Napoli 1 – 1 Bayern Munich – Scrappy affair and wasted opportunities

Bayern Munich failed to further extend their lead in their Champions League group after playing to a scrappy draw in Italy.  The visitors started well and controlled most of the match but a missed penalty by Gomez and wasteful finishing meant they went back to Munich with only a point.  The hosts did well to get back into the match in the first half by taking advantage of their wide players but failed to maintain that momentum.

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri made only one change after his side’s loss to Parma over the weekend, fielding Columbian Zuniga in place of Dossena.  Heynckes confidently stuck to the line up that convincingly beat Hertha Berlin only a few days earlier.  The question was how Napoli’s unorthodox 3-4-2-1 was going to function against Bayern’s possession based 4-2-3-1 with the obvious emphasis on both side’s wide players.

Formations and key movement

Bayern the better side in the opening 

The Bavarians continued where they left off against Berlin and put Napoli under the knife as soon as the match kicked off.  Encouraging his side to pressure opponents early, Heynckes did not hesitate to let his players take advantage of Napoli’s three-man backline.  Only two minutes in Bayern already made that pressure count.  Tymoshchuk saw Boateng’s run on the right, with the right back controlling Tynoschuk’s pass.  The former Manchester City man saw Kroos make a run forward in the center.  Boateng’s cross was controlled by Kroos, who had an open path on goal, and tucked it into the bottom left corner from 13 meters out.

A visibly nervous Napoli became even more so after the goal and gave Bayern the platform to get their second. Kroos had a chance to double the lead on ten minutes but mishit Schweinsteiger’s cross after showing up unmarked on the left hand side.  Napoli tried getting forward but most of their attacks broke down after crossing the halfway line. Zuniga and Maggio were rarely involved up to that point and Lavezzi and Hamsik had it all to do against a firm Bayern defense.  For a while it looked as if Napoli’s formation would benefit Bayern’s aggressive forward play.  Boateng had the best chance of the half on 33 minutes after the ball fell to his feet from a corner.  The right back’s gently controlled shot was goal bound and forced De Sanctis to pull off the save of the match.

 Napoli get back in match through use of wide play

It may have taken a while but as the first half progressed, the Italians gradually eased into the match and started reversing some of the pressure Bayern exerted early on.  Bayern have a tendency to stifle their opponent’s natural game and that was very evident in the first half hour. With their strengths in midfield and an emphasis on possession it was always going to be difficult for Napoli to outplay Bayern in that area.  Instead, Napoli utilized their wingbacks to try and stretch Bayern and take Müller and Ribery out of the game.  Napoli’s 17 crosses to Bayern’s 2 was indicative of the Italian’s emphasis on wide play.

Both Hamsik and Lavezzi started to drift out wide more and Maggio and Zuniga’s influence in the game began to increase.  Ribery and Müller seemed content waiting for support in the opponent’s half, neglecting their defensive duties and giving Napoli the clearance to exploit the flanks.  On 39 minutes Napoli made their wide play count as Maggio was unchallenged on the right, got past Lahm and crossed a sent a dangerous ball in that was deflected by Badstuber into his own net.  Bayern’s streak of not conceding was finally over after 1147 minutes and Napoli appeared to be back in the game.  Bayern’s comfort level dissipated with the goal and despite getting the better of Napoli early on they were now struggling to deal with a more confident and fluid Napoli.

 Bayern react to Napoli’s wide threat and regain rhythm as match fizzles

After the erratic ending to the first half Bayern needed to calm their nerves and settle into their usual rhythm.  Whatever Heynckes told Bayern in the locker room worked.  While the second half failed to serve up the excitement level of the first, it was a more composed showing by the visitors.  They regained control of the match and created the necessary chances to win the game.  The first of those chances came soon after the restart.  Gomez’s shot from outside the box appeared to have hit Cannavaro’s hand and the referee controversially blew for a penalty.  Gomez, who had been so prolific up to now, squandered the chance to regain the lead with a weak penalty that was comfortably saved by De Sanctis.

Surprisingly enough, Napoli’s wide play depreciated.  A couple of explanations might account for this.  First, Müller and Ribery tracked back and stayed a lot closer to Zuniga and Maggio than they did in the first half.  It detracted from Bayern’s attack but they effectively served as man markers for Napoli’s two dangerous wingbacks.  Müller and Ribery were Bayern’s two most prominent tacklers (winning 16 and 13 tackles respectively), something that is usually attributed to Bayern’s central midfielders or defenders. Furthermore and perhaps more significant was the play of Tymoshchuk.  The Ukranian defensive midfielder played much wider in the second half, often coming out to the right to receive the ball.  Tymoshchuk was Bayern’s most effective passer on the day and his movement and distribution was key to Bayern regaining control of the match.

Passing statistics

Bayern’s best chance to capitalize on that control came in the 55th minute after a corner presented Müller with the chance to score from 5 meters out but failed to even get his shot on target.  The miss encompassed much of the second half, a more sluggish and wasteful affair.  Both teams tired after the hour mark as the match phased out.

Final Verdict 

An opportunity missed for Bayern but their good start to the campaign left a cushion for results like this. Nine bookings and 34 fouls made it a heated affair with chances few and far between. In that sense Bayern may rue the chances they did create and one can perhaps question the complacency that allowed Napoli to get back into the match.  However, Bayern reacted well in the second half and on another day they may have gotten the full three points.  In a season such as Bayern’s this year, a draw against a team like Napoli on the road is hardly a worrying result.

Napoli will be disappointed about creating only three shots on goal but a point against the group’s best side is not the worst result.  They remain second in the group and can take comfort in the fact that they were able to pressure Bayern like they did towards the end of the first half. What’s more, Napoli’s defense was up against one of Europe’s most dangerous attacks and did a formidable job.  Campagnaro in particular was outstanding against Ribery and Gomez.  Mazzarri will have to plan without captain Cannavaro for the return match though after the defender picked up his third yellow.

 Man of the Match

Toni Kroos – Considered the odd man out only a few months ago, Kroos has slowly come into his own and grew from strength to strength.  After a fine showing against Berlin over the weekend, Kroos followed up with an even better performance.  Kroos scored the opener and was ever present, having the most shots in the match, completing 40 passes and winning 9 tackles.  Most glaring of all is Kroos’s confidence on the ball and in his passes, both a crucial component of Bayern’s game.

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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

1 Comment

  1. Agree that Kroos was the MOTM, although Campagnaro and Cannavaro did well as did Tymoschuk. Heynckes has done many positive things with Bayern this season, and one can see how Kroos being back under Heynckes tutelage has Kroos playing very well. But I wonder if Bayern didn’t make a mistake not putting Olic in ….Gomez was pretty much off his game and Muller taken out of his by Napoli. And wondering why Petersen wasn’t on the bench…not much attacking help there today for Heynckes to choose from in the 2nd half. A draw in Italy is ok, but all 3 points would have been much better. I do give credit to Napoli for really amping up their game in the latter part of the first half…no doubt that DeSanctis denial of Boateng’s 33rd minute effort was a momentum changer.

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