Comatose Bayern wake up for two minutes in Athens. Three torpid takeaways.
It was not pretty, but Niko Kovač’s men did what they had to do. Two goals scored, three points safely in the bag, and the knockout phase in clear sight.
Bayern are still on the road to recovery after their four-match winless streak, and it showed. Not wanting to take too many risks, the Bavarians were guilty of taking (some would say wasting) far too much time on the ball, not turning possession into opportunities, and racking up the pass count for no great purpose.
Despite the passing and possession, there was little of note in the final third. To even suggest that Bayern were profligate would be an exaggeration, for the horrible truth was that there were no chances to miss. At least not for the first hour, where AEK ‘keeper Vasilios Barkas had nothing to do.
There is plenty of work that needs to be done. The wounds have still not healed. At times, there was a distinct lack of coordination. But the fact remains that the mission was fulfilled. The team needs to work through this right now, and there is no better way to do this than by winning football matches.
Yes, this is FC Bayern München. A team that should be galloping merrily along. But right now, taking baby steps is no bad thing. There were no major errors, and while the performance was way too conservative and far from stellar, it was solid. Which was all we needed.
If there was one bright spark for Die Roten, it was Serge Gnabry. The winger’s final ball still leaves plenty to be desired, but this will surely improve as he grows in confidence.
The summer arrival was always looking for openings, and his movement down the left was in stark contrast to an off-colour Arjen Robben.
It was no great surprise that Gnabry was involved in both goals. His finding Mats Hummels in acres of space helped manufacture the opening that led to the first goal, and his cute reverse pass for Rafinha was instrumental in creating the second.
The only disappointing footnote was his being subbed off with fifteen minutes remaining. To keep building his confidence in the Bayern Trikot, the 23-year-old needs to play out a full match. He has been on the pitch ten times this season so far, and has yet to make it through the full ninety minutes.
At times, this match was hard to watch. Many comments on social media were far from kind, most of which were directed at the coach. Even I was guilty of letting my frustration get the better of me. Watching the first half was like trying to repeatedly strike a match that refused to catch a flame.
There may be more of this in the weeks ahead. We have grown accustomed to watching Bayern bulldoze everything in their path, but we have to get used to the fact that this may not happen for a while. However, it will happen if we allow the coach to do the coaching and the players to do their job.
Right now, the most important thing is getting results. At times, we may need to play ugly. This may raise hackles among our rivals, but this is par for the course. It will no doubt also garner more media criticism, despite the protestations of the management.
The key is to remain patient, and see things through.