Bayern Munich vs Napoli 3 – 2: A Tale of Two Halves

Bayern only need one point from their remaining two matches to advance to the knock out stages.  Gomez was the first German player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, ensuring Bayern overcame a stubborn Napoli side.

Bayern Munich had the chance to make it to the knock out stages of the Champions League with a win against Napoli tonight. The two sides had only met once in Munich before. Back in 1989 Bayern drew 2-2 against the Italians after goals from Wolhfarth and Reuter for the Bavarians, and two goals by Careca. The following match in Italy was won 2-0 by Napoli. Jupp Heynckes was coaching Bayern back then as well. The Italians have historically speaking had a tough time winning against German teams in Germany, losing three matches and drawing three times. A win against Bayern Munich would have been the first win for Napoli against a German team.

Line ups:

FC Bayern München: Neuer – Boateng , Van Buyten, Badstuber, Lahm – Gustavo, Schweinsteiger – Müller, Kroos, Ribery – Gomez

SSC Napoli: De Sanctis – Aronica, Fernandez, Campagnaro – Maggio, Inler, Dzemaili, Zuniga – Hamsik, Lavezzi – Cavani

Formations and key movement

First half: Bayern patiently break Napoli down

Bayern Munich have been struggling against defensive minded, counter attacking sides this season. Their home loss to Gladbach, the draw against Napoli and Bayern’s loss against Hannover in the Bundesliga are all examples of teams comfortable sitting deep and defending and using their speed to break opponents down on the counter. Napoli chose to go out onto the pitch in their usual 3-4-3 formation, which saw their wingers drop deep when the team is defending, effectively building a five men defense when Bayern was in possession. Napoli’s three attackers did sporadically press the Bayern back four when it was in possession but all three players worked defensively and were often found deep in their own half due to Bayern controlling most of the play.

Napoli managed to give little or no room to the Bavarians at the beginning of the match in the Allianz Arena. Bayern were often times lucky that the Italians did not manage to start dangerous counter attacks from one of their sloppy mistakes. Thomas Müller lost the ball to Lavezzi in his own half already in the 2nd minute of the match, but the delivery into the box was headed away by Holger Badstuber. Luiz Gustavo was the first Munich player to have a crack at goal in the tenth minute, but his shot from 19 meters was saved by De Scantis.  For a moment it seemed that Lavezzi and Hamsik were going to get the best of Bayern’s fullbacks but the tide slowly turned.

It took Bayern a while before they managed to break down Napoli.

Seven minutes later the Bayern players finally found a way to break down the Italians defense. Franck Ribbery walked with the ball at his feet from the left to the right, found Thomas Müller who in turn found Bastian Schweinsteiger. His pass to Mario Gomez saw the striker only left with one defender to beat. Gomez took himself past Aronica with ease, and thrashed the ball low into the goal making it 1-0 for the Bavarians. Rather than playing directly forward, Bayern chose a more lateral approach, alternating from flank to flank and stretching Napoli in the process.  Napoli’s strength in the center thus became a weakness with space opening up where it normally would not exist.

Kroos found Gomez with a great cross from the left hand side all alone 7 meters in front of goal in the 23rd minute. A simple touch from Bayern’s danger man was enough to put the ball into the net and double the Baverians lead only six minutes after the first goal.  The goal was an example of that lateral play as Schweinsteiger and Kroos frequently moved out wide, pulling Napoli’s center apart.

Gomez and Ribbery both had decent chances to get the third goal in the 26th and 30th minute, but both narrowly miss the goal. After Bayern’s second goal the Bavarians had taken complete control of the game, stringing together pass after pass, keeping hold of the ball and getting their forwards into good finishing positions.  At times Bayern had close to 80% possession, forcing the Italians into a shell they seemed incapable of escaping.  The third goal seemed inevitable. A ball from Müller into the penalty area found Ribbery, who with a bit of luck managed to send the ball to Toni Kross. The German international’s shot was kept out by De Scantis, but the rebound was tucked into the net by Mario Gomez from a shot distance.

Schweinsteiger and van Buyten had just bumped into each other, making way for Fernandez to score Napoli's first goal.

Then, against the run of play an individual error allowed Napoli a chance to get back into the game. Jerome Boateng gave away a unecassary free kick when he pushed over Lavezzi just outside the area before half time. Lavezzi delivered the ball into the area, where Manuel Neuer looked indecisive, and van Buyten and Schweinsteiger went up for the same ball, falling over each other. Napoli’s Fernandez thanked the two Bayern players who let him head the ball undisturbed towards the goal by putting it into the net, giving the Italians the faintest of hopes for a comeback in the second half.

Second half: Schweinsteiger off with an injury and two red cards

Bastian Schweinsteiger had to go off the pitch in the 51st minute with was suspected to be an acromioclavicular blast. This shoulder injury could keep Schweinsteiger out of action until the end of the winter break. Bayern seemed to be content to consolidate their lead and kept hold of the ball for most of the time in the second half but Schweinsteiger’s absence did hint at his role in controlling matches as the Bavarians looked more nervy and unsettled.

In the 70th minute Juan Zuniga saw a second yellow card, for his second foul on Franck Ribbery within two minutes. Napoli changed to a 3-4-2 formation, and waited for counter attacks. Without Schweinsteiger on the pitch Bayern lacked their metronome and their passing and possession game suffered as a result. The game became more frantic as Napoli upped their pressure.  Seven minutes later Holger Badstuber saw his second yellow card of the game and was sent off. The referees decision was rather dubious, to say the least, considering that there was barely contact between Badstuber and the supposedly fouled Cavani.

The following free kick from Cavani found Fernandez, who had managed to get away from Daniel van Buyten. Fernandez header was well placed and went all the way over Manuel Neuer and into the net. The second avoidable goal Bayern had conceded against otherwise lackluster Italians.  There is no question that Schweinsteiger’s injury disturbed the balance of the team in the second half and allowed Napoli back in the game.

Even though their second goal seemingly had re-energized Napoli, they did not manage to break through the Bayern defense for a third time. It was Bayern Munich who had the last two chances of the match. Lahm finished off a counter attack after 93 minutes and was unlucky to have his shot blocked. One minute later Mario Gomez tried to score a goal from within his own half after De Scantis had left his goal. The keeper managed to sprint back and saved the ball just before the line.

Conclusion: Bayern keep impressing both domestically and in the Champions League

Bayern had completed 292 passes at the end of the first half. Most Bundesliga teams average around 350-400 passes per match. In addition to the total control in possession Bayern also produced more shots on goal than the Italians, outshooting them 8-1 in that department at the end of the first half.  It was as good a half of football as Bayern have played this year and even Franz Beckenbauer agreed that it was “perfect”.

However, even though all stats I could toss at you would suggest that this game was nowhere near of being a close affair, Bayern did only win with a one goal margin. Why? It is not the first time this has happened in the last three years. It more and more seems to become a trend for the Bavarians. Today it was shameful defending on two set pieces that gave Napoli two goals. The Italian managed to produce two chances on goal, and scored both of them.  So despite their domination Bayern should not be satisfied with their defending today. Both goals could have, and should have been avoided.  It must also be added that Schweinsteiger’s departure hurt Bayern given that he is their primary playmaker and virtually everything flows through him.  Bayern completed 100 less passes in the second half, telling of Schweinsteiger’s influence.

The Champions League final will take in 199 days in the Allianz Arena in Munich. Until then Bayern need to address those lapses in concentration in defense if they in fact intend to take part in that match.

Man of the match: Mario Gomez

Gomez just keeps on scoring. He has scored 73 times in 107 matches for Bayern Munich. The striker is now the most scoring German player of all time in the Champions League. His first goal of the evening saw him tie with Michael Ballack for this honor(Ballack has 15 goals to his name), before goals two and three saw him soar past the Leverkusen icon. Gomez is also the first German player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League and his first goal of the night was also Bayern’s 250th goal in Champions League history. I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

Feel free to leave a comment.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. No more talk of clean sheet streaks if we can’t defend properly without schweini’s midfield balance. Those were easily avoidable mistakes, and we must just work on them in training and in bundesliga and dfb pokal games.

  2. In all games to now – apart from the Hoffenheim game that was another story – Bayern always beats itself through stupid mistakes.

    Own goals, stupid little fouls, that stupid red card of Boateng in Hannover – it seems that they have more problems with themselves than with the opponents.

    It might be good that this all happens now – and not in the spring.

  3. I think that match was a microcosm of how German football has evolved, and Italian football has fallen. Bayern completely dominated possession, and tore apart the “tough defense” of Napoli with absolute ease. Napoli’s strikers had absolutely no impact in this game (besides getting Badstueber sent off), and were left with only set pieces to score on. When you watch with first half, and see how the game could have been 4 or 5-0, it shows hows how brilliant this Bayern team has become; but all that hinders on the 3 central midfielders movement and distribution. Schweinsteigers injury definitely impacted the moral of Bayern in the second half, and I honestly believe that that was the cause of the poor 2nd half display. The sheer shock of losing the vice captain and engine in the midfield caused Bayern players to get sloppy and even panic. I don’t think that it will be a long term issue though. The players know they have to keep playing and Heynkes will come up with a scheme to suit the players he actually has available. People forget that Bayern defeated Manchester United with David Alaba as a left back, and Daniel Pranic in Schweini’s role. Alaba and Pranjic are still in the squad, and while they are nowhere near the class of Schweinsteiger, they still can determine how Bayern survives the rough road ahead. Expect Kroos to pick up the workload with Alaba joining him in the center, and Gustavo lingering a little behind them (4-1-2-2-1). Bayern is more than one player, and is a squad with underrated depth, they will still finish Group A in first place, and still be at the top of the table at the winter break; it may just not be that beautiful to watch though.

  4. Yes, it’s a win. And a hell of a first half. But it’s a failure if a team is vying for the title. What’s more, we now have a real weakness, which kinda sucks because that means every title contender can see this and think, “I can exploit that!” Also, complacency like this is what triggers a comeback. I don’t wanna be meeting a team, go 3-0 up and then get to 3-3 before losing on penalties. Now THAT’S what you call fucked

  5. the 3-2 win a failure?

    The only failure was the lack of communication on set-pieces. We’ve suffered from it for three seasons now…

    2009-2010 we were great at set pieces, especially when DVB and Gomez rise up for headers…

    but now we can’t defend it, especially when DVB is outjumped!

  6. I have a sour taste in my mouth after this game thanks to the Schweini injury and the complacency in the team(complacency is what I hate most in any sports club).

    There’s one good thing to take away from this, though. It’s that Bayern has learnt from the loss against Hannover.

    While Hannover tore them apart with those lateral sideways passes, Bayern tries to pass very “forward”, which makes Bayern more prone to offsides and looking offside, even if they weren’t, and also, lateral passes seem more “unexpected” to defenders(maybe because a left back watches his counterpart on the right get teased when suddenly the ball fly metres away from him, but he’s too busy “spectating”). Eventually, the only goal for Bayern came from a lateral pass.

    Looks like Jupp has discovered this and introduced lateral passing to the team’s style and this created lots of chances!

    Btw, I consider this a failure for the club.

  7. this is exactly why we need Mueller in the CAM position and Robben in the RM position.

    and Kroos must show his versatility as a CM for these last weeks of 2011

  8. Think Bayern will be fine considering their great start to the domestic season and the CL. They’re all but qualified and need a point to win the group which is doable against this Villarreal side. And they have enough without Schweinsteiger to remain on top of the league until the Rückrunde.

    There might be a drop off because Schweinsteiger is so influential and no other player has been used in his position before so it won’t be a seamless transition but there are ways around that. One is to use Kroos there. Also think Tymo and Gustavo are good enough to keep that going.

  9. It will be interesting to see how Bayern copes without Schweinsteiger for the rest of the hinrunde. I’m sure they will find a way to win without him, its just a matter of how soon they can find that formula. Doubt he’ll be back to full fitness until the 2nd half of the Bundesliga resumes

  10. It must be said now if ever how crucial Schweinsteiger has become to this side. Everything goes through him. He is the tactical anchor of this side. He controls the tempo and he is the difference between a panicking Bayern side and one in full control.

    Hannover, Napoli and Gladbach did well this season to press Bayern and expose their weaknesses, trapping them into making constant mistakes. Bayern have become more compact and ultimately a better side for this competition with van Gaal’s foundation and Heynckes re-enforced defensive structure and organization but the mental lapses remain when pressed.

    Moreover a lack of tactical contingencies is a concerning issue. When Schweinsteiger is out against this type of opponent, chaos ensues and I don’t feel Bayern necessarily have a plan to deal with this at the moment. We saw against the aforementioned sides how Bayern copes with this. The midfield is confused, individuals take it upon themselves to play. Ribery makes his solo hero runs that often result in losing the ball and the defense panics into letting in easy goals if pressed just hard enough. Gomez, as a result remains completely isolated. The difference between his involvement in the first half and in the second is noteworthy. Their primary gameplan will work against most opponents but with their CL title ambitions it must be said that a little more work is necessary.

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