An easy win, more injury woes: three takeaways from FC Bayern’s victory in Düsseldorf
As the campaign fast approaches its conclusion, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer trudged off the field with what looked like a muscle injury, while centre-back Mats Hummels also limped towards the tunnel at the end of the match.
At the start of the season, newly-promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf were written off by nearly every critic and pundit. A team lacking in depth and quality, doomed to an instant return to the second tier. When Friedhelm Funkel’s side were subjected to some early-season thrashings, nobody was doubting the accuracy of these predictions.
Cue an astonishing turnaround. Flipping the form book on its head, the Rhineland outfit have – barring a dramatic collapse and mathematical miracles – secured top flight football for next season. Bayern fans will remember the dramatic 3:3 draw at the Allianz Arena, the game that signalled a low point for Bayern and coach Niko Kovač. Then there was the 2:1 win over then league leaders Borussia Dortmund, a result that was crucial in Die Roten clawing back what many thought was an unbridgeable deficit.
Despite last week’s stirring 5:0 win over Dortmund, there would have been more than a few nerves among Bayern fans. In the end, we need not have worried. Kovač’s men picked up where they had left off last week, playing at a decent tempo and more crucially maintaining their focus. Any fears of a shock result were quickly dispelled, as Kingsley Coman fired the visitors into a two-goal lead before half time. When Serge Gnabry added a third early in the second half, we all knew what the Bundesliga table was going to look like at the end of the weekend.
Kingsley Coman has taken some time to get up to speed after returning from injury, but it fair to say that he is getting better and better. While there is still plenty of room for improvement, he was arguably Bayern’s best player today. Putting aside lurid stories of a training ground spat with striker Robert Lewandowski, the young French winger responded in the best way possible.
Coman was a constant thorn in the side of the Düsseldorf defence, and right from the start he was determined to show them who was boss. The first goal was a strange one – a cross-cum-shot that ended up in the back of the net. At first it looked like Thomas Müller had got the final touch, but in the end it had floated straight past everybody before beating a perplexed Michael Rensing. It was Coman’s goal, but it had everything to do with Müller putting former Bayern man Rensing off with some inadvertent Raumdeutering.
If Coman’s first goal was a little lucky, his second completed the perfect team move. The home side were sliced open with the precision of a surgeon, as Serge Gnabry’s low pass found Joshua Kimmich, whose teasing cross was finished with aplomb by the clinical Coman. It was beautiful to watch.
Manuel Neuer has not been quite the same dominant figure in the Bayern goal since his return from his long injury break, but there were signs that he was slowly getting back to his best. The Bavarians had started to rack up some clean sheets, and it was starting to look like things were returning to normal.
Then, after 52 minutes, disaster. It was all pretty innocuous – but then most serious injuries usually are. Neuer looked to make a simple pass, then pulled up awkwardly. The gloves were off, and it was clear that he was not going to be able to continue. He was able to walk off himself – ruling out a recurrence of his foot injury – but the immediate signs were not good. Sven Ulreich came on, and apart from conceding a late Dodi Lukébakio penalty that should never have been awarded, had nothing much to do.
If Neuer is unable to make a return this season, we know that Ulreich is more than good enough to take up the slack. But should the goalkeeping number two also come a cropper, there could be trouble ahead. Third keeper Christian Früchtl is also injured, meaning that Bayern II’s Ron-Thorben Hoffmann, completely untried at top level, could be forced to step into the breach. We could even see the return of the retired Tom Starke. One could call it a crisis.
Neuer’s early withdrawal was not the only injury issue for the Bavarians. As both teams walked back to the dressing rooms after the final whistle, Mats Hummels was seen holding his hamstring. It never rains, it pours.