Dancing with death: three takeaways from FC Bayern’s gripping 3:2 cup win in Bremen
The win sees the Bavarians through to their 23rd cup final, where they will meet RB Leipzig in Berlin. The tight victory also means that coach Niko Kovač will be in the final dugout for a third successive time, having taken Eintracht Frankfurt to the end of season showcase in 2017 and 2018.
We all knew that Bremen were going to approach this second meeting in the space of five days with a different tactic, and so it proved. While the Northerners put in a solid defensive showing in Munich, on their own patch they stretched every sinew. Bayern were the better side overall, but not for the first time they were undone by some catastrophic defending.
There were plenty of heart in mouth moments early on, which saw Davy Klaassen and Milot Rashica both miss decent chances for Florian Kohfeldt’s side. When Robert Lewandowski profited from a mistake by Bremen keeper Jiří Pavlenka, there would have been a some sharp intakes of breath on the Bayern bench.
When the Bavarians doubled their advantage following a typically Mülleresque finish from Der Raumdeuter, it looked as if Bremen’s goose had been cooked. Cue yet another inexplicable Bavarian blunderfest that has become common currency during this nerve-shredding yet curiously enthralling cup run.
Two Bremen goals in as many minutes could have rocked the Reds, but they somehow managed to maintain their composure. The final phase of the match was frantic, but Lewandowski was able to keep his head when everybody else was losing theirs.
Wearing the captain’s armband, Thomas Müller was captain fantastic. He remains the man for the big occasion, and he was Bayern’s best man on the pitch until he was subbed out late on. Always dangerous, he created havoc for the Bremen defence all evening.
On another evening, Tommy could have finished with a better set of statistics. He went close early on, set up a decent chance for Kingsley Coman, and had the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be disallowed for taking the finest of touches on Lewandowski’s coiffured hair. One was left wondering what the decision might have been had the Polish striker gone to Joshua Kimmich’s barber.
Müller did eventually get his goal, and it was a typical Müller masterpiece. When Leon Goretzka’s long-range shot clattered against a defender, Müller was right on the spot to execute an awkward-looking finish. The ball ended up in the back of the Bremen net, and Tommy ended up on his backside. It was followed by the usual random celebration, with an additional theatrical twist provided by Goretzka.
Lewandowski was largely anonymous for the opening half hour, but did what good strikers do. With his first real threatening touch, he found the back of the net. Then came the 80th minute penalty. Eiskalt.
Video technology was supposed to end the debates regarding controversial decisions. It was to be the miracle cure for all marginal offside decisions, handballs and fouls in the penalty area. The ultimate footballing panacea. Or so we all thought.
The debate over Bayern’s late penalty will no doubt go on for a while yet. For some observers, it was a soft decision, one that the team of video assistants should have overturned. For others, it was a fair shout; it was indeed touch and go – with the emphasis on touch – but there was nothing there to overrule referee Daniel Siebert.
It is all about perspective. From one angle, Kingsley Coman was never going to get the ball, and went over a little too easily. (To be fair, he was tiring pretty badly by that time). From another viewpoint, Bremen’s Theodor Gebre Selassie was chasing the man rather than the ball, resulting in what was clearly a shove (OK, a gentle nudge) in the back. For what it’s worth, I thought that it was a penalty and am sticking with that verdict, though I will be equally honest and say that had Herr Siebert decided to wave play on, I would have had no issue with that either.
If just to compound the issue, the DFB then released a statement suggesting that the decision to award the penalty had been “incorrect”. It really has not been a great couple of years for the association, and this sort of nonsense only throws more lumps of mud into an already muddy pond. It is not as though they are going to order a replay. Unless, perhaps, Max Kruse decides to forgo his daily spoonful of Nutella and go on a hunger strike.