Flick’s won the group! Bayern defeats Red Star
Going into the game, Bayern had the chance to clinch the important group victory with one game to spare. Coming first in the group automatically means home rights in the second leg of the round of sixteen and a theoretically easier draw.
Hansi Flick is currently doing a lot of things right. En route to Belgrade, he frequently showed himself in the presence of Coutinho and Thiago and talked a lot with both players. Their appearance in the starting eleven could therefore be expected. Otherwise, Flick relied on a moderate rotation. Kimmich, Müller and Gnabry moved to the bench while Alaba did not even make the trip. Boateng, Thiago, Goretzka and Coman returned to the first team.
Vladan Milojević changed his team in three positions at the weekend compared to the 2-0 in the league in Niš: For Ben, Vulić and Tomané, Petrović, Garcia and Boakye started. Tactically this resulted in a nominal 4-2-3-1 with Marina in the central playmaker position and Boakye as the center-forward.
Just as they did in the last games, Bayern started the game vey concentratedly and had an early chance to take the lead in the seventh minute. Goretzka played a deep through pass in between the two centre-backs in the path of Lewandowski, who wass heading for the Belgrade goal. An uncharacteristic small technical mistake with his first touch destroyed any hope of an early goal.
Hansi Flick’s side did not mourn Lewandowski’s wasted chance too long but kept up the pressure. After another couple of good chances by Lewandowski and Coman went unused, it was for Leon Goretzka to score Bayern’s lead. After a cross from Coutinho from the middle of the park, the German international climbed up near the penalty spot and drove an unstoppable header into the far corner of the goal (14th minute). A deserved lead.
After that, Bayern missed out on increasing their advantage several times. Despite 72% possession and 13 shots on goal inside 30 minutes, most attempts remained half-chances at best. So both teams went into the half time break with a 1-0 Bayern lead in a one-sided game.
The second 45 minutes began without any personnel changes. Bayern immediately took control of the match again and soon won a penalty kick. Degenek got his hand into the ball during a sliding tackle to stop Lewandowski. Lewandowski cooly converted for 2-0 (53rd minute). It was his 60th goal in the Champions League.
A little later, Lewandowski closed out the game for all intents and purposes. After a cross from Coutinho, Tolisso rose higher than his marker, the ball got to Lewandowski who had no trouble prodding the ball over the line before Borjan could intercept (60th minute).
Only a few minutes later, Lewandowski completed a perfect hat-trick. After a cross from Pavard, the Pole conquered the ball and scored his ninth Champions League goal of the campaign. In only the fifth game. There were only 11 minutes between his three goals.
Just three minutes later it was upon Lewandowski once more to score. This time he struck the ball home after a double one-two with Perišić. The goal was his fourth (and final one) of the night. Incredible.
Shortly after the goal, Lewandowski left the pitch for Thomas Müller. In the following, the game slowly petered out. Tolisso missed in the 83rd minute from a free position in front of Borjan. So despite the comprehensive result, Bayern did not even use their two biggest chances of the game. Shortly before the end, Tolisso made up for his previous sloppyness. After a strong action from Perišić, the Frenchman remained ice cold in front of goal and scored for the 6-0 final score. In the end, the final scoreline provided an accurate reflection of the two teams’ relative strengths.
By winning, Bayern secured the first place in the group early and can start planning for the Champions League round of sixteen. At the weekend, they will welcome Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Leon Goretzka made many headlines at the beginning of the season especially off the pitch. Like no other Bundesliga player, Goretzka has taken a clear stand against racism and xenophobia. He is an example of a dying species: a model professional.
On the pitch, he needed some time after some injuries in late summer, but since the match against Dortmund at the latest, Goretzka has arrived in the season. Flick’s playing style suits him well. Being active in defense and looking for openings in the half-spaces, goal threat included. Against Red Star all these aspects were present again. His goal to make it 1:0, which set Bayern on the path to victory, epitomized this.
Especially against supposedly smaller opponents it is difficult to maintain focus and presence of mind all the time. Often the last two or three percentage points are missing. Against Red Star, Bayern delivered a very concentrated performance throughout. It performed the aggressive pressing that the team has recovered under Hansi Flick almost to perfection. Just in the first half hour, Bayern had several successful interceptions in the final third. Red Star was given no chance to find a way into the game. Instead, they had no(!) shots on goal in the first 45 minutes. Bayern, on the other hand, frequently used their recoveries and the resulting free spaces to create goal chances. This was encapsulated most, of course, in Tolisso’s recovery of the ball which led to Lewandowski’s penalty kick.
Everything there is to say about Lewandowski this season has already been said. Let us leave it at a few numbers: His fourth goal that evening was also his 10th goal in the current Champions League campaign. It was also the fastest four goal haul in Champions League history. All in all, the striker has now bagged 63 goals in the Champions League. Including the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal, Lewandowski has scored 27 goals in 20 games in all competitions in the 2019/2020 season.