Bayern München 2 – 0 FC Zürich – Improved second half performance gives Bayern vital lead

Bayern’s Champions League campaign officially kicked off with their first leg qualifier against Swiss side FC Zürich.  Heynckes dropped Müller in favor of Kroos while Robben made his return after some back problems.  This game has come on the back of a rather disappointing start to the season for Bayern, criticized for both their results and poor performances.  The failure to nearly qualify for the Champions League cost Van Gaal his job last season so this match was absolutely crucial.  Zürich meanwhile claimed they went into this game ready to attack and with Bayern’s still finding the ropes early in the season the game was there for the taking.

Formations with key movement.

1st Half  – Much of the same

The Swiss had the first real chance of the game after a cross from the left found Zurich striker who headed it over the goal.  Badstuber failed to get ahead of his man but was grateful for the wasted opportunity.  It was Bayern who capitalized on their chance first though on eight minutes after a Robben cross, from the left curiously enough, found a wide-open Schweinsteiger who slotted it home.  It was a refreshing change considering the fact that Bayern’s wingers rarely if ever interchange positions. It was important for Bayern to get the first goal, having started rather sluggishly in matches this season.  The goal gave Bayern the necessary confidence boost and Bayern mounted the pressure on Zürich, sending waves of attacks forward whenever in possession.  The Germans found their passing rhythm and were happy to play keep-away, waiting for an opportunity to arise.  That essentially set the tone for the remainder of the half.

It was down the left that Bayern were most dangerous with Lahm getting forward at every occasion and with relative ease, even getting himself into a great goal scoring position midway through the half.  More of their attacks were concentrated down that side with Ribery looking to constantly take on players, albeit rather unsuccessfully.

Passing distribution - shows use of left side b/w Ribery and Lahm

Overall it was the same uninspired performance from Bayern that we saw against Wolfsburg and Gladbach, contemplative on the ball but lacking any real imagination or inventiveness, moving the ball out wide but always lacking in incisiveness and always coming up short when approaching the final third.  It has to be said though that it was a more balanced performance overall than usual.  They tried to spread the ball, alternated their attacks and cut out some of the crossing that has plagued them recently.  Zürich on the other hand struggled to deal with Bayern’s momentum and possession and were more preoccupied with holding them back than playing their natural game, which is to attack.  As a result, their backline often gave the ball away right in front of the box, which prevented the build up of any kind of momentum on their end.

2nd Half – Bayern improve and Müller changes game

Bayern almost immediately doubled their lead five minutes into the second half after a penetrating run on the left set up Gomez just a few yards from goal.  Instead of increasing their lead, the striker blasted it past the net.  Ribery continued to be their primary threat, releasing a shot from outside the box minutes later but was parried away by the goalkeeper.  Finally Bayern were producing clear chances to score, more in a span of five minutes than they did all first half with Robben the latest to have a go at goal.  Thomas Müller was introduced just before the hour mark for Kroos, a sign that Heynckes wanted a more direct goal scoring threat out there and perhaps an admission of the many squandered opportunities so far.

Ribery again took the initiative and won a free kick just outside the box, curling a beauty past the Zurich wall only to be denied by the post.  Bayern were in full swing now and the second goal seemed imminent with attacks seemingly coming from every direction.  Müller added an element of unpredictability and off the ball movement that was lacking in the first half and Robben and Ribery now had an outlet in the center that they did not have previously with Gomez.  The pressure eventually paid off when Robben curled a great ball past the keeper with a trademark shot from the right.  The keeper was a bit off his line but it was well taken by a player whose individual brilliance Bayern have relied on for some time now.

General statistics courtesy of uefa.com

Bayern nearly added a third after a great run inside by Lahm set up Gomez whose shot was cleared by a Zürich defender.  Müller’s influence cannot be understated in the second half; his ghost runs and use of the channels are crucial to players like Robben and Ribery and since coming on both wingers have looked much livelier, as has Bayern’s overall game.  Zürich never managed to get into the game after the break and found it difficult to deal with the constantly moving Müller and the space he created for others.

Conclusion

It is hard to imagine how Zürich will bounce back after this.  Bayern’s backline has improved with every game so far and a two-goal lead is nearly impossible to overturn in said circumstances.  Key defender Beda will also miss the second leg due to his red card so the odds are certainly stacked against the Swiss side.  Bayern meanwhile will have a more comfortable evening when they travel to Switzerland, knowing that they have the cushion of a lead.  That said, they will rue the many misses in this game.  Heynckes will also no doubt note the difference Müller made after coming on.  The substitution essentially changed the dimension of the game and highlighted the deficiencies and limitations of relying on a target man like Gomez.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

6 Comments

  1. I see no reason why both couldn’t play. Either one of Gustavo or Gomez would have to be dropped though. I wouldn’t even mind seeing Schweinsteiger on the bench give his poor form in the last couple of months.

  2. Lots of people may disagree, and I think Muller is better than Kroos, but I think Kroos should start a match and put Muller on to “shock” the opponents with extra runs and off-the-ball stuff that they did not experience in the first half. That way by the time the opponent gets used to Bayern’s repetitive attack, add the Muller factor in and maybe the contented defence will be torn apart

  3. He is efficient in front of goal, that’s for sure. But when talking about Gomez I think other things have to be kept in mind like how he affects or limits the system or those around him.

  4. I agree that Mario Gomez does not always look good in front of the goal (especialy against FCZ) bute he scored 28 (only Bundesliga, DFB cup 2, Champions League 8(!)) goals last term, and also had the fewest attempts on goal compared to all strikers all over europe. He scored his first goal on Matchday 8 last Bundesliga season. So don`t judge him too early in the season.

  5. Thanks for the review – i agree in many points, especially the view on Müller and the push to Bayern’s game in the last half hour. Ribery/Lahm worked brilliant on the left while Robben on the other side lacked assistance because Rafinha was obviously ordered to stay further back (which wasn’t really neccesary against the suppliant FCZ) and Kroos likes to stay in the middle of the pitch.
    Luis Gustavo was a great ball conquerer and often played quite hard without being prosecuted for that – the whole team was very successful when pressing early but didn’t create clear chances when suddenly in control of the ball 30m away from the Swiss goal.
    Gomez is still a problem in this Bayern line-up. Yes, he scored 29 (?) goals last season but on how many 100% chances did he fail. With players like Robben, Ribery, Müller, Schweinsteiger as potentional pass feeders it’s not enough. Furthermore his movements are quite static and his lack of technical skills (one-touch, controlling the ball) are really ruin the work of his team-mates. I’m really hoping the fighting workhorse Olic will come back in the shape of his first season and Bayern will buy a cold-blooded, technically skilled players for this position. Don’t get me wrong, Gomez is not a bad player, but he needs a system that is playing for and focusses on him like Cissé in Freiburg but with so many indiviually great players around him this would be a waste of quality.
    Zurich on the other hand were much to passive only hoping for luck in the defense and a lucky punch in the offensive. They didn’t show enough courage and aggression to be a serious threat for Bayern.

  6. Good synopsis, Cris. Ribbery did look in top form, and Robben is finally back. Classic Robben, classic Bayern. Should havebeen 4-0 from what I saw. Keep the faith, Cris. Auf gehts!

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