Valencia 1 – 1 Bayern München – Bayern through to last 16 but fail to make advantage count in Spain

A physical and intense match rightfully ended in a draw on a hot day in Spain.  A man down for most of the match, the hosts went ahead surprisingly through Feghouli in the second half before Thomas Müller salvaged a point for Bayern eight minutes from time.  Both sides wanted the three points to secure top spot in the group even though the result puts both through to the knockout stage. Bayern will no doubt rue the opportunity to take advantage of the numerical superiority though and will have to set that right in a difficult stretch of matches coming up.

Lineups and Tactics

Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino fielded the familiar 4-2-3-1 but chose the more defensive minded Banega behind Soldado instead of Jonas, a nuanced indicator of what he might have expected from and what the game eventually turned out to be. Gago missed the match due to an injury which meant that Parejo slotted into central midfield alongside Tino Costa.  Ricardo Costa and Cissokho also returned to the line up after being rested in their 2-1 win against Espanyol over the weekend.  Victor Ruiz, Albelda and Viera sat on the bench.

After too resting many starters in their 1-1 draw against Nürnberg over the weekend, Heynckes returned Badstuber, Lahm, Martinez, Pizarro and Ribery to the lineup.  Tymoshchuk, Rafinha, Van Buyten were all on the bench with Kroos injured and Pizarro continuing to be preferred to Mandzukic in the Champions League.

Match Analysis

The game in Munich was all Bayern with a defensively oriented Valencia sitting back looking to break quickly and similar patterns emerged early in the return fixture.  Bayern began with more of the possession and more control of the game.  They pressed Valencia early and pushed the Spaniards deep into their own half but came up short as they reached the final third. Thus very few concrete chances were created in the first quarter of an hour.  Bayern’s first real attempt came only in the 18th minute when Alaba’s cross was met by Dante but his header was saved comfortably by Guaita.

Valencia posed little threat early on but were organized well enough at the back to frustrate Bayern.  As in their first match back in September they had to make due with counter attacks, a limited strategy at home but one that has proven quite effective over the years against Bayern when done right and would do so again in this game.  Their first chance came 32 minutes into the match when Soldado received a ball inside the sixteen, beat Badstuber before the ball deflected off Alaba into the path of Feghouli. The Algerian hit the ball first time forcing a world class reaction save from Neuer from eight meters out.

A minute later came a moment that seemed to be a crucial turning point.  Valencia right back Barragan launched himself in Alaba’s direction in an effort to win the ball but missed completely and took the Austrian out.  Referee Howard Webb had no choice but to show a straight red.  This put Bayern in an ideal position to turn their momentum into a lead but the exact opposite happened.  Valencia reshuffled, organized well behind the ball and started executing their game plan even more effectively.  Pellegrino put the dynamic Feghouli at right back and Soldado dropped behind the halfway line to defend, helping his teammate on the right throughout the game.  Their defensively discipline mean that Bayern went into the locker room frustratingly goalless.

Even up to the red card Valencia defended well though.  They won a majority of the individual duels (a combined 50 to Bayern’s 41) and stifled Bayern’s entire right side.  Their game was very direct and used the flanks well.  Costa and Parejo moved the ball quickly out of the back when they regained possession and instead of going through the middle Soldado and Banega often went wide to receive the ball, something they continued quite effectively in the second half as well.  Soldado had another good chance blocked by Neuer in the 53rd minute while Bayern continued to struggle to break down the always alert and physically imposing Valencia defense.  Ten minutes later Valencia put together another fantastic counter when Tino Costa played Soldado through on goal brilliantly but Neuer came off his line quickly enough to put the striker off and shoot wide.

Heynckes reacted right away and brought on Mandzukic and Shaqiri for the ineffective Kroos and Pizarro in the 66th minute and the two almost immediately combined for a goal.  Shaqiri crossed the ball from the right in the 71st minute but Mandzukic’s header just hit the post.  Bayern’s misfortune was compounded six minutes later when Webb blew a questionable foul against Dante inside Bayern’s half.  Before Bayern could react Valencia took the free kick quickly and Feghouli was able to get past two or three Bayern players before getting a shot off that was deflected by Dante past Neuer.  The visitors had it all to do now.

Valencia’s formula worked  very well so they grouped together even deeper in their own half after the lead hoping to catch a desperate Bayern on the break again.  Heynckes brought on Gomez for his first appearance of the season and as it turned out he’d play a big part in the equalizer.  Bayern remained resolute and threw everything forward.  In the 82nd minute Lahm sent in a hopeful cross from the right, Mandzukic let it run, and Gomez flicked it on to the onrushing Müller who blasted it into the net. Valencia did enough to see out a hard earned and fair result.

Despite the balance of the game being quite even in the end Bayern will not be happy with their inability to take advantage of their numerical superiority for almost an hour.  Like Gomez said after the game. When Valencia regained possession Bayern struggled to get it back quickly enough.  Karl-Heinz Rummenigge urged a greater degree of urgency and tempo in the game afterwards and Lahm noted a particular problem with Bayern’s decision making during the match.  Too often Bayern players chose the wrong option on the ball, whether it was playing it out wide to Ribery too often or not combining quickly or accurately enough.  Either way, it’s something Bayern have to address ahead of an important series of matches in the coming weeks.

Final Verdict

Bayern failed to win back to back matches for the first time this season but this was by far their most difficult match in the Champions League.  BATE caught Bayern on a bad day earlier this season but Valencia, for all their great defending, also matched Bayern footballing wise and could have walked away with all three points despite being a man down. A potential sense of complacency following their record breaking start must be avoided if Bayern are to continue to set the standard, especially with Hannover, Freiburg, Dortmund and BATE all coming up in an 11 day stretch.

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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

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