Inconsistent Bayern get by tactically mature Rödinghausen – DFB Pokal match analysis

Despite a plethora of chances and an XG total of nearly 4.55 Bayern never fully looked in control of the second round DFB Pokal match versus cup debutants, SV Rödinghausen. An already injury-riddled squad has also lost Thiago for several weeks, leading to more headaches for Niko Kovac, with the derby against BVB just 11 days away. 

You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of SV Rödinghausen of the Regionalliga West. The Dorfverein from near Bielefeld is a Hoffenheim style ambitious project by the Finkemeier family, which is third in Germany in the kitchen appliance business. In his ten years at the helm the 79-year-old owner Horst Finkemeier has spent his money and catapulted SVR from the Kreisliga in 2010 to the 4th tier, after five consecutive promotions. Here they play against the likes of Dortmund/Gladbach/Cologne’s second sides and sit just a point off second. Aside from veteran defender Daniel Flottmann (34) and striker Simon Engelmann (29) The squad is made up of 20-23 year olds who have all joined the club recently and are all professionals, earning up to 5k Euros per month per Bild. Their under 19 side is already playing in the 14 team Bundesliga, but is sitting in 12th as of now. Bringing over the former Drochtersen coach Enrico Maaßen (who just missed Bayern in the first round, starting his new job early July) is also a statement of intent. The club did sell their top scorer Marius Bülter, who took his 20 goals two leagues up and joined FC Magdeburg in the Zweite Liga. Still, it was always gonna be the game of their lives, though it would take place some 70 kms away in Osnabrück, where the Stadion an der Brücke would hold almost 17, 000 spectators (compared to the 2500 in Rödinghausen).

Niko Kovac’s Bayern have righted the ship results-wise, but neither the Wolfsburg\Mainz victories were particularly convincing. The Berlin born coach’s injury headaches (Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman have been out for a long time) intensified with Mats Hummels, Arjen Robben, James Rodríguez, Jerome Boateng and Sven Ulreich (birth of his child) all missing this one. Kovac thus didn’t have a ton of opportunities to rotate his squad, but at least Joshua Kimmich and Robert Lewandowski, who have both already passed the 1000 minutes mark in all competitions got a rare break. Bayern would lineup in an attacking 4-1-4-1, with Thiago sitting in front of the back four, Javi Martínez at CB and Sandro Wagner up top.

Total Bayern domination for 25 minutes

The early part of the game saw the visitors pin the hosts deep into their own box and this coupled with the lack of a plan to counter by SVR (Engelmann was maybe 35 yards from his own goal, but still would not press Süle or Martínez) made it a one-sided affair.

Bayern’s complete domination

Once Bayern realized the lack of a counter threat from the deep sitting, passive hosts, Rafinha would move wider out of his right halfspace spot. The triangles he created with the movements of Goretzka and Müller were too tough to follow for SVR, whose wide forward Linus Meyer did not apply any pressure, while his teammate Laurin von Piechowski struggled to keep up with the halfspace runs of Goretzka. Another similar action saw Sandro Wagner nearly score with “his best body part” – were it not for a great save by Niclas Heimann.

Once SVR attempted to close down these gaps, a quick switch by Süle would find a wide open David Alaba very high on the left side. This would result in early shots by Renato Sanches, who would open the scoring in the eighth minute. He played a short corner to Ribéry, who quickly found Rafinha on the left side. Sanches made a quick change of direction and received a wonderful chipped pass beyond the defense around the six yard box. He managed to pass it to Wagner who had a simple tap-in, the ball never once touching the ground.

Bayern created all kinds of chances from this point onward: Alaba was finding Wagner and Goretzka with crosses, but neither was able to get the shot on target. The hosts did manage to get out of their own half in the eleventh minute, but it backfired. A loss of possession after a throw-in saw Wagner flick the ball to Sanches on the left wing in his own half. But, like an NFL running back, he took off versus 3 defenders and outpaced\outmuscled them before Wolff and Fabian Kunze finally brought him down. The only problem was that it happened inside the  box (though replays showed that Sanches perhaps had lost control of the ball) and referee Timo Gerach pointed to the spot. Thomas Müller made it 2-0 for the Bavarians. The pressure from Bayern did not let up, though the hosts did at least cross midfield with Manuel Neuer even getting a touch on the ball.  Linus Meyer did manage to keep the ball nicely and Simon Engelmann’s good first touch earned him a foul vs Martínez. However Bayern would get another huge chance after a Sandro Wagner backheel was kept out. The ex-Darmstadt man pursued the rebound and his cross found Goretzka wide open 5 yards from goal on the back post. Whether Goretzka would’ve been able to head in the ball will remain mystery, because Azur Velagic managed to rather stupidly foul him and give away a second penalty. Renato Sanches, whose dribbling created the chance for Wagner probably earned the right to take it based on his first 20 minutes, but ended up hitting the crossbar. Improbably, this would become a huge turning point in the match.

Wait, you can press Bayern and not get crushed?

As see from the 11tegen11 XG map, with the 1.5 XG from the 2 penalties Bayern were up to 3 expected goals in the match after 22 minutes. They would finish with 4.55 on the night, while the hosts would accrue 0.83. This meant that the last 67 minutes were around 1.5 to 0.83 a fairly close contest given the chance quality (though of course not the volume, but that is not the point of XG, while quality is).

SVR decide to high press, Müller ends up with a huge mistake

With little to lose and Bayern resting on their laurels a bit, Maaßen decided to instruct his team to press high. As a result, SVR would get their first shot of the game, and a real big chance at that. As the image shows, Rödinghausen set a pressing trap for Rafinha who obliges and finds Thomas Müller. Müller is tightly marked and on this wet pitch attempts a rather difficult long ground pass with his weaker left foot to Süle who is a good 25 yards back. This gets intercepted by Engelmann, who rounds Süle and has a great 1v1 vs Neuer that he scuffs wide. Kunze also looked impressive with a nice chip a few seconds later. On the other end of the pitch, former RB Salzburg and Germany U20 GK Heimann (his coach in 2010 there was of course Niko Kovac) made a solid save on a Goretzka volley. From the ensuing play, SVR’s first good counter happened: the former Schalke U17 player Kunze sent the speedy Kelvin Lunga, who predictably won the footrace against Javi Martínez but struggled to make the right decision afterwards in the 32nd and 37th minutes as well. Kunze also pulled of a nice little cutback that sent Sanches and Ribéry looking for something in the rainy Osnabrück night. SVR grew into the game but Bayern also threatened: Heimann made a great stop on Goretzka, who probably would’ve scored had he not slipped before his shot.  The half ended without further interesting action and Bayern had a two goal lead, a 68% possession edge and a 12 to 2 shots edge. It all looked firmly in control, despite missing the penalty.

Blistering start by the hosts

Enrico Maaßen sent out his boys with real purpose in the second half and it took just nine seconds for them to create something special:

The left-sided combination and some lackluster Bayern defending would free up Engelmann, who missed a great chance just inside the box from the cross.

The Rödinghausen high press remained effective and more frequent, as shown by this goal kick in the 47th:

SVR bravely took on the risk of defending very far up with pressure and 1v1 in the back. With Kunze coming up to cover Thiago and Engelmann using his covershadow well, Bayern looked for a secondary receiving option, but Sanches could not fulfill this role with three key turnovers. Martínez also made a couple loose passes against pressure, while Goretzka and Müller were mostly up the pitch hoping for a long ball that never quite came.

Bayern would also apply pressure on SVR, but this blew up in their faces spectacularly. Heimann was forced into a goal kick by the high press and found Velagic who did well to keep the ball in. Even better, he managed to find a diagonal pass (with quite a bit of luck) to Lunga. The 24-year-old beat Martínez and Alaba to the ball and marched down the wing. When he looked up he spotted Meyer making a backpost run ahead of Rafinha. The cross was perfect and the striker kneed the ball into the back of net for the biggest goal of his life.

Kovac fails to adjust, loses Thiago

Applying the high press versus Bayern is usually a losing proposition, since the team features so many press resistant players alongside speedy, quality forwards who can beat you in the space created by pushing high. Given that the press was not always coordinated or well-executed (it is a Regionalliga side) Bayern did end up with chances for Ribéry in the 52nd and 53rd minutes for Renato Sanches from a counterpressing situation. Alaba with his crosses (plus a free kick that hit the outside of the post) and Ribéry with his inside-outside dribbling created a lot of havoc for Rödinghausen. Sandro Wagner had another backheel chance in the 58th that could have made it 3-1. SVR however also had opportunities and the game became a seesaw battle: Kunze had a few nice passes to start counters and Engelmann had a dangerous cross in the 63rd. Bayern did gain a lot more territory after Kimmich was introduced for Goretzka and pinned the hosts deep, but were unable to create quality chances after the 67th minute. One of the main reasons was the injury to Thiago. Substitute Björn Schlottke made an awful lunging challenge on the Spaniards ankle, causing Thiago to leave the game and the arena on crutches. Bayern would later release a tweet stating that due to an angle ligament injury he would miss several weeks. That means no Thiago in the game vs BVB and potentially all kinds of trouble for Bayern in the Hinrunde, given that Thiago has probably been the side’s engine and most consistent performer. With the CB injuries, it will be interesting to see where Kovac uses Martínez (he is very much-needed as the no. 6) and if James can play a bigger role a la Heynckes last year.

In the remaining 20 minutes, Gnabry (Thiago’s replacement) was on the left wing, while Kovac used a striking combo of Müller and Wagner with Kimmich taking on the distribution duties alongside Sanches in the middle. Rödinghausen looked gassed, but did manage a couple of counters, one of which Neuer stopped coming out of his goal. The other was a 4v3 chance that bogged down and ended with an Engelmann cross to noone in particular. Wagner’s extra time shot was blocked by the defense, while the streaking Gnabry was cynically stopped by Wolff, thus the match ended 1-2.

A historic performance and result for lowly Rödinghausen who probably gained a few fans on this Tuesday night. Bayern dominated the first 25 minutes and occasional spells thereafter, but looked somewhat unconvincing overall. The injury to Thiago could potentially be season-altering, so it was a rather costly win for Kovac and co.

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL

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