After the line-ups were announced, football Germany hyperventilated over Bayern’s B-team filled up with four amateurs and was outraged by the alleged “distortion of competition”. Apart from the fact that any other club would have acted in the same way under comparable circumstances, Bayern Munich does not enjoy the advantage of being protected by its own association in a way that is not unusual for international rivals. For both Olympique Lyon in 2010 and Real Madrid in 2014, the league matches were postponed to the end of the season in order to give them an advantage in the duel with Bayern by taking a break between the semi-finals.
In the end, Bayern’s 4-1 victory has apparently prevented them from being to blame for both the failure of the Frankfurt team (by the date of the announcement of the Kovac signing) and its success (through gifted points).
The fact that such a Bayern team managed to send a European Cup aspirant and cup finalist home 4-1 does not necessarily speak for the quality of the Bundesliga, not for the quality of Eintracht Frankfurt and also not exactly for the quality of Niko Kovac as coach. Although the game was open for a long time, two teams met at eye level. The result of 4:1 may also be a bit deceptive, because Bayern was far superior to Real on Wednesday and had far better chances of scoring. But given the circumstances of the game and the fact that only Frankfurt was needing the points, this was a disappointing to frightening appearance by Eintracht.
It was clear how unpleasant it was for the Eintracht to have to become active themselves and not to be able to play the accustomed role of the compact outsider due to the shifted balance of power. There was a lack of determination and conviction to really put Bayern under pressure. It was not for nothing that Frankfurt had its best scenes in counter-attacks after FCB turnovers. Of course it would be unfair to deny Kovac his suitability as a Bayern coach because of a defeat, but the game was certainly not a tactical masterstroke on his part. In any case, no concept was discernible of how Frankfurt wanted to address the inevitable coordination problems and gaps. For example, Eintracht failed to get one of the debutants in trouble; they played exactly as they would have played Bayern’s A-elf.
How did the four youth prospects perform? Franck Evina acted most prominently, who initially knew how to take the offensive by looking for duels and finishing chances. In phases in which he did not make much offensive use, he demonstrated his commitment several times with courageous backward sprints, closing defensive gaps and countering opponents. A really good performance, but it is rather questionable whether his quality should be sufficient for the demands that Bayern has on his position in the medium and long term. Especially since he already seems enormously far physically for a 17-year-old, so no more big jumps are to be expected in this respect.
Niklas Dorsch is on everyone’s minds because of his goal, of course, and indeed it seems regrettable that his departure from Munich seems to be a decided thing. He effortlessly managed to integrate into the Bayern midfield: Presence, availability, movements made a good impression, his ball treatment sometimes had an excellent effect. Nevertheless, he did not succeed in everything, especially in the passing accuracy and decision making there is still room for improvement. In recent years, Höjbjerg and Gaudino have had talents that were at least as promising but did not make it at Bayern in the end. But it would be nice if one could follow his development for a while longer at Bayern.
Lars Lukas Mai, in a way the experienced quartet member, played quite calmly, after all it was his second assignment with the professionals. Obviously trying not to make any big mistakes, he played with safety in mind: He left risky tacklings to his neighbors as well as the cause of bad passes or unsuccessful rescue operations. An all-round solid performance, with which he has recommended himself as the No. 4 central defender for a permanent squad position.
Meritan Shabani was the least convincing. Although he didn’t lose much of his performance compared to Bernat or Tolisso, it would come as a surprise if he still had a career with FC Bayern ahead of him.
Overall, however, it should be noted positively that the youth teams currently have players who are also of interest to the first team and who can at least be called upon in the event of staff shortages. All of them seemed well trained and had no major technical, physical or tactical problems keeping up in a Bundesliga match. Even if it is questionable whether one of them will actually make the big leap, we can only hope that transfers like Serdar Tasci’s will no longer be necessary in the future.
Three things we noticed
1. A heart for Rafinha
Is there anything this player hasn’t been through at FCB? Sometimes a regular, sometimes completely out of the picture, sometimes a right-back or even a centre-back under Pep, then again a linear full-back in the back four, if necessary also on the left side as against Real on Wednesday. A pattern of loyalty over all these years. During the week he made a serious mistake, which was promptly punished with a goal; and this after he had perhaps the best month of his time at Bayern in April.
The way he took that low blow in the second half of the match today commands a lot of respect. It was also nice to see the team rejoicing with him at his goal, a scene that speaks for an intact team spirit.
2. Wagner Love
Sandro Wagner also impressed against Frankfurt with his usual dedication, but also with a remarkable understanding of the game. Although he did not have an eye for the free teammate in every situation, he was an almost ideal intermediary for the younger generation in particular. Through his agility and permanent “availability”, he provided the wingers with a constant play option to which they could resort if they lacked another idea or did not dare to engage in a direct duel.
The fact that he is limited in terms of football could not be overlooked even against Frankfurt. But if all players were to exploit their potential like Sandro Wagner, Real Madrid would not be a hurdle.
3. Bring it on!
The Frankfurt game in the middle of the two semi-finals was not an easy situation, the probability of gaining a positive boost and self-confidence for Madrid and not wasting valuable resources at the same time was extremely low. But that is exactly what might have been achieved. At least Heynckes underlined with the biggest possible rotation that he is focused on Tuesday and that there will be something to win for FC Bayern on that day. With the exception of Hummels and Ulreich, the key players were spared, while the others gained some practice and self-confidence. And also among the fans the coup with the young players made them somewhat forget the paralysis that has been prevailing since Wednesday.