FC Bayern Munich secured passage to the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League today, and left open the possibility of winning the group with a 1-1 draw with Valencia. Beyond that, though, Bayern supporters will have little positive to take from a lackluster performance.
To start, I should say that I think the club was aware of the earlier result (in which BATE Borisov lost to Lille, leaving both Bayern and Valencia with a relatively easy path to advance). I certainly can't say for sure, but that may have contributed to the lack of urgency and the general malaise that plagued our effort all afternoon. But, regardless of the reason, this was a night to forget, as Bayern played most of the match with a 1-man advantage and yet still needed to late heroics to salvage a draw.
The beginning of the match looked rather promising, as we had 2 decent looks at the goal within the first few minutes. And Valencia's offense, aside from 1 or 2 pointless blasts way over the goal, didn't look very threatening. If anything, it appeared to be a match where Bayern was sure to dominate possession, and the only question was whether we'd be clinical enough in front of goal to make it pay off.
But our ability to control a majority of possession never translated into consistent threats on the Valencia goal - in fact, our chances got worse and worse after VCF's Antonio Barragan was rightfully sent off for a reckless sliding take-down of Alaba with about 11 minutes to go in the half.
For the rest of the period, and throughout most of the second half, it was ugly stuff for Bayern supporters. Schweinsteiger and Ribery each had a decent half-chance, and Mandzukic came closest with a header that rattled just wide, but mostly we were thwarted in our attempts to get any kind of pressure on the Valencia goal. And when VCF did get possession, they frequently turned it into a 2-on-2 or a 3-on-2 going the other way - so much that they eventual goal wasn't really even a surprise:
If there's one good thing about this match, it was our response to that goal. Bayern immediately pressed forward, refusing to panic and attacking the Valencia weak spots exactly the way we needed to. The break-through came less than 5 minutes after the VCF goal, as Gomez (possibly unintentionally) soft-touched a cross to Müller, who hammered home.
The relief was palpable, as a draw was always a pretty good result for us. But some pretty tough questions remain. In fact, I'd say this was our poorest showing all year. The BATE match was bad, but that was mostly about one or two awful breakdowns - even then, at any randomly-chosen moment, we might have looked like the better team. Today, it was us against Valencia-minus-one-man, and we pretty much looked equally matched.
Some other thoughts:
- Not only is the eventual return of Gustavo going to be a big moment, as he's clearly better than Javi Martinez, but I wouldn't mind seeing what Tymoschuk can do. Over Javi Martinez. Javi Martinez WHO COST 40 MILLION EUROS. Just so we're clear. I mean, is everyone seeing this?
- The goal wasn't really Neuer's fault - combination of a lucky bounce and Dante doing just enough to touch it but not enough to clear it. Honestly, considering the situation, I think today's problems fall mostly on the offense, not the defense.
- I defy anyone to tell me that Arjen Robben could not have helped this team today.
We'll be back with more later. Again, despite some tough moments, we still control our own fate as far as winning the group. And after tomorrow, there could be 3 German teams already through to the next round. Thanks for reading.