Sloppy win in the Berlin Snow
The match started reasonably well and in the 11th minute Leroy Sane received a wonderful pass in the box and was brought down by the Hertha goalkeeper Jarstein. Lewandowski would step up to take the penalty and for once it was saved as Jarstein guess correctly.
It would take ten more minutes before Kingsley Coman would get the Bavarians on the board. In the 21st minute, Coman cut in from the left and belted a shot that took a massive deflection off of a Hertha defender and found it’s way into the back of the net.
From that point on, the first half became an extremely sloppy affair as the snow started to pile up and affect the match. However, it was Hertha who arguably had the better of those chances. On a handful of occasions, Bayern’s high back line was beaten only to be saved by Manuel Neuer and complete ineptitude on the part of the Berlin side. The half ended on Bayern’s best chance as Sane left two defenders on their rear ends and found Coman wide open at the penalty spot. However the field was a mess and Coman was unable to cleanly hit the ball thanks to a last second bounce.
The second half went much the same as the first with the exception that the field was cleaned at half time and stayed clean for the rest of the match. Oh and no one scored. However, both teams had a few chances with Hertha having the better of them. Those chances never materialized into anything real though. All of them were either offsides or ended with a ball directly at Neuer or in by far the best opportunity, chipped off target. The match mercifully ended injury free and with a 0-1 win for Bayern.
This match just felt odd from the get go. The start time changed. The call for a blizzard. The fact that Bayern were playing on Friday in general. The Club World Cup looming over the following week. All of that weirdness seeped into the match. The blizzard of course was hugely influential in that. However, it went beyond just the snow. Lewandowski missing a penalty these days feels like LeBron air balling a free throw…oh wait, that just happened too…but in general that just doesn’t happen. He is a sure thing. You put your money on him to convert from the penalty spot ten times out of ten.
Then there were the random collisions and injuries. Süle had to be tended to for a gash on his forehead. Coman had a nasty head to head collision with Matheus Cunha. Sane looked as though he had been taken out only to end up hurting his attacker more thanks to an inadvertent knee to the groin. Pavard picked up a yellow for a sliding tackle that seemingly went on for 10 yards.
Hertha had a myriad of opportunities to score in this match. Poor Neuer must have felt like his defenders weren’t even on the same pitch at times during the match. However, thanks to his presence/skill and even worse composure/shots, he managed to keep a clean sheet. The snow certainly had something to do with it, especially in the first half when it was clearly impacting how the ball moved. However, it definitely went deeper than that. Either Neuer completely psyched them out or the BSC attackers need a lot more practice shooting the ball.
As you no doubt surmised already, Lewandowski failed to score tonight for the first time since December 12th. That was nine matches in a row and this one had to feel extra brutal given the missed penalty. While it would be utterly ridiculous to bash the Polish striker, you can’t help but wonder if this will come back to haunt him on his quest for Gerd Müller’s record. In order to reach 40 goals, he is going to have to be near perfect and it’s little slip ups like tonight that can get in the way.
I have also started to get slightly concerned with the way he seems to be pressing for those goals, especially if they do not come early on. You can see and feel the frustration every time he misses even the smallest of chances to score. He has enough pressure on his shoulders without putting any extra there so hopefully this is just a momentary blip in what is already an unbelievable season for him.
By far the best players on the pitch for Bayern tonight were Kingsley Coman and Manuel Neuer. I will give Sane a bit of credit here as well, he had a few very nice runs and set up that missed penalty, but Coman and Neuer stood out. Besides scoring the match’s only goal, Coman was involved in nearly every dangerous attack Bayern had tonight. He once again looked like that player he developed into earlier this season. The one who is unafraid to take on a defender and has a clear idea of what he wants to do in any situation.
Neuer however is arguably Bayern’s player of the season this year, and given how good Lewandowski has been, that is really saying something. Once again, Neuer was forced to rescue his defense from hopeless situations time and again and did so flawlessly. Not only that, he nearly got himself an assist as he booted the ball to Lewandowski who beat the BSC keeper to the ball but his header went just wide. It’s a shame because if a keeper has ever deserved an assist, it’s Neuer this season. I’m sure he’ll be happy with another clean sheet however and the rest of the squad hopefully thanked him as well.