Better Late than Never in Salzburg
Salzburg would start off the scoring 4th minute thanks to Mergim Berisha. Boateng would block a shot from Koita and the deflected ball fell directly to Berisha who blasted it past Manuel Neuer’s hand and into his near post. A few minutes later Serge Gnabry broke through and beat the keeper only to have the ball cleared off the line by a defender. Just a short time after, Hernandez would go down in the box and a penalty was given before VAR intervened and ruled it not a foul. Not long after that Gnabry would appear to score but be called back for offsides.
There started to be a feeling that things weren’t really going the Bavarian’s way until the 21st minute when Thomas Müller cleverly hoodwinked his opponent into fouling him in the penalty area. This time the penalty would stand and Lewandowski calmly put it in the back of the net. From there the match was very back and forth, slightly favoring the Austrian side till the 44th minute when Müller yet again made something happen. Lewandowski played Müller wide and the German international whipped in a cross for Tolisso but Rasmus Kristensen wanted his name on the scoresheet and scored an own goal. In truth there was very little Kristensen could have done to avoid it and Bayern would go into the half up 2-1.
The second half resulted in much of the same back and forth from the first half. Salzburg were almost unquestionably the better side and in the 66th minute they got their equalizer. Just seconds after having come on Masaya Okugawa leveled things in the 66th minute after a very quick pass through the Bayern defense from Andre Ramalho who had just stripped Lewandowski of the ball near the center line.
This goal did seem to act as a bit of smelling salt for a sleepy Bayern side. The action immediately following this goal was noticeably improved and sharper than most of the match to this point. However it would take 13 more minutes to bare any fruition, during which time Salzburg again pushed Bayern. However, in the 79th minute Joshua Kimmich would take a beautiful freekick that found the head of Boateng who smashed into the back of the net. Just 4 minutes later, Leroy Sané would get the ball on the right side of the box, cut back over to his left foot and curl it into the top corner.
From here the flood gates were open. Lewandowski would add his second in the 88th minute on a well placed cross from Javi Martínez (no you didn’t read that wrong) and in the 92nd minute Lucas Hernandez would get a rebound and blast if it off a defender and into the top of the net to finish things off 6-2. All things considered, this score line is more than flattering to a Bayern side that for all but 10 minutes, was largely outplayed. Salzburg deserve no small amount of credit. They were very good and deserved far more than what the outcome gave them. While Bayern were not at their best again and we could easily expound on the negatives, this time around we’re going to stick with the positive vibes!
The quirky Bavarian has in some regards been one of Bayern’s more consistent players over recent weeks. While he may not have always found his way into the scoresheet, his presence was nonetheless felt through his energy and leadership. So it really came as no surprise when he was the one who instigated both of Bayern’s first two goals…in a way that seems very apropos for the player.
As I have already described the goals in full above, it is not hard to understand why one twitter user (Matthias Martin) would describe his performance thusly: “Müller baiting the defender for a dumb foul on the edge of the penalty box and then later crossing towards a defender for an own-goal is the most Müller performance imaginable.” Indeed it is Matthias. Indeed it is.
Manuel Neuer once again was excellent today. Neuer has saved Bayern from countless one on one situations and other impossible odds in recent weeks and today was no different. While this is hardly news to Bayern fans, it is still too often taken for granted. He is the one constant and reliable part of the defense. Whether the defenders make a mistake or not, you always know that you have the best keeper in the world at the back and if anyone can work a miracle, it’s him. For instance, the fingertip save he made at the start of the half to prevent Enock Mwepu from scoring was subtly brilliant. So lets give the captain his due and praise all of the work he has done at the back this season. I have joked multiple times that someone would have to restrain Neuer in the locker room because of late goals to prevent his clean sheet and there is no doubt in my mind that the amount of goals allowed would be significantly higher if it weren’t for his efforts.
Going forward, we are going to select a player that we feel stood out above the rest in each match. The first winner of this honor is Jerome Boateng. Boateng’s resurgence last season is well documented. His partnership with David Alaba was no small matter in the reformation of the defense under Hansi Flick. This season he has faced more competition for playing time from Niklas Süle but has still received his share of starts. With Süle set to miss a few weeks with COVID, he will be thrust back into the deep end and be expected to rekindle that partnership with Alaba.
If tonight is any indication, Jerome will hold up his end of that deal. The German center back was excellent all around. He was the rock of the defense tonight. When players found a way though, he was the player that was there ready to put in a last ditch tackle or challenge. He was the player who harassed them off the ball or did just enough to render the shot harmless. Then when Bayern were looking like they might lose or at least draw, he was the one who put them ahead with a fantastic headed goal on a corner kick. Often Kimmich and Müller feel like the energy source on the pitch. Alaba has been given a lot of credit as the voice of the defense in the last year. Tonight it was Boateng who provided both.