Bayern gets the next win! 30 minutes for a 3:1 in Mainz
Hansi Flick did not make any changes and chose the exact same starting lineup as he did a week prior against Schalke 04. Following two strong performances, Jérôme Boateng remained in the team as loanee Odriozola was still waiting for his debut. Leon Goretzka was once more the preferred choice over Coutinho and Tolisso, while the previously well-playing Ivan Perišić was still ahead of Serge Gnabry ensuring his full recovery.
Mainz 05 lined up in a 4-2-3-1-Formation with the now injury-free Mateta as centre-forward and Boëtius in offensive midfield.
From the very beginning onwards, Bayern started putting in crosses into the opponent’s box and almost immediately reaped the benefits in the eighth minute. Thiago shifted play to the right side to the free Pavard, who found Lewandowski with a curling pinpoint cross. The Polish striker stole himself away from his defenders to score an astoundingly free header for the 1:0.
Six minutes later Bayern doubled their lead with their very next high-caliber chance. Müller passed vertically to Lewandowski, who lost his one-on-one with Zenter, yet Goretzka recovered the rebound in the left half-space and laid it off it perfectly across to the arriving Müller, who despite being surrounded by Mainz’ players all around, found the net.
With a two-goal lead Bayern got a little careless as they let Mainz establish an effective press, inviting the home-side to a number of smaller chances. Thiago took it upon himself to break through this small spell of pressure in the 25th minute, clearing up any doubts with an unbelievable solo-goal. He received the ball about 25 meters away from goal in the left half-space, dribbled past a seemingly sturdy defensive wall with multiple body feints, beating three defenders and hitting the net with a strong shot to the bottom-right corner. An astonishing sequence.
Beierlorzer took off the jaded Customer (Kunde) to bring on Latza for the same position, while Bayern in turn switched to management mode and this time paid the price for it. Right before the half-time whistle, St. Juste headed in a needless corner after taking a deflection off of Goretzka’s shoulder making the half-time scoreline 1:3.
The late goal only woke up Mainz as they came out with a completely different passion and drive attacking Bayern and pressing high up the field. Even with a comfortable lead, Bayern failed to quiet down the game, thus Flick reacted with subbing in Coutinho and Gnabry for Goretzka and Müller. The game settled down now, but without Bayern creating any chances themselves, Mainz remained ever so dangerous. Equally, Beierlorzer’s substitutions dictated Mainz to continue attacking with Onisiwo and Szalai coming in for Barreiro and Mateta. This almost immediately had a direct positive consequence as Szalai appeared almost alone in front of Neuer. With a last-ditch effort, Thiago saved the situation in a way, but that only forced his keeper to prevent an own-goal. Not much happened afterwards and after Flick brought on Tolisso, Mainz only had an offside chance. In the end, Bayern won their third consecutive game in the second half of the season, became league leaders with Leipzig’s slip-up and are now awaiting Hoffenheim and the aforementioned Leipzig in the cup and league in the next week.
All Bayern goals had their brilliant moments, be it Lewandowski’s run and powerful header at the first goal, Goretzka’s lay-off at the second, or simply everything Thiago did for the third. In contrast to games like in Berlin two weeks ago, Bayern took Mainz 05 serious from the very beginning and did not stop at just getting a mere one-goal lead. The press was equally functional, forcing Mainz to many imprecise long balls, things however did not look that good in terms of Bayern’s counterpress. When they lost possession, the midfield was often full of gaps and holes, which in turn were instrumental in granting Mainz many of their half-chances before and after the third goal.
Those who were expecting 90 minutes of pure dominance or a thrashing victory after Bayern’s early goals, saw their expectations severely missed in the second half. Having foreshadowed it in the first half, Bayern completely switched gears to game management in the second half. With only seven shots on target, Bayern already had less chances in the first half than one might expect looking at the scoreline and only two more were added in the subsequent 25 minutes after half-time. Bayern let Mainz come at them, defending at their own penalty area, and once they did win the ball, they seemingly deliberately decided to not go for quick counter-attacks. On this level an open game is rather undesirable for Bayern as it is not only more dangerous, but also costs a lot of energy. Energy reserves, this slim Bayern-squad still needs in the Cup and against Leipzig. One can assume that Bayern knew of Mainz’ biggest weakness: scoring goals. Mainz could mask this problem area in goal difference with a few rather bizarre blowout victories, but the fact still remains, that they go for goal too hastily on a regular basis.
Backed by a two-goal lead and more difficult tasks in sight, Bayern deliberately allowed Mainz’ attacking drive. They knew that if they did not lose themselves in needless attacks, they would not let two goals in. This type of conservative game management is rather unfamiliar for Bayern nowadays, thus the game had more Mainz attacks and less Bayern attacking threat, than they had presumably planned in both cases. Even if you plan to just live out the Italian cliché and defend for an entire half, you should always pose a counter-attacking threat and not lose possession in midfield so often. At the end however, the second half does prove Bayern right since, granted, Mainz came out of the dressing rooms guns blazing, but they did not create a single clear-cut chance.
In Bayern’s weakest phases of play, Kimmich and Thiago together were almost always positioned too deep. One of them dropped back to the centre-backs and the other one did basically the same, sometimes even standing in his partner’s shadow and being thus completely out of his own team’s build-up play. This in turn created a wide gap which was supposed to be vacated by the other player. All of this is not unlike the problems Niko Kovač faced with his central midfielders, only in reverse. While in Kovač’s side the gap in midfield was created by the number eights being positioned too high, here the number sixes were too deep. Kimmich and Thiago’s playing style in defensive midfield is very much alike and they can function together, but they both need fixed instructions, because if they are both doing the same thing, someone is missing higher up the field.