Dismal, depressing, dispiriting. Three bleak takeaways from FC Bayern v Liverpool
Niko Kovač’s men were unable to match their excellent form of recent weeks, and were always going to find it tough against a talented Liverpool side. The problem in the end was not really the final result, but the way they rolled over in a desperately poor second half.
FC Bayern may have turned the corner since the start of the Rückrunde, but the issues that plagued the Bavarians in the first half of the season have never really gone away. Crucial, costly, calamitous individual mistakes.
Last year, we had Sven Ulreich’s gut-wrenching error against Real Madrid. This time around, the brain fart came from the usually safe and secure Manuel Neuer, keeper-sweeper extraordinaire. Or not, as it turned out.
At first glance, it is easy to heap the blame on Rafinha, who was skinned by Sadio Mané after the Senegalese collected an excellent long ball from Virgil van Dijk. But the harsh reality is that if Neuer had decided to stay on his line, there would have been no danger. That said, on another night, Neuer would have collected the ball and jinked inside his opponent before finding a team-mate. Not this time. The Bayern keeper was left with egg on his face, as Mané found the net with an easy lob.
In the context of the tie, it was a complete disaster. Bayern’s plan (while not a particularly great one) had worked for the opening 25 minutes. Suddenly, it had all gone to pot, with no workable Plan B.
In previous weeks – arguably against lesser opposition in the Bundesliga – Bayern have been quick to get out of the traps, set the tempo and impose themselves on the opposition. Instead, we saw a team that seemed prepared to play out another goalless draw.
The tactics at Anfield had made perfect sense. While the game was not pretty to watch, the plan had worked. What we did not expect was more of the same in Munich. Bayern may have edged the contest over the first quarter, but once Liverpool scored that crucial away goal it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
The biggest problem was that having set such a sluggish tone, Die Roten were unable to shake themselves out of their stupor. With the exception of an encouraging final ten minutes in the first half, the men in red looked like eleven zombies.
There was no urgency, and it looked like the team were going through the motions. Robert Lewandowski was conspicuous by his absence. James Rodríguez was at best ordinary. Even the the introduction of the faster Kingsley Coman for the disappointing Franck Ribéry didn’t make a shred of difference.
After Liverpool scored their second, the Bavarian goose was cooked. Though it had been ready for the oven long before.
If the passion and desire among the fans in the Südkurve had been matched by the men out on the pitch, Bayern would have taken themselves over the line and booked their place in the last eight. Sadly, these qualities were in short supply.
Fans will think back to that famous evening against Juventus two years ago, when Carlo Ancelotti’s side came from the brink to secure a stunning extra-time victory. Or the comeback at Old Trafford in 2012 against Manchester United, fuelled by a rampant Robbéry. Instead, we were treated to the footballing equivalent of the Norwegian Blue parrot.
One can make the argument that the team’s two most passionate and driven players, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich, were unable to start. There is much to be said for this. As well as their abilities as footballers, both Tommy and Kimmi have never failed to step up to the plate when the chips are down. In a game like this, their absence counted double. It is all whats, ifs and maybes, but if one or both of them had been on the pitch, things may well have taken another course.
On April 29th 2014, the Bestia Negra died a horrible death. On March 13th 2019, we witnessed the flies buzzing around its rotting corpse.