe.
It is hard to say whether the Polish striker is back to his best, but it was good to see him back on target after his poor display at the weekend against Freiburg.
Despite the victory, there is still something missing from Bayern’s game. With the exception of the tireless Serge Gnabry and the marauding Joshua Kimmich, the men in red continue to lack energy and incisiveness.
Just as concerning is that despite the Munich side’s dominance and the obvious weakness of the opposition, the two goals would come from set pieces. If one can draw a positive from this, it would be that the team are at least getting the basics right.
Die Roten were sluggish in the middle of the park, and on the wings it was a mixed bag. Gnabry was energetic, but again guilty of making far too many wrong choices. Thomas Müller was busy enough, but still seems to be lacking confidence when he has a chance to finish. Franck Ribéry, meanwhile, was unable to make any real headway.
There will need to be a distinct uptick to achieve anything close to a similar scoreline against Dortmund.
The honest truth is that there is not much more to say about this game.
It was far too easy, to the point where Bayern did not actually need to shift out of first gear. Apart from having to catch one deflected cross in the second half, Neuer could have gone for a long snooze between the posts.
The win, coupled with Benfica’s 1:1 draw with Ajax in Lisbon, means the Bavarians are through to the last sixteen with two matches to spare. Given their overall performance, one could say that they have almost sleepwalked into the next phase.
It has been far from inspiring, but the first stage of the Champions League mission has been achieved. Next up, Dortmund.