The inevitable stumble: three takeaways from SC Freiburg v FC Bayern
Having sat at the top the pile for most of March, Niko Kovač’s men are back doing the chasing again. Two points behind Dortmund, the Bavarians entertain the Westphalians at the Allianz Arena next week. For neutrals, the script could not have been written any better.
Before kickoff at the compact and noisy Schwarzwald Stadion, FC Bayern were clear favourites to take all three points. At the same time, there was always going to be a fragment of doubt among fans of the Munich side. SC Freiburg have always given a good account of themselves in big matches, and in coach Christian Streich the Black Forest outfit have one of the wiliest old hands around.
Streich’s side, as in the corresponding encounter at the Allianz Arena last year, played a solid game. They had a clear objective, and that was to press hard and suffocate the Bavarian game at every opportunity. But this was not a simple Hertha-style stand and block. Freiburg were quick to look for the fast counterattack, and managed to fire off a dozen shots at the Bayern goal. This was more than what Liverpool achieved in their 3:1 win in Munich earlier this month.
It is hard to deny that Freiburg deserved their point. There was more than enough hard work there to merit it. However, not for the first time this season, Die Roten were guilty of not turning possession and chances into goals.
Freiburg were good. Having taken the lead after just three minutes, they should have doubled their advantage when the ball was desperately hacked away from the Bavarian goal line. But this is just half of the story. At the other end, Bayern again failed to convert. Streich’s side may have had a dozen shots at Sven Ulreich’s goal, but Kovač’s men peppered their opponents with a staggering 27 shots on target. SCF keeper Alexander Schwolow was kept busy all afternoon.
What did not help was that Bayern were beyond complacent, especially in what was a dire second half. It was as if they expected to sleepwalk to victory. The difference was that once Robert Lewandowski had levelled the scores with a smart piece of control and an expert finish, their opponents refused to roll over à la Mainz or Wolfsburg.
Schwolow was excellent between the sticks for Freiburg, but even he would not have given himself a chance to keep out Lewandowski right at the death. On another day, Bayern would have snatched the points. There would have been another excuse for rivals to shout “Dusel”. Instead, the usually clinical Pole fluffed his lines with a gruesome-looking header.
Some Bayern fans will chose to blame the coach for this latest slip-up. Indeed, there were more of the predictable utterances on social media. The decision to swap out Jérôme Boateng for Niklas Süle late in the second half was admittedly a little strange, but apart from that I really do not think that this can be put down to poor coaching. Bayern bossed the game, dominated possession, and created more than enough opportunities. On another day, we would be crowing about a comfortable win.
As Bayern were hitting the buffers in Freiburg, rivals Dortmund were edging back to the top of the Bundesliga with a late, late (OK, let us be honest, infuriatingly late) 2:0 win over Wolfsburg at the Signal Iduna Park. Right until the final minute, Die Wölfe were holding their own. Then, Paco Alcácer scored a free-kick a minute into additional time. A second goal for the Spanish striker was the icing on the cake for Lucien Favre’s side.
It sets things up perfectly for next week, and Dortmund’s visit to Munich in what some prefer to call Der Klassiker. Win, and Bayern will edge back in front again. Draw, and they will still be within spitting distance.
Lose, and the deficit will be back at five points with six games to go. But let us not think about that.