Secondish Half Wins
However those hopes quickly faded as the first half progressed. Mainz would grab the lead in the 32nd minute. Jonathan Burkhardt would score the opener following a clear shove on Boateng that prevented the defender from making a clearance. While the contact was not overly strong, it certainly appeared to be a foul and Boateng was subsequently booked for dissent as he and his teams were outraged by the non-call.
This continued a now eight game streak of Bayern allowing their opposition to score first. However, the misery would continue from there. Just before halftime, Mainz were awarded a freekick just outside the box and Thomas Müller completely lost his man Alexander Hack who easily headed it in the far corner past a diving Neuer. This more or less wrapped up a poor first half and Bayern went into the dressing room down 0-2.
Hansi Flick, as you might expect, changed things up at the half. Süle replaced the booked Boateng and Goretzka came on for the struggling Pavard. This forced Kimmich back to his old right back position. Bayern immediately looked more dangerous and it was Kimmich who would score first for the Bavarians in the 50th minute with a header from a Gnabry cross. Just five minutes later, Leroy Sane would tie things up at 2-2 with a very nice long range shot that went into the lower corner.
It would take another 15 minutes to get the 3rd but Niklas Süle would smash home a deflected shot off a corner kick to make it 3-2. From there Bayern would never look back as Robert Lewandowski would go on to score two goals himself to give Bayern a 5-2 victory.
Once again Munich struggled out of the gate and were forced to come from behind. While you can perhaps make an argument about the performance not being as bad as the 0-2 halftime score suggests, it has become a pattern. The defensive lapses and lack of creativity up front has been a hallmark of Bayern over the last few months in the first half. They have nearly always found ways to come back from these setbacks, it is not sustainable long term.
At some point they are going to face teams that going down one or two goals early in a game is going to be a much bigger problem and they simply won’t be able to overcome it. While I am not sure what the solution might be, Hansi Flick must come up with a solution to these false starts if Bayern are going to compete for trophies this season.
Due to the performance and scoreline following the first half, Flick was forced to make a few changes in the second half. The one that clearly stands out is Goretzka replacing Pavard, moving Kimmich to right back. While this change worked today and clearly made Bayern a much better team, this is not a long term solution. With the departure of Thiago in the “summer”, Bayern sacrificed the ability to play Kimmich at right back except as an emergency.
Tolisso and Goretzka may be good enough to play against the likes of Mainz, but there is a plethora of history that shows the two of them are not capable of pairing together successfully against better sides. Kimmich is the heart of the Bayern midfield and there is no ready substitute. We had all hoped that Marc Roca might be the poor man’s solution, but Hansi Flick has shown little inclination to use the Spaniard. Therefore Flick will have to figure out a way to get Pavard back to his form of last season or figure out another solution in that position with Sarr, Richards or some one else.
While Lewandowski surely deserves a shout out here, Kimmich to me is the player who made the biggest difference in this match. Apart from scoring the opening goal, he also provided the assist on Sane’s goal and was the corner taker for Süle’s. But the biggest thing he did was to provide stability to the defensive line and a legitimate threat down the right flank. His presence at right back allowed Sane to be far more dangerous than he had been in the first half. His crosses into the box were dangerous. His presence in the back helped to prevent any second half goals and he was the warrior and leader that he always is. Hansi Flick must feel like one of the luckiest men in the world to have such a versatile, talented and hard working player as Joshua Kimmich.