A pitch that was hard to play on, two changing rooms (because one would have been too small) and a highly motivated opponent from the fourth division. Bayern sensed early on that the encounter wasn’t going to be a walkover.
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Niko Kovač didn’t want to take any risks in his second competitive game as Bayern manager and went for probably the strongest available line-up.
For the coach that currently means a very classic 4-1-4-1 system. Rafinha replaced Alaba, who had picked up a knee injury in the Supercup. Despite a very good second half against Frankfurt, Coman was only on the bench again. The flanks were occupied by Robbery once more.
Sanches, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the day of the game, didn’t make the squad. Sebastian Rudy didn’t make the cut either, and might leave the club in the coming days. According to rumours, Leipzig and Schalke are the favourites.
Unsurprisingly, Drochtersen went for a 5-4-1 on the edge of their own box. The goal was to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible and go on the counter with long balls. That worked pretty well in the first 20 minutes. Bayern’s wings were consistently overloaded. Kimmich and Robben were taken out of the game altogether. On the other side with Ribéry and Rafinha things went better initially, but lots of attacks petered out with either the penultimate or final pass.
As a result it’s not a surprise that the first big chance of the game fell to the home side (35’). After a throw-in, Behrmann held the ball up and laid it off to Nagel. He wasn’t greatly put off by Rafinha and got his shot away from about 12 yards out. Neuer made the save, stopping well with his feet.
The sides went into the break with Bayern not having any chances of note. On an admittedly difficult pitch to play on, the men from Munich were lacking in ideas to cause any serious danger to the fourth division side.
Kovač gave his team seven whole minutes in the second half before reacting, bringing on Goretzka for Hummels, moving Martínez back into defence and putting Coman on for a poor Robben. Thiago led the game from then on in front of the back-four. Shortly after the reshuffle, the Spaniard hit the bar from distance. At that point it was the Rekordmeister’s best chance.
With some players already thinking about extra-time, Bayern managed to grab the goal to go 1-0 up. Ribéry broke through on the left wing for the first time in the second half, pulling it back to Goretzka in space. Lewandowski touched on the midfielder’s shot for an unsaveable winner (82’).
In the end, it was enough for Bayern. They are through very much unglamorously to the second round of the DFB Pokal. A different performance will be needed against TSG Hoffenheim this Friday for the Bundesliga kick-off.
Two things we noticed
1. Old starting eleven
The departure of Vidal was seen by many as the beginning, or rather continuation, of the upheaval. Goretzka and Gnabry and the returning Sanches and countless young players who were handed pro contracts only enhanced that impression.
On the pitch, the reality remains quite different. With an average age of 30.4, Kovač sent a – kindly put – very experienced side out onto the field. “Experience triumphs over youth” is Bayern’s motto so far.
At the moment there have only been two competitive matches to test the water, but much seems to indicate that Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry have a long way to go to reach the starting eleven – and that in spite of the fact that they brought more dynamism than the two stars. It could be intriguing to see how this develops.
2. No space – no ideas – no goals
Bayern struggled for a long time to create space. The build-up play was too static. The ball was sent too early out wide to areas that were isolated, or rather well blocked up. The consequences were a lot of switches of play from Boateng, Martínez, but also from Ribéry and Rafinha. All the best to Lewandowski and Müller in an over-filled penalty area too.
There was simply not enough creativity from Bayern. The pockets of space weren’t really sought out and so weren’t found. Drochtersen/Assel built things around Meikel “Mörtel” Klee, who is a bricklayer as his main profession, but is also very good and put up a wall that was difficult to get through.
Bayern’s engine also faltered notably in the second half too. Coman and Goretzka made things slightly more lively. That was eventually enough to bring the tie home.