Analysis: FC Bayern Women – VfL Wolfsburg 1-2 (0-1)

Jolle Separator September 27, 2016

On the 3rd matchday of the women’s Bundesliga, fourth-placed Wolfsburg were away at fifth-placed Bayern. The supposed top-teams had both so far totted up one draw and one win before the teams broke up for the international break.

Tom Wörle rotated Lisa Evans for Mana Iwabuchi in the starting eleven. Other than that it was the side that had won 1-0 away in Jena. Once again Stefanie van der Gragt, newly-arrived from Twente Enschede, lined up alongside Viktoria Schnaderbeck and Nora Holstad in the defence – in the opening game against Freiburg, Carina Wenninger had assumed the role as right-sided centre back. There was also the wing-back pairing of Verena Faißt and Gina Lewandowski on the flanks for the second time.

FC Bayern München Frauen - VfL Wolfsburg Frauen, Grundaufstellungen, 25.9.2016, 1:2VfL against Bayern with three at the back in the build-up

Lewandowski was not in her usual left-sided position but on the right again, where Leonie Maier is usually in the line-up.

Wolfsburg manager Ralf Kellermann also tinkered a little bit. Zsanett Jakabfi replaced Ramona Bachmann, who had injured herself in the warm-up. The Hungarian Jakabfi crossed paths again with Bayern’s Verena Faißt and Anne Blässe of Wolfsburg, whom she had just met last week in the international game against Germany. Alexandra Popp came into the line-up for the Wolves in place of new arrival Anja Mittag, and Blässe was given the chance to prove herself from the start instead of Élise Bussaglia.

Three things we noticed

1. Wolfsburg with three at the back in the build-up and man-oriented offensive pressing

It wasn’t only Bayern as usual who built up from the back with three defenders, but Wolfsburg as well, with the back-line of three players achieving an overload in the build-up when confronted with two strikers as the first line of opposition pressing. Nilla Fischer conducted the back-line from a central position, flanked by Babett Peter and Anna Blässe. Although Blässe also got involved in the attack on the right flank, Kerschowski in comparison was a lot more forward thinking. Defensively she fell back in with the back-line, but in attack she occupied the left flank consistently, meaning winger Lara Dickenmann could drift into the left half-space and attack the goal diagonally.

The trick was a complete success. Bayern’s defensive line-up on that side – with Lewandowski on the right (instead of the left), new signing Van der Gragt centre-right, and the attack-minded defensive-midfielder Leupolz in front – had played few minutes together in that set-up and clearly had problems containing Dickenmann. Not only her goal remains in the memory, but her many sharp balls into the area caused problems several times.

Defensively the Wolfsburgers changed up their offensive pressing, where Hansen and Popp put the Bayern centre-backs under pressure, and the advancing midfield cut off the passing options through man-orientation, with a somewhat withdrawn midfield press where Bayern’s defensive line was allowed to have the ball, but combinations between Behringer, Leupolz, Faißt and Lewandowski were cut off. So Bayern were able to play the first ball regularly, but Wolfsburg were consistently better collectively, preventing many forays forward from Bayern.

2. Bayern concedes the midfield

On the ball Bayern coped well with the high pressure from the away side, were constantly able to escape the traps and switch the ball from tight areas to the other side of the pitch, because they were sure in the pass and quick with their touch. Wolfsburg with their strong man-orientation were never quite able to shut the back door, meaning Bayern were also able to get through on goal. While goalkeeper Korpela had her hands full, the Bayern midfield rarely saw the ball. More often, Bayern conceded possession to VfL, and cleared the ball every time it breached the final third, in order to quickly achieve quick, vertical transitions, by-passing the middle third. It was Miedema’s job up-front to hold the ball up after the many long, direct passes, with Lisa Evans’ speed then being exploited. The Scot’s strengths lie more in her one-on-one skills with a lot of grass to run into than in triangle situations. There were phases too where Bayern pressed Wolfsburg in the build-up phase, but this method was only used from time to time to reduce the risk at the back. Apparently the right decision, because as soon as they pressed high, the connections between the different areas of the team broke, and the distances were too big to contain Wolfsburg.

3. Attacking change

Even before Miedema grabbed the equaliser from a set piece, Wörle shook up the defence and brought on Anna Gerhardt for Evans as well as Nicole Rosler for Van der Gragt. The former Cologne player Gerhardt, then, got her first Bundesliga minutes for Bayern and was busy down the left flank in the eventful closing stages. Rolser increasingly operated more centrally and on the right side, while Lewandowski shifted to the right of the three-man defence. In build-up play Melanie Leupolz situationally filled in the gap on the right with tilting movements.

Kellermann also brought in fresh attackers. Having sensed the opportunity of a goal on the counter, Caroline Hansen had run a lot in the press. Anja Mittag, then, was brought on to continue putting pressure on the Reds’ defenders. In bringing Šimić on for Jakabfi, the VfL coach switched a winger for a creative influence in the advanced midfield areas and as well more ball control in the middle of the park. Noelle Maritz coming on for Dickenmann after the eventual winning goal simply ran down the clock.

The Wolfsburgers are the deserved victors of the match. Above all they had done more in the first half and responded to Bayern’s phase of pressure with a goal. And yet in this high-quality battle, Bayern could have also taken all three points. There were enough chances on both sides, both teams displayed good football, but the guests were just more consistent in taking their chances, and decisively so. Duels at this level can only do good for women’s football. We can certainly look forward to seeing whether Munich’s double-champions still have the instincts of a hungry chaser in their repertoire. On the 2nd of October, Bayern are away in Leverkusen, on October 5th away in Edinburgh for the first Champions League fixture against Hibernian Ladies. Then on October 9th, it’s off to lower league 1. FC Riegelsberg for the DFB Cup match.

FC Bayern Munich Women – VfL Wolfsburg Women
Bayern Korpela – Schnaderbeck, Holstad, van der Gragt (66. Rolser) – Faißt, Leupolz, Behringer, Lewandwoski – Däbritz – Evans (66. Gerhardt), Miedema
Bench Zinsberger, Abbé, Wenninger, Maier, Iwabuchi
Wolfsburg Schult – Peter, Fischer, Blässe – Kerschowski, Goeßling, Gunnarsdóttir – Dickenmann (87. Maritz), Jakabfi (75. Šimić) – Popp, Hansen (66. Mittag)
Goals 0-1 Dickenmann (32.), 1-1 Miedema (69.), 1-2 Popp (76.)
Cards -/-
Referees Katrin Rafalski (Baunatal), Ines Appelmann (Alzey), Anne-Kathrin Schinkel (Gera), Karoline Wacker (Marbach am Neckar)
Attendance 1,480

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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