The final MatchDay of the Hinrunde saw Bayern München host an up and down Köln side that went into their third match in six days. Bayern ran out 3-0 winners in the end despite a first half that looked as if Köln’s were going to further extend their impressive record at the Allianz Arena. But despite being down a man for much of the match, Bayern earned all three points with a very professional performance in the second half.
Line ups and Tactics
Jupp Heynckes fielded the same side that overcame Stuttgart last weekend. The only player they were missing was Jerome Boateng due to a flu. Köln too were stricken by the flu, both Lanig and Matuschyk missing out as a result, McKenna coming in for the former. The real surprise though was Solbakken’s tactical change. Instead of the usual 4-4-2/4-5-1, the Norwegian fielded a defensive formation with a 5 man backline, no doubt to frustrate Bayern and try to get a result in three consecutive matches for the first time this season.
Frustrating first half for Bayern
Solbakken’s decision to field five defenders worked well in the first half and effectively held off high-scoring Bayern. The hosts could not penetrate Köln’s wall of defense no matter how hard they tried. Despite losing Miso Brecko early to injury (he was replaced by Tomoaki Makino in the 14th minute) and having fellow defender Ammar Jemal temporarily sidelined with a knock, Köln impressively held Bayern scoreless for the first 45 minutes. The frustration clearly got to Bayern as seen in Ribery’s dismissal before the break. The Bayern star was sent off in the 33rd minute after an exchange with Sereno as the Frenchman could not keep his hands to himself. Perhaps that frustration was compounded by events earlier in the day as Ribery lost his court case against his former agent.
Köln pay for their mistakes in the second
Unfortunately for Solbakken and his team, they would not maintain that performance in the second half. Mario Gomez knocked home his 16th goal of the season three minutes after intermission after Tymoshchuk won possession, laid the ball off to Müller who set up the striker for an easy tap in. So, did Solbakken abandoned his tactics to attack the shorthanded Bavarians? No. The former Copenhagen coach continued with his tactical setup, and his team never got into the match despite being a man up. Individual errors eventually cost them and Bayern did well to take advantage. Makino kept Bayern onside on the first goal and they would fail to clear a corner kick on the second goal. Bayern substitute David Alaba doubled Bayern’s lead in the 63rd minute as a corner kick rolled through the box to the wide open Austrian, who slammed the ball into the net.
To one’s amazement, Köln continued without any consistent attack, until Toni Kroos nailed home the three points with his 88th minute goal with a right-footed shot from the center of the box, assisted by Alaba. (Although in hindsight, the game was over after Gomez’ goal — Bayern have not lost in 21 consecutive home matches when they have taken a 1-0 lead). While being supportive of the job Solbakken has done with the Billy Goats overall, they seemed totally lackluster and could not even begin to take advantage of being a man up, one of the pitfalls of a defensive set up like that. Although it must be said that one can certainly understand the Köln’s players’ heavy legs after their fixture congestion, but with more than a month off until their next competitive match, it seems the team could have made a better effort. Köln finish the season’s first half with six wins and three draws for a total of 21 points and a -8 goal differential.
Meanwhile, Bayern finished the Hinrunde with 37 points with twelve Bundesliga victories and one draw. The Bavarians held 67% of possession even with a man down, and Manuel Neuer was credited with another clean sheet, though he only had to make one save during the match. Köln’s Peszko, Jajalo, Riether and Sereno all covered more ground than Bayern’s leader, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, but Toni Kroos, in addition to his goal, led both clubs with 122 touches while completing 88% of his passes.
Following the conclusion of this weekend’s action, Jupp Heynckes’ side will take at least a three-point lead into the second half of the season. They also finished first in their Champions League group and will face FC Basel in the next round of the Champions League. Bayern travel to VfL Bochum Tuesday for their third round DFB Cup match before the winter break that should have them still in contention for the treble.