30 good minutes – Bayern defeats Hertha 4:0!
In the absence of real alternatives, Hansi Flick’s first lineup after the winter break had no surprises. Without the injured Martínez and Hernández, Jérôme Boateng started in central defence, Pavard on the right. Thiago played deep-lying playmaker and was surrounded by Leon Goretzka and Philippe Coutinho. Ivan Perišić played on the left wing, his counterpart Thomas Müller was forced once more to play on the right wing. The “new signing” (as described by Flick) Lewandowski was just in time fit to start. The simultaneously “signed” Gnabry was sitting with Tolisso on the bench, which otherwise was comprised solely with youth players.
Hertha’s coaching-team Klinsmann/Nouri organised their team in a 4-1-4-1 formation, which defended in a 4-4-2. New signing Ascacíbar played in defensive midfield, Lukébakio was the right-winger, Davie Selke played as the lone striker. Next to Dedryck Boyata, who had played an excellent first half season, Torunarigha came into the team for the ill German international Niklas Stark.
Hertha sat deep and let Bayern come at them. Bayern on the other hand was attacking with lots of possession but no return. It took them until the 25th minute to come anywhere close to scoring, Lewandowski played a one-two with Perišić but put the ball wide in front of Jarstein. That remained the only attacking situation of any note for the entire first half. Be it vertical passes, crosses or set pieces, nothing amounted to any kind of danger. It seemed as even referee Tobias Stieler took pity on the game and the audience when he ended the first half precisely on time, denying Bayern another corner-kick, which undoubtedly would have been just as harmless as the rest of Bayern’s set pieces had been all game.
The game continued without any changes but a lot more energy and drive. While failing to score, Ivan Perišić on his own put that much pressure on Hertha with three dangerous chances that they cracked in the 60th minute. From the right byline, Leon Goretzka put in an excellent cross to the now very well playing Perišić, who in turn won his aerial duel and put it to Thomas Müller. With a posture that only he would have while shooting, Müller scored through Jarstein’s legs.
Three minutes later, Lewandowski scored the presumed 2:0, but the referee decided he had fouled goalkeeper Jarstein during the heading-motion, a debatable call. That did not end up mattering, as in the 73rd minute Lewandowski scored the second goal with a penalty anyway. During a corner, Lukas Klünter was gripping onto and pulling Leon Goretzka down so vehemently, that Tobias Stieler pointed to the spot. Lewandowski took the penalty as confident as ever.
Thiago decided the game another three minutes later. The Spanish international played a one-two with Goretzka, pushed into the box and scored from the right half-space with a perfect strike into the top-left corner. Following this, Leon Dajaku and Mickaël Cuisance got the opportunity to get more Bundesliga-practice as they came on for Alphonso Davies and Coutinho. Forward Dajaku was now playing left-back. Seconds later in the 84th minute, Ivan Perišić got onto the scoresheet rewarding for a really strong second half performance. Thomas Müller crossed from the right-hand side to the Croatian, who beat right-back Klünter in the air and scored with Jarstein unable to save it. Out of virtually nothing Manuel Neuer received in response his chance to show his talent. Hertha’s counter attack got Bayern on the wrong foot, but the keeper saved Köpke’s attempt from the six yard line. For the last substitution Serge Gnabry made his short comeback replacing Thomas Müller (87′). Nothing happened subsequently, as Bayern celebrated their 4:0 win equalising Dortmund and Leipzig’s wins. Bayern is now the runner-up to Leipzig in the table having passed Borussia Mönchengladbach. Next week on Saturday they are facing Schalke 04.
Leon Goretzka and Philippe Coutinho played the entire first half without any connection to the game. At times they were standing too deep, at times to high and when they did get the ball, they were usually making really poor decisions. Ivan Perišić and Thomas Müller were only marginally better with them time and time again putting in too powerful and too imprecise crosses in the middle of nowhere. It was also a weak performance without the ball. When Hansi Flick took over, the biggest adjustment was the press, yet today the players were pressing without any order or plan. Thus it was impossible to create any kind of pressure on Hertha. Bayern had lots of possession but with bad positioning and an ineffective press, they were far from dominating the opponent. On the contrary, one could argue they got lucky their opponent was Hertha Berlin, who were incredibly harmless attacking-wise, failing to create any chances of their own.
The first half performance being bad was one thing, but Bayern really showed up in the second half. They still might not have an extraordinary press or positional play, but it was enough to completely roll over Berlin with a reinvigorated drive. Müller and Perišić were faces of a bad first half performance, in the second they were main protagonists. Perišić alone had three chances in as many minutes right before the first goal. He and his teammates practically willed the opening goal into existence. Bayern also simply just accepted the referee’s call to disallow the 2:0 and played on. It would have been easy to lament this controversial call and lose their own way, yet they pushed on and virtually ended the game with the second and third goal. Once more, it is important to keep in mind that the opponent was shockingly non-threatening. Something that cannot be said about the next opponent Schalke, who at the moment are absolutely on form. Sheer willpower will not be enough to overcome them.
As one of only few Bayern players Thiago impressed for the entire 90 minutes. With Kimmich suspended, Thiago returned to his central deep-lying playmaker position, he was so constantly impressing at last season. He reminded everyone against Hertha just how good he can be here. 121 touches, 84% duels won, 91% pass accuracy, plus all five of his dribble attempts were successful. Even his opponent Selke acquiesced calling his long structuring passes “world-class”. He even managed to crown his own performance with an atypical goal for him, considering his finish is usually known to be his biggest weakness. One can only hope that this game signalled Thiago overcoming his overcriticised but inconsistent first half of the season.