Gina Lewandowski, Simone Laudehr and Leonie Maier celebrating Nicole Rolser's goal, Bayern Munich Women - FFC Frankfurt 1-0

Rolser secures close victory against FFC Frankfurt

Jolle Separator November 18, 2016

The opponent last Sunday at the ‘Hermann-Gerland-Kampfbahn’ was no less than 1. FFC Frankfurt, where Bayern ensured that the three points up for grabs would stay in Munich after a tight game that, make no mistake about it, they did eventually deserve to win. And these points were truly vital. Because with these three points, the Munich side are now breathing right down Potsdam’s necks at the top of the table.

They managed to take the three points even though they were dogged by injuries, with mazy dribbler Anna Gerhardt at the time also on course to make the quarter final at the under-20 European Championships in Papua New Guinea.

Against Frankfurt, manager Tom Wörle went with the same starting eleven that had come up trumps against the Russians in the second leg in Munich just days earlier. Stefanie van der Gragt played with a mask on her face, and Sara Däbritz, ex-Frankfurt Simone Laudehr and captain Melanie Behringer were walking wounded going into the match.

If Bayern had gone into a game against Frankfurt of last April in this sort of shape, it’s very possible that they wouldn’t have taken all three points. At the time the Frankfurt side ended Bayern’s almost-eternal streak of 40 unbeaten Bundesliga games. In an interesting 6-2-2/4-2-4, they pushed up high and wide, disrupted Bayern’s build-up early on and – this mustn’t be left unsaid – were able to rely on big stars like Simone Laudehr, Kerstin Garefrekes and Dzsenifer Marozsán. In the meantime, Frankfurt manager Matt Ross has been working on an upheaval of his rejuvenated team.

“[Against Freiburg and Wolfsburg] we showed what’s possible with high focus, good communication and organisation on the pitch, as well as the necessary attitude. In addition to that we still want to take the next step forwards in football terms and to stay true to our philosophy of giving time to young players, even in matches like this.”
FFC manager Matt Ross before the game on

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To that effect, FFC Frankfurt went about their business cautiously. The guests closed down high up, positioning themselves as high up as possible when Bayern had a goal-kick. Mandy Islacker and Lise Munk were the provocateurs in the first line here.

FC Bayern Frauen - 1. FFC Frankfurt, 1:0, 13.11.2016, Grundformationen FC Bayern – FFC Frankfurt, starting formations

Other than that, for them the most important thing was that they swiftly and orderly fell back into a deep 4-4-2 defensive formation. The very organised, concentrated and collective shifting of the team from Frankfurt made very clear that Matt Ross had worked intensively on just that with his players.

In contrast, Bayern went about dominating the game and had more of the ball, although they didn’t waste time getting it forward when they had it. Rather both teams played vertically quickly. However, the hosts were better at regaining the ball quickly after turnovers. The game didn’t have many moments in the box. Most of the shots for both teams resulted from free kicks and corners as well as shots from distance.

To put Bayern 1-0 up, Nicole Rolser stabbed home after Desirée Schumann had stunningly saved Vivianne Miedema’s shot (27’). Saskia Bartusiak, captain for the visitors, then spooned Frankfurt’s biggest chance over the crossbar, standing free in front of goal from a corner, just before the break (38’). After half-time, the guests went for the equaliser, which Yūki Nagasato (previously Ōgimi) and Jackie Groenen came closest to. Towards the end of the game, the pendulum swung back in Bayern’s direction with some more dangerous efforts on goal, but at the end neither team could change the score, and 1-0 it finished.

Three things to notice

1. Pressing by-passed with situational three-at-the-back

On paper Bayern went into the game in a 4-4-2, and that may well have been true in the defensive phase, complete with a flat midfield. In possession, however, some Bayern players fulfilled very interesting roles. As soon as Frankfurt looked to press both centre-backs at Korpela’s goal-kicks, the two defenders positioned themselves very deep (10-18 yards in front of the goal-line) and spread out wide in each of their respective half-spaces between the by-line and the box. When Islacker and Munk pursued them there, the pass to Melanie Behringer in defensive midfield was free. If they stayed centrally, Behringer dropped back into central defence and so formed a back-three with the central defenders in order to achieve an overload against Frankfurt’s front two.

Because the flanks were occupied in attack by Lisa Evans and Simone Laudehr, Gina Lewandowski and Leonie Maier, Bayern’s full-backs, were able to fill the gaps in midfield by shifting inside into the defensive-midfield zone, offering passing options for Korpela and the back-three.

2. Fast vertical play instead of lateral combinations

One of the biggest problems that a defensive can give a possession-oriented team is a deep-sitting, tightly-formulated defensive block. It threatens a passing pattern in the form of the dreaded ‘U’: you play the ball out wide in attack, find no way to go, so you go back and try on the other side. Louis van Gaal says hello. Possession of the ball with no bite. And then at some point, speculative crosses which are then either cleared by the centre-backs heads or claimed by the goalkeeper. The possession percentage screams: “We’re dominant!” The number of key passes and the zones of shots on goal yawn back: “Zzz zzz zzzzzzzzz,” and the opponent smirks: “Come on then!”

A team that plays on the counter themselves can mostly only be caught on the counter-attack through gegenpressing. Other than that it means: engage the defensive block, try to get in between the lines, keep the tempo high to tire out the defence, accurate and fast passes, regular switches of play to make the defence work and to open gaps up. If you do manage to score, it’s often through a moment of surprise and the quality of your individual players who can force their way through in tight spaces.

In the last two seasons, Bayern often had the ‘pleasure’ of confronting such a parked bus. Now, with central producer of ideas and impulse Melanie Leupolz missing through injury, Bayern tried to attack as quickly as possible so that the defence didn’t have any time at all to settle. In their transition game after winning the ball in their own half, the ball went as quickly as possible to Miedema or Däbritz, who then either played directly up to Rolser up-front or shifted sides to get things going out wide. If the striker zone wasn’t yet occupied, then Miedema or Däbritz laid the ball off again and went on their way quickly for the return ball.

As well, in organised attacks Nora Holstad in the left half-space often passed directly to Laudehr or Rolser up front and so by-passed the middle third, as well as the opposition. Tom Wörle proved that he’s able to give his team new layers and give them solutions, even when the team is suffering from a lot of absences.

3. Outstanding positional play from Lewandowski and Miedema

Vivianne Miedema is a born penalty-box striker. And yet with Nicole Rolser, Bayern have another striker who due to her use of the ball, despite her lacking stature, can hold the ball up and score goals. So Wörle interestingly put Miedema in a number-eight role. While Behringer was responsible for getting the game going in deeper areas, and her supposed double-pivot partner Däbritz was clearly positioned higher in advanced midfield to the left, with the task of developing the attacking game, Miedema was, at least for short periods of play, assigned the role of the second number-eight alongside Däbritz in the right half-space. Defensively she pressed Frankfurt’s dominant defensive midfielder, Sophie Schmidt, and so put in important defensive work when Evans and Rolser pressed in the first line.

Gina “Three Lung” Lewandowski was also to be found all over the pitch. She also ensured verticality in the left half-space, when Laudehr played on the left flank, she was just seconds later in the penalty area ready to receive the ball, or sped back and forth to the flank if Laudehr drifted inside. Timing and intensity in this multi-faceted role were excellent.

The intensity of the whole team was also spot on. Miedema, Rolser and Evans showed good backwards pressing. At Frankfurt’s throw-ins every single Bayern player was to be found on the ball-side vertical half of the pitch.

After the draw for the Champions League quarter finals, Bayern must take the three points from promoted Gladbach on Sunday to keep the pressure up on Potsdam.

FC Bayern München Women – 1. FFC Frankfurt
Bayern Korpela – Lewandowski, Holstad, van der Gragt, Maier – Behringer (72’ Behringer), Däbritz – Laudehr, Evans (84’ Baunach) – Rolser, Miedema (75’ Abbé)
Bench Weimar, Faißt, Falknor, Wieder
Frankfurt Schumann – Störzel, Bartusiak, Nietgen, Prieße – Hendrich, Schmidt – Nagasato, Munk (64’ Pawollek), Groenen – Islacker
Goals 1-0 Rolser (27’)
Cards -/Hendrich (55’), Schmidt (90’)
Match officials Ines Appelmann (Alzey), Christina Biehl (Siesbach), Hanna Schlemmer (Nußbach)
Attendance 610

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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