March 23, 2017

Bayern Gain Late Result in Berlin

Any claims of Bayern Munich’s “resurgence” after their 5:1 drubbing of Arsenal in Champions League competition mid-week would be quickly quelled by a stout Hertha Berlin on Saturday afternoon.  Vedad Ibišević opened Hertha’s account midway through the first period (‘21), and it looked like the home team would capture all three points at Olympiastadion Berlin. But, Bayern somehow, some way managed to claw a point back with a last-gasp goal from Robert Lewandowski.

And when I say last-gasp . . .

The five minutes of extra time tacked-on to the second period would have made Sir Alex Ferguson blush.  Referee Patrick Ittrich allowed the match to go a minute beyond that already extravagant amount of time, only to see Lewandowski score a rebounded shot from Arjen Robben one second shy of six minutes past 90.

BSC trainer Pal Dardai fumed to Sky post-match: “I think this is a Bayern-bonus.  Sorry to anyone who might be offended, but after five minutes the game must be finished.”

Sure, Dardai had a right to be upset, but if he mentions that, he must mention how Berlin scored in the first place:  Martin Plattenhardt dove, untouched, to win his free kick for Ibišević’ goal.

It was a curious match in Berlin Saturday from a refereeing standpoint, at best.  Unfortunately, Ittrich’s decisions directly influenced the scoring– for both Hertha Berlin and Bayern Munich.  Nothing a fan of either side wants to see happen.

Berlin’s 4-1-4-1 vs. Bayern’s ?

On paper, Munich’s 4-2-3-1 looked just fine– save for Thomas Mueller, and his season-long struggles, occupying the striker position. (Still, though, Lewandowski definitely deserves some minutes off!)

Xabi Alonso got to mostly take a seat, leaving Arturo Vidal and Joshua Kimmich at double pivot– a duo that may have been more successful but for Thiago Alcantara’s “sideways” performance.  The Spanish midfielder has had a hell of a season for Bayern, but Saturday’s performance saw him crash back to earth a little bit, with no one else to pick up his slack.

Thiago’s dashboard courtesy of Four Four Two.

The CB’s left side of Juan Bernat at wingback, David Alaba at LCB and Douglas Costa at right wing curiously got owned in the first half with runs by Peter Pekarik and Ibisevic.  In turn, the lack of production on the left led to better coverage of Philipp Lahm and Robben on the right.  Still, Bayern’s “old guys” turned in another set of fine performances.

Dardai’s structured defense– which has served his side so well at home this season– disabled much of any significant play by die Roten in the final third.  American center-back John Brooks stood tall throughout, and was exceptional in front of an equally exceptional Rune Jarstein in goal.

In the second half, Carlo Ancelotti brought on every gun he had on the bench to secure a victory.  The last 15 minutes saw Bayern with five forwards on the pitch– Kingsley Coman, Costa, Lewandowski, Robben and Mueller.  And while this tired an already spent Berlin XI (at one point, there were four BSC players down with cramps), there was hardly any structure to this multi-pronged assault.  Instead, it was more a free-for-all.  This shouldn’t surprise any Bayern supporters by this point, but…

Expectations v. reality

If one was looking at the Arsenal result as something that could be built on, Ancelotti would seemingly disabuse you of that notion.  Results in the Rueckrunde have been labored and tepid in a sea of Bundesliga mediocrity.

This should be the time when Bayern Munich distinguishes itself from the pack instead of relying on individual performances or Bayern-Dusel.  One, or both, are bound to run out eventually.

(Images courtesy of Bayern Munich USA).

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Susie Schaaf

Susie Schaaf first fell in love with football watching Gerd Mueller play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. She has written extensively about the DFB and Bayern Munich, formerly for ESPN FC and now with FC Bayern Central. She co-hosts @Rekord_Pod, as well as speaking on SiriusXM FC and BBC World Service. In her free time she travels, pours a drink or two, and watches more football. The girl that kissed Gerd's Golden Boot can be found on Twitter @fussballsusie.

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