FINAL MISSI6N COMPLETE
Bayern for their part took it relatively seriously, at least in terms of lineups. Unfortunately, several players including Goretzka, Boateng and Martinez all missed out on the trip for various reasons. Then the news came in the morning that Thomas Müller had tested positive for Covid.
This naturally led to speculation as to how he would get back to Germany, whether he would subsequently test negative, whether the teams should even play at all on Thursday, but most importantly who would start in his place. There was a lot of thought that Tolisso might be the likely option. Musiala was the hopeful secondary for many. But Hansi Flick decided to throw a curveball to all of those people and instead played Gnabry between Coman and Sane. While he was at it, he also decided to forgo Tolisso and Roca next to Kimmich in favor of Alaba with Hernandez and Sule as the central defenders.
The match itself was a bit of a mess, not dissimilar from their previous match against Al Ahly. While both teams were clearly outclassed from a talent perspective, they played with a lot of heart, energy and physicality. They put in everything they had to make Bayern as uncomfortable as they possibly could. And both did a pretty damn good job of it limiting Bayern to three total goals over the course of the two matches.
Back to tonight’s match, Kimmich appeared to score an opener about half way through the first half only to have it called back after VAR review due to Lewandowski being offside and deemed a distraction to the keeper. The only goal of the match would also originally be called offside, because of Lewandowski once again, only to have it be given thanks to yet another VAR review that determined otherwise.
In truth, Bayern actually had a fair amount of opportunities in this match. In a lot of respects, they also played more aggressively than they had over recent weeks. However, they struggled mightily to come up with an end product. They always seemed one pass or movement away from that truly dangerous moment.
While it would be easy for us to sit here and point out the level of competition that Bayern were playing in Doha, the truth is that Bayern have struggled against some pretty mediocre to bad teams over the course of this season defensively, I mean, we went out of the Pokal to a 2nd division side Christ’s sake.
However, during this competition there were no real significant defensive lapses. There may have been a bad moment here or there, Pavard had a few that he recovered from just in time and there was one Alaba give away in the first match that was potentially disastrous, but the reality is that they never really allowed a truly dangerous chance to either opponent.
This second match particularly was excellent. Süle and Hernandez were fantastic together. Tonight is maybe Süle’s best match since his return from injury. His tackling was excellent. His positioning alongside Hernandez was very good. The two of them actually played far better tonight than I think we’ve seen out of maybe any pairing this year. Granted, it was with a largely inept Tigres as their opposition, but the combination with Davies on the left really seemed to work well.
Maybe. Just maybe, this is a sign of thing turning around. The defensive record over the last few weeks is far better than it had been for months prior. The pressing has started to improve. The effort all around is significantly better. This team will never be risk free. Even during that amazing run that began last spring and ended tonight, Bayern allowed chances. That’s just the nature of Bayern’s high line. However, if they have the discipline and stamina to press, position themselves correctly and not carelessly give the ball away, they will come out on the right side of things more often than not.
Ultimately though, this wraps up an historic year and team. Lewandowski put it excellently when he described this as the cherry on top. Six trophies. SIX! That is a ridiculous number. It has only been accomplished by one other club in history. It puts an elite accomplishment just that little bit further along the road to immortality.
Lewandowski and Kimmich also added some more individual hardware to their trophy cabinets. Those two and Neuer maybe more than anyone else just capped some of the best years that any players have ever had in a Bayern uniform and arguably any uniform. They all have records and glory to chase, but for all three, it might just be that this year is the one that really stands out on their resume, which for Neuer and Lewandowski especially, is truly saying something.
Now is the time to celebrate one last time the accomplishments from this past season. However come Monday, it will already be time to move on. Lewandowski is hot on the heals of Gerd Müller’s Bundesliga scoring record. Lazio is coming up soon in the Champions League. There is a ninth straight league title to contend for. All in all there’s a lot to look forward to, a lot to be grateful for from the previous season and plenty of excitement to keep us all entertained over the next four to five months.