How this match didn’t end at least 2-0 or 3-0 in favor of Bayern Munich is baffling, but they got the vital three points nonetheless and stretched the win streak under Jupp Heynckes to three matches. A 52nd-minute goal from Corentin Tolisso was the ultimate difference maker despite the number of clear-cut chances that fell Bayern’s way — particularly in the second half.
Bayern’s 1st half midfield vs. their 2nd half midfield
Jupp Heynckes said he would make some rotations for this encounter, and he stuck to his word, making five changes to the starting XI from the side that started against Celtic midweek. Arturo Vidal lined up alongside Tolisso in the center of midfield as James Rodriguez, Kingsley Coman, and Arjen Robben were deployed just ahead of them . Without Thiago Alcantara, or the injured Javi Martinez in the starting XI, there was a noticeable struggle in the opening stages of the first half for Bayern to gain a foothold in the center of the park and dictate the tempo. Between Vidal and Tolisso, they seemed to get caught between two minds a number of times on whether to play quick on the break, or look to keep possession. Hamburg, to be fair, didn’t make it easy for them with the way they pressed right out of the gates. James couldn’t seem to play himself into the match and his most of his touches just looked nervous and frenetic — he was consequentially replaced by Thomas Muller at the halftime break.
After Gideon Jung was sent off for his rash challenge on Coman, things began to open up for Bayern, and their midfield quickly started to boss possession. Muller’s brief cameo before coming off with an apparent hamstring injury opened up plenty of spaces in Hamburg’s final third and gave Tolisso and Vidal plenty to aim at. It was Muller’s quick touch, too, that gave Tolisso the easy task of slotting home just outside of the six yard box.
It wasn't pretty, but Bayern will take it!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 21, 2017
Tolisso's goal puts them up 1-0. https://t.co/VTj067Vqmr
When Thiago was brought on for the injured Muller, Bayern’s midfield looked progressively more positive and Tolisso and Vidal looked far more comfortable in possession and in their distribution. Tolisso, especially, really grew in confidence as the match went on and Bayern started to dominate.
Coman was everywhere once again, and a constant threat
Coman was quite arguably Bayern’s best player in the midweek win over Celtic, and he put in another fantastic performance against Hamburg. The Frenchmen covered all sorts of ground at the Volksparkstadion and was constantly looking to beat his defender on either flank. His interchangeability between the left and right flank with Robben was constantly catching Hamburg’s defense off guard and he was always able to give himself enough space to take players on. He also showcased brilliant tactical awareness on a handful of occassions where he would drop deeper in midfield to cover for either David Alaba or Rafinha when they would make their overlapping runs forward. Contrary to his performance against Celtic, Coman never seemed to run out of energy and continuously looked to use his pace to hurt Hamburg. His substitution in stoppage time was clearly just a bit of stalling tactics before the final whistle by Heynckes.
Sule and Rafinha stood firm
Deploying both Niklas Sule and Rafinha in the back four gave some much deserved rest to Jerome Boateng and Joshua Kimmich — the two don’t get too many opportunities to put their legs up. Both Sule and Rafinha stuck to their tasks well for the most part, aside from a few nervy moments where they were caught slightly out of position. Sule was often times in the right place at the right time to get in last stitch challenges when Hamburg where threatening and his lunging intervention on Gōtoku Sakai midway through the second half just inside Bayern’s penalty area was perhaps his most timely of the match. He also boasted the highest pass completion ratio (99%) of any other Bayern player in the match. Rafinha, though not nearly as pacey as Kimmich, did well to get forward and track back quickly when he had to. His overlapping runs with Robben gave Hamburg plenty to worry about and he did send a handful of dangerous looking crosses into Hamburg’s penalty box.