Second Half Glory
Julian Nagelsmann sent out a familiar lineup to start the match. Manuel Neuer, Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernández, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané and Sadio Mané started for the Bavarians.
The match started off less than stellar for the Munich side. Things were wide open and Barcelona pushed Bayern to the brink several times only to be saved by very nice saves from Manuel Neuer or last second tackles.
On the opposite side of the pitch, both Sané and Mané were able to dribble thereselves into the box but then failed to find anything to do with the position. Too many touches. Too little options.
All in all, Bayern were extremely fortunate to escape the first half at a 0-0 draw. Lewandowski alone could have had a hat trick on another night.
The second half opened with one change from Nagelsmann who brought on Leon Goretzka for Marcel Sabitzer, who had played well but picked up an early yellow.
Just seconds after the restart, Rafinha nearly scored the opening goal hitting the post, and seemingly picking up right where they had left off the first half.
However, Bayern flipped the script. Just a few minutes later Goretzka would blast a shot from outside the box forcing a nice save for Marc Andre Ter Stegen. The resulting corner saw Kimmich hit a wonderful ball into the near post which Hernández was able to head home 1-0 (50).
It would only take four more minutes for Bayern to double their lead as Sané dribbled his way past defenders and slid the ball past Ter Stegen into the far corner 2-0.
That would prove to be the end of the scoring, but Bayern dominated the remainder of the second half and easily saw out their win.
As great as the result was in the end, the first half had a lot of people scratching their heads and asking questions as to the plan. Given the performance, this was a reasonable reaction.
It was an odd half. The front line at times looked like they would break through only to dribble themselves into trouble without every taking a shot or finding a pass.
There were individual mistakes that nearly resulted in easy goals for Barcelona only to be prevented by quick recovery and more importantly luck. Neuer inparticular nearly gifted Lewandowski a goal with a terrible pass to Upamecano that was intercepted.
But that’s exactly where Bayern excelled in this match. Nearly every player had a few moments of brilliance in this match. They all seemed to come at opportune times as well.
The first half especially saw great plays from Neuer, Upamecano, Sabitzer, Hernández, Davies and Mazourai to keep Barcelona out of their net.
In the second half, Kimmich, Musiala, Goretzka, Hernández and Sané made a lot of things happen offensively. Goretzka and thereby Nagelsmann deserver a lot of credit for the impact the midfielder had.
I honestly questioned this move given his play in the last match and that Sabitzer was actually playing well. However he provided that decisiveness that was missing in the first half. He hit shots that forced plays that resulted in goals or opportunities.
Both goals were a direct result of great play from individuals and by the end, they looked much more like a team than a group of individuals but it took 60 minutes to get there. That can’t be true going forward.
One thing that has been a real problem so far this season, and especially in this match is how the players up top play together. There was one memorable moment in this match where Mané and Müller literally ran into each other as Musiala put in a great low cross.
We all quickly forget that these players have really only been on the field with each other for a few games. Even those that have played with each other for years are now playing in a different system and focus given the departure of Lewandowski.
These things take some time. I know we don’t want to hear it. I know we don’t want excuses. But this isn’t a switch you can magically pull. There are encouraging signs. But there have been a lot of struggles, especially as of late.
Mané inparticular has struggled since his early matches. Gnabry has yet to really pull things together. Müller is off an on. Only Musiala and Sané have been really consistent so far this season. My belief is that the rest will figure it out. They have the talent and experience. Now they need the time.