2:1! Bayern hang on against strong Freiburg
While Bayern has been struggling recently, the pursuing teams in the Bundesliga have grappled to take advantage of the Munich woes. Leipzig, Dortmund and Leverkusen took just a combined six points from the last two match days with neither of them winning this weekend. With a victory today, Bayern could open up the gap to four points.
After the Kiel shocker, Hansi Flick changed the team in six positions. With Davies, Alaba, Boateng and Pavard the coach lined up his most trusted backfour of the last weeks. The four have been on the pitch together for three matches since December. Goretzka and Coman, notable absences in the Pokal, were back in the squad along with Gnabry, who got the nod ahead of Sané.
Gnabry had to leave the game though at the half hour mark after picking up an injury without opposition contact. He was replaced by his fellow national team member.
The Reds were eager to show that the mishap on Wednesday was just that: an avoidable accident. Suddenly, everything was back that was missing in previous weeks. A high and effective first line of pressure, quickness in both thoughts and actions as well as deadliness in front of the goal. The leadup to the 1-0 felt like the first successful combination and creative solution in the final third since the fall.
After the first ten minutes one thing became painstakingly obvious: If this team is serious and motivated, there is nothing a Bundesliga side – and maybe even any team for that matter – can do to stop it. Following nine games where they conceded the first goal, Bayern has recently made it a focus point to strike first and have done so in the last three matches.
The Southern Germans showed why they are the team of the hour in the Bundesliga. The side of coach Christian Streich was incredibly well-prepared for the clash with the league leader. When Bayern had advanced beyond the first line of pressure, Freiburg constructed a tight net to leave Munich’s creative minds and speedy wings as little room as possible. This fortress held up for most stretches except for when the individual class of Bayern’s exceptional offensive talents came through.
As soon as Bayern had to pass the ball back towards the backfour or a pass was off by just a fraction, the guests went into a strictly man oriented press that mirrored Bayern’s formation. Often the Triplesieger then went back to long balls to free themselves. Furthermore, Streich had watched what worked for other teams against Bayern in previous weeks and used long balls himself to exploit Bayern’s high line of defense and their lack of speed.
Bayern has a long tradition of being bad at taking corners. I vaguely remember a statistic of Ribéry once attempting over one hundred successive corners without a single goal to show for. Then under the helm of Heynckes – and later Kovač – Bayern actually got quite a lot better at it, but recently I feel like Kimmich is trying to give Ribéry a run for his money.
It’s nothing against Kimmich, who I admire as much as the next guy, but his corners have been – to put it bluntly – horrible. Today against Freiburg the central midfielder attempted six corners in the first half (thirteen in total for the Reds) and not a single one of them even raised an eyebrow on the Freiburg defenders. Most of the corners either just are headed out by the first defender at the near post or just sail through the box altogether.
Also it is not just Kimmich. When Costa helped him out in the match against Kiel or Sané in today’s game, the team was no more successful. I used to joke that Bayern should just give opponents a goal kick, because given the impressive high pressure applied by the team, that had a higher chance of resulting in a goal. Honestly, we might have reached the point where this is true.
On the other side, Freiburg showed the Rekordmeister how it can be done. With their first corner of the afternoon they scored on a header from Petersen. The corner was prolonged at the near post and Davies simply forgot about the deadliest joker of the Bundesliga.
After weeks of not having Kimmich and Goretzka both healthy together in central midfield, the two German internationals showed what Bayern had been lacking. The engine that had been stuttering without its maestro Kimmich was running like a well oiled machine once again. For the first 40 minutes Goretzka was without a single turnover and kept his passing percentage well above 90% throughout the match. His counterpart displayed equally great passing, which in turn fueled Bayern’s offense. The team will need both its central midfielders at full strength to repeat last season’s successes.
After the highly praised first fifteen minutes, the play slugged noticeably. The tempo was just too high to keep up over ninety minutes. Bayern tried to counteract by doubling down on the verticality in their game. This didn’t help to add calmness and control to the game. The desire to add that second goal as an additional safety blanket just was not evident. Instead they tried to manage the lead, which seems to be a bad idea if you have a defense with as many holes as a slab of Swiss.
Of course, it happened as it had to: For the seventh game in a row Neuer conceded a goal. This left his teammates yet again pressing forward and working hard to get the lead back. Eventually, Müller found the back of the net to give Bayern a victory, but not without the additional toll of fighting a feisty Freiburg team.