Bayern in goal scoring spirit before Dortmund
After the 5-1 defeat in the return fixture, Niko Kovač had to pack his bags at his former club. Since then, Bayern have only lost two games in all competitions under his successor Hansi Flick. The game on Saturday was seen as a reference point before the top match against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Compared to the victory against Union Berlin in the first game after the coronavirus break, coach Flick had to do without Thiago and Gnabry for his starting lineup. For the Spaniard, who was not part of the squad, Perišić joined the team. Goretzka thus played in the centre. Coman started for for Gnabry, with whom Flick did not want to take unnecessary risks with a view to Tuesday. Once again, record transfer Hernández was left with a place on the bench. Pavard, Boateng, Alaba and Davies made up the back four again.
In addition to Hernández and Gnabry as well as Martínez, the substitutes for Bayern were mainly reserve players plus Madrid loaner Odriozola.
On the other side, coach Adi Hütter changed things around a bit more and made four changes. Abraham, Sow, Dost and Kamada, all of whom were still playing in the 3-1 defeat to Gladbach, moved to the bench. Captain Abraham was not in the squad due to an injury. Da Costa, Gaćinović, Fernandes and Silva joined the first eleven instead. Despite the personnel changes, Hütter stuck to his customary 4-2-3-1 formation.
Frankfurt started with a high press, which at first made it difficult for Bayern to build up the game from the back. In attack, Coman played on the right wing, Perišić on the left. In midfield, Goretzka was positioned a bit deeper than Müller, but interpreted his role much more offensively than Thiago usually does.
As the game progressed, Bayern found more and more gaps, especially when Coman or Davies could take on Frankfurt’s defense at speed. After a corner, Lewandowski shot the ball against the crossbar, producing the first big chance of the match (11′). Shortly afterwards, Perišić slid past a beautiful half-field pass from Kimmich. The Croatian would have been free in front of Trapp. Bayern were now in command of the game. Pavard headed a cross from Kimmich straight at goalkeeper Trapp from five meters out (14th).
As a result of the pressure, Bayern went ahead 1-0 shortly after. Goretzka made a well-timed late run into the penalty area to connect with a cross from Müller, leaving Trapp with no chance. It was already his fourth goal in the Rückrunde. The gold was a just reward for a very strong five minutes.
In the phase after the goal, the intensity of the game diminished for a while. Bayern’s efforts moving forward were not as compelling as before. Attacks were no longer played out consistently, best encapsulated by two unnecessary long-range shots from Kimmich. However, due to their good pressing, Bayern managed to keep disrupting the structure in Frankfurt’s build-up play again and again. The side from Hesse could not find their rhythm.
After 35 minutes there was a longer break because of an injury. Hinteregger had knocked down Lewandowski with an unintentional punch in the face. The Austrian received the first yellow card of an otherwise fair game. Lewandowski was able to carry on with a band aid.
In the 41st minute, the ball nestled in the net for a second time. Bayern were unable to complete a counterattack at first, but Davies remained resolute, won the ball back and delivered a cross which Müller executed artistically to make it 2-0.
With this result, the match went to half time. Bayern had been able to indicate why they are the league leaders. With 14 shots on goal at half time, the record champions had already exceeded their sum total of the previous weekend.
Hütter reacted during the break and brought Chandler for N’Dicka, which however did not change a lot on the field: Müller played directly to Coman, who whipped in a cross to the middle first time, where Lewandowski finished with a strong header to score his 27th goal of the season (46′). A great play against sleeping guests.
Frankfurt showed that they were still participating in the game in the 52nd minute. After a corner, Bayern took the 1.5 m social distancing advice a little too literally and left Hinteregger in space to calmly finish with a free shot from the six yard line. Frankfurt was back in the game with Bayern’s first goal against since mid-February.
And the story was not over yet. Three minutes later there was another corner. Again Hinteregger got on the end of it and this time he scored with his head. A comfortable 3-0 had suddenly turned into a completely open 3-2 within a few moments. How would the league leaders deal with this setback?
By scoring another goal of their own. Davies crowned his strong performance with the 4-2 (61′). With his irresistible acceleration he intercepted a soft short pass from Fernandes in the penalty area and cushioned the ball into the lower left-hand corner of the goal. Shortly afterwards Flick made hsi first substitution and brought Gnabry for Perišić (63′). The German international was meant to close out the game, which had unexpectedly become exciting again.
But the action happened in Bayern’s penalty area. Their defense did not manage to stop Frankfurt whenever it was charged down at speed. Gaćinović failed to score in the 68th minute from the best position. To stabilize the defence, Flick brought Hernández for Boateng.
But shortly afterwards Frankfurt did Bayern the favor to decide the game themselves. Gnabry put a long ball into the center after a challenge by Trapp, where – of all people – Hinteregger bungled the ball from his left foot to his right heel like and from there into the empty goal, making it 5-2 (74′).
Frankfurt’s morale seemed to be broken now. Somewhat surprisingly, but consistent with his previous decisions, Flick did not bring on any of the numerous youth players from the bench. While I was still contemplating this, Kostić hit a shot against the inside of the post having being allowed to charge down on Bayern’s goal over half the pitch (83′). Then the coach belied my thoughts and brought Zirkzee and Cuisance for Kimmich and Coman.
At the end of a crazy Saturday evening, the game ended in a 5-2 home win for FC Bayern. A strong performance over 46 minutes was followed by a brief spell of negligence. However, after Frankfurt’s two goals, Bayern managed to take the sting out of the game and ended as the deserved winners. However, their partly haphazard defending gives me pause for the top game against Dortmund.
Adi Hütter’s pre-match plan may have made sense. Without Thiago, Bayern lacked a second passing midfielder who could take charge of build-up play and defuse the pressure against an aggressively pressing Frankfurt side. As a consequence, he had his players positioned very high up in Bayern’s half.
But Bayern’s players remained calm after some minor initial problems and developed a good counterstrategy. Neuer became more involved and he tried again and again to release Lewandowski and Müller with long balls over the top. They were supposed to secure the ball behind Frankfurt’s pressing lines and initiate the attack with a pass to an advancing midfielder.
This worked out well several times. Often the ball was then directed to the outside, where Perišić or Coman were set to take on their opponents one-on-one. While the Frenchman’s lack of practice could be witnessed repeatedly, the Croatian tried to solve a lot with his experience. After losing two simple balls in the first ten minutes, he successively found his way into the game better and better.
Some players stood out from a cohesively strong team performance. Without Thiago as a congenial partner, Kimmich played a complete game. He took part in most of the important defensive actions, initiated Bayern’s build-up play and was frequently involved in his team’s attack. Several times he popped up on the right wing to deliver dangerous crosses in front of Kevin Trapp’s goal. In the end he accumulated five key-passes.
A lot has also been said about Thomas Müller. Once again he played a strong game, which he crowned with two scorer points. Just like in his prime, he could be found everywhere in attack and, through his interplay with Perišić and Coman, split Frankfurt’s defense open again and again.
Finally, we have to mention Alphonso Davies. Although everyone knows the incredibly pace of the young Canadian by now, no one has yet found an antidote. Again and again opponents are surprised by his sprints. This was the case before the 2-0 goal, when he sprinted to intercept a pass and deliver the cross that lead to the goal. Or for the 4-2, when he intercepted Fernandes’ cross.
The true value of the two wins since the return of the league will become clear on Tuesday. The contest with tenacious rivals Borussia Dortmund promises to be one of the most exciting ones in recent history. Both teams are in a very good shape, they are the two best attacking teams in the league and together they have only lost five points in the league since the winter break.
But while the hunters from the “Ruhrpott” have so far acquitted themselves with aplomb since the restart, Bayern for half an hour on Saturday showed that rhey are not completely invincible. Bayern’s defense is vulnerable and Dortmund’s line of attack will be a serious test. With Haaland, Sancho and Brandt Dortmund have enough offensive power to test the leaders even without the injured Reus.
But Bayern does not have to hide either. Müller, Davies and Kimmich underlined their strong form. In addition, Thiago, a central player, a set to return. Gnabry should also be fully recovered by Tuesday. We can look forward to an absolute delicacy.