Borussia Mönchengladbach 3 – 1 Bayern München – Favre outsmarts Heynckes in Rückrunde opener

Gladbach kicked off the Rückrunde the way they did the start of the season, with a win against Bayern and thus maintained their impressive unbeaten record at home. The win moves Gladbach within one point of the league leaders and further justifies their place in the discussion of potential title contenders this year. Goals from Gladbach’s talented youngsters Herrmann and Reus wrapped up a thoroughly deserving win against a lackluster Bayern, who struggled to create chances and left it late to show the kind of urgency expected from them following Schweinsteiger’s consolation goal in the second half.

Line-ups & Tactics

Both sides were missing key players. Gladbach were without their influential centerback Dante (suspended due to card accumulation) and Bayern had to make due without the suspended Franck Ribery. The reliable Brouwers stepped in for Dante while Heynckes surprisingly fielded Kroos out on the left in place of Ribery. Bayern also welcomed back Schweinsteiger after a 79-day absence following his shoulder injury in the Champions League. As far as tactics went, nothing out of the ordinary, both coaches stuck with their preferred 4-2-3-1 formations. The questions ahead of the match were: Could Bayern’s defense cope with Reus and would Gladbach’s defense remain disciplined enough to ward off Bayern’s plethora of attacking options?

Formations and key movement.

Déjà vu in the first half

The answers to the above questions slowly started to unfold in the first half. The first 45 minutes were actually eerily reminiscent of their encounter in the Hinrunde with Bayern seeing more of the ball but seemingly incapable of getting past Gladbach’s sturdy defense. In that game, Gladbach were content to sit back and absorb Bayern’s pressure, taking their chances on the break. An error at the back between Neuer and Boateng decided that game and funnily enough, similar events unfolded in this match. A Neuer clearance in the 11th minute was misplaced and fell to the feet of Reus, who was as surprised as anyone that he had just so readily been handed the ball. Without hesitation, Reus controlled the bounce and put the ball in the back of the net from 32 meters out, Neuer failing to rush back in time to save it.

While Neuer’s careless clearance was responsible for the goal more than anything it was forced by Herrmann’s pressing from the front, something Gladbach did well throughout the match. In fact, 3 out of Gladbach’s 4 best tacklers in the first half were attacking players. Favre’s side has been successful because of their disciplined backline but Gladbach defend as well up top as they do in front of goal. 5 of Gladbach’s players ran over 6 kilometers in the first half compared to just 2 from Bayern. Because of their effective pressing and collective defending, Bayern failed to find ways to create any tangible goal scoring chances. Their only chance in the first half, and best of the match, came shortly after the opening goal after Robben’s cross from the right found Gomez’s head, forcing a great save from ter Stegen.

Duels between the two sides, an area Gladbach excelled in.

The only difference between this match and their season opener was Gladbach’s willingness to get forward. Rather than just sitting back, the home side looked eager to move forward at every opportunity this time and readily exposed Bayern whenever they left space behind them. Lahm was caught up the field on numerous occasions and Herrmann used the opportunity brilliantly. Gladbach’s second goal came under such circumstances after Daems and Arango dispossessed Robben on the left, laid the ball off to Hanke who saw Herrmann run in behind an advanced Lahm on the right and played him right in on goal. Herrmann’s finish topped off a fine first half performance. Hanke nearly made it three a minute before the break but his shot from 23 meters went wide right. The whistle could not have come quick enough for Bayern. It was only the second time this season that Bayern had fallen two goals behind.

Bayern uncharacteristically out of control

It is usually Bayern who dictate an opponent’s reaction and tactics in a game but that was not the case against Gladbach. One might confuse Gladbach’s deep defending as reactionary but it is in fact the foundation of their quick attacking formula. Like a clever boxer, Gladbach absorb and absorb and wait patiently for openings and when you least expect it, two and three passes occur in a matter of seconds to open a defense. What Favre and Gladbach have done so well is create a platform that invites teams to attack, albeit unsuccessfully thanks to their industrious and efficient defending, and capitalize when least expected. Bayern were opened up again on 74 minutes on arguably the goal of the night after Gladbach dispossessed Bayern. Arango quickly dashed upfield and laid the ball off to Reus who waited for Herrmann to make the run inside before he tucked a deceiving ball behind Bayern’s backline. Herrmann was again one on one with Neuer and rounded him to put Bayern behind 3-0 for the first time this season. Bayern defenders were left ball watching and Heynckes fuming on the sideline.

All challenges won by Gladbach's back four.

Bayern pulled a goal back 15 minutes from time from a goalmouth scramble following a corner but it wasn’t enough to galvanize the team or overturn Gladbach’s insurmountable lead. As expected, Gladbach withstood a late Bayern advance to see out their most impressive result of the season. Gladbach won the individual and team battles on the field. They thoroughly outran Bayern (6 Gladbach players ran more than 11 km, something only 2 Bayern players managed) and also won all the important duels. Gladbach’s 5 most successful tacklers won 63 duels compared to just 42 from Bayern. As a matter of fact, Bayern had their lowest percentage of duels won this season at just 34%. The homeside neutralized Bayern’s attack with a high defensive line that caught Bayern offsides on 7 occasions. By staying compact in the middle they also forced them out wide and limited them to just crossing the ball, 24 compared to Gladbach’s 2.

Final Verdict

This was Gladbach’s first double over Bayern in 15 years and their biggest win over them since 1996. Favre’s men put on a defensive master class with cleverly initiated and executed counter attacks, which Bayern had no answer for. With this win, they set the tone for the Rückrunde and are just 4 points away from reaching their pre-season goal of 40 points. Humility has been a big part of Favre’s Gladbach but they can let loose a bit now and embrace the flurry of praise coming their way because it is well deserved. Next up is a trip to Stuttgart where they tied 1-1 in the Hinrunde.

As for Bayern, the winter break sessions in Doha may have relaxed the team more than invigorate them if this performance is anything to go by. The absence of Ribery may have taken away from Bayern’s creativity but a sense of cohesion was lacking throughout the squad. They were dispossessed far too easily, their defense failed to cope with the movement of Reus, Herrmann and Arango and the attack were shy of ideas. When faced with deep defending and organized sides Bayern are all too easily put off and resort to directing their play out wide which rarely ever works. The subsequent lack of an alternative is the most worrying aspect here because when Plan A fails panic sets in and mistakes become far too frequent. For a side aiming high in all three competitions, Heynckes has a fair bit of work left to do.

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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. Thanks for that. I like his thought process, buy young, buy smart, buy for the long term. He’s thinking ahead and not letting the departure of one player shape his decision making. The worst decisions clubs can make is impulsive big money spending that bites them in the ass a year later. Well done Gladbach and Eberl.

  2. That’s a great point Bernie. I think Ribery is more important to Bayern than people let on. To me, he is their most direct playmaker and actually executes their ideas.

    I’m quite surprised that Heynckes didn’t make adjustments to something that was clearly not working. Especially since it has been repeating for nearly two years now with Bayern.

  3. No, you’re right. Who knows what could have happened. Just think that Bayern’s tactics and demeanor were fundamentally wrong and set to fail from the beginning the way things were going.

  4. Great round-up of that game Cristian. Surprised nobody’s made more of the fact that Bayern missed Franck Ribery. As we all expected, Kroos never stuck to that position but just but drifted around, like he does when he plays just behind Gomez. Ribery is so direct on that left side and would have given the Gladbach defence far more problems – they were missing that attacking symmetry with him on one side and Robben on the other. Not only that, he gives Philipp Lahm so much help as well. The case of the second goal, Lahm wouldn’t have surged forward so far had Ribery been in front of him.
    Very disappointed with Thomas Mueller and Robben. But a great performance from the Gladbach rearguard.

  5. Well surely the game would have been different if Bayern would have gotten the equaliser right away which they would have in the situation were Müller and Gomez (think it was them) after a pass from Kroos were through with no Gladbach player in sight.
    I though the assintant referees were pretty poor especially one of them. Besides the situation above he got 2-3 more wrong for Bayern and I think andother 2 for Gladbach that all looked like they might had resulted in atleast a good chance.

    Still a deserved win for Gladbach.

  6. Thanks for that! Didn’t get to see DP but it sounds like the right kind of decisions and steps are being taken to keep Gladbach competitive beyond Reus. Any club in Gladbach’s situation will have to get used to the reality of losing its key players and young talents and have to plan around that. Few manage to do it successfully so it’ll be interesting what steps Eberl will take.

    Promote from within, buy smart abroad and above all, hold on to Favre.

  7. Well its not a matter of not wanting it. Obviously they’d like to win everything they can. But with the league as competitive and the difficulty of the CL, there is a certain level of realism that we have to consider.

    The one thing that has been holding Bayern back is their constant failures in Europe and this is the best chance to win it since 2001. I wouldn’t be surprised if they really focused on that opportunity. I know I’d certainly take the CL over the league any day of the week. Wouldn’t you?

  8. @Jlabbacher Thank you for sharing the information gleaned from the Sport 1 talkshow. It is reassuring to hear that Favre and the club maintain a realistic and steady mindset towards future success.

  9. Sorry for the double post but Max Eberl was at the “Doppelpass” on Sport1 today which is a football talkshow.

    To summarize what he stated there:

    1. They are trying to get Lucien Favre to extend his contract but Lf seems to be focused on his timelines which means that he is only focused on the Rückrunde at the moment.

    2. They will try everything they can to keep the rest of the team together and especially to keep Dante.

    3. They do not intend to spend all the money on one player. He said: “Do not expect us to pay 10 or 12 millions for one player.” He stated that they (he and LF) want to strengthen the team on a broader level and not risk getting only one key player which might suffer an injury and be out for a long time.

    4. By his own admission Gladbach is having a completely unexpected freak season and is at the moment in position that had been targeted to be reached in approx. 2 years

    It seems that cooler heads rule in Mönchengladbach at the moment and nobody gets to carried away or gets blinded by his own brilliance. To me that looks promising for the future.

  10. I’m sorry Christian but I have to disagree with you on this. From all I have have heard out of Munich it sounds as if yes, they want to win the CL but not being No. 1 in Germany? No way.

    Bayern is superior and ows it to its own self respect to become Meister again. The officials clearly stated that it is possible that Bayern isn’t Meister every year but there is no way that this happens two years in a row.

    Not winning the Pokal? Not such a big deal
    Not winning the CL? That would hurt
    Not winning the Bundesliga two years in a row? A disaster

  11. Thanks Peter. I agree, no reason to press the panic button, things will go back to normal like they did in the Hinrunde. The only question to me is if they can keep the same level of performance across all competitions. Raphael Hönigstein talked to Bayern players this week and asked them and he sensed that they seemed more focused on the CL than the league and who can blame them? I don’t think Bayern fans would care if they lost the league if they ended up winning the CL.

  12. What you might be referring to is a psychological thing which is something I have always alluded to, namely Bayern not being strong enough mentally at times. When things go their way, great. When they don’t, they crap their pants.

  13. Excellent analysis as usual. Bayern’s schedule goes soft in the next few weeks, but even with a few wins, they won’t run away with the title — if they win at all. It should be a lot of fun from here on out. Four teams look like real contenders.

  14. this is one of those game where the score doesn’t tell much about the game, reus and herrman had 4 or 5 chances and they score in 3 of them, bayern had the ball all game long but didn’t know what to do in the final 3rd where they found a well build wall. they looked sluggish and other then muller didn’t run much.. i been critical of their team effort in the pass but today they did tried they just didn’t find the goal early enough to make it a game.

    in december i saw a game of them and the commentators mention that bayern on their winning streak where averaging a goal by the 10th minute, however when they went into the 2nd half without a goal they had lost all of them. Actually i just looked it up and stuttgart is the only game they made a come back after they gave up the first. my point is that they are a GREAT team when they score first but a totally different team when they give up a goal first. this goes to the coach and him alone

  15. You’re spot on about dictating the play. They showed how to control a game without the ball yesterday. Bayern always struggle against defensively compact sides who counter well. They struggled against Hannover, they struggled against Mainz, they struggled against Dortmund, they struggled against Napoli, etc. You block the channels in the middle and push them out wide and they’re left with few ideas. Obviously it takes a well drilled side to do this and theres none better than Gladbach in the league this year.

  16. Well, it’s finally a good time again to be a Gladbach-Fan after all those years of hurt.

    What I really liked about the game yesterday is that they dictated it even while Bayern had the ball most of the time. That shows what strictly sticking to your guns can look like.

    Regarding the offside calls: it weren’t that many that were wrong and some went against Gladbach as well.

    What really surprised me is that Bayern seems to be a one trick pony. Deny them the play they are used to and they suddenly seem to lack all creativety. All the other teams have just been shown the blueprint of how to beat them.
    What must also be very, very worrying from a Bayern perspective is the fact that they only managed to turn a game around once this season after being one goal behind.

    If this was Bayerns day off I’m glad they had it yesterday if it wasn’t they have no chance in winning any title.

    My secret hope is to get them in the next round of the Pokal and beat them a third time this season ……. muuahahaha*

    I am still ok with taking the league one game at a time like Favre says but as a Gladbach Fan you can’t help but feeling all those long forgotten hopes and feelings slowly come back again …… they have been missing pretty damn long.

    (*insert the dirtiest laugh you know here)

  17. Don’t think they would have mattered in the bigger picture but yea, a couple of calls went against them. It happens.

  18. Just wanna say that a few offside calls against Bayern were wrong, but I’d still give Gladbach the plaudits for maintaining such a high backline so well…

  19. Thanks Mimsie. Wouldn’t go that far but I appreciate it. 🙂

    Think Gladbach winning the league is a long shot but I’d be thrilled if they qualified for Europe.

    Pretty sure Bayern will bounce back big against Wolfsburg next week.

  20. Yea a lot of people wrote that first goal off to Neuer’s mistake and I agree but people underestiamte how difficult it is to react to a situation like that, control a bouncing ball and get it on target from such a distance accurately enough to get past a GK who is rushing back.

    Agree that Bayern shouldn’t panic, no shame in losing to this Gladbach side.

  21. Fantastic report, almost as exciting as the match itself. Gladbach were tremendous. Strangely lethargic match from Bayern, however. Maybe jetlag. Maybe the weather. Doesn’t mean the league still isn’t theirs to lose – but gotta admit, I’m rooting for Gladbach to take home the salatschuessel come May.

  22. Excellent recap, Cris. Gladbach had five shots on goal and scored 3 times — that’s some fine finishing. Even on Neuer’s mistake, not every player would have taken advantage from distance like Reus did. Great game by Herrmann, who looks to be developing quickly into another young Bundesliga star, and a strong performance by Brouwers, Stranzl, Daems and Jantschke in the absence of the underrated Dante. Gotta like Nordveit a lot too. FCB lacked in creativity, but they’ll be fine — probably was just one of those days.

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